By Jack Sumner @Jack_Sumner_
Having steadily climbed his way through the world middleweight ranks following early career setbacks on the domestic scene, British-based Irish contender Matthew Macklin would attest that in this sport, you make your own luck. Hard work and a subsequent run of victories led to a first world title shot against Felix Sturm, though it was bad luck that arguably cost him victory and a maiden world crown.
Macklin lost a controversial split decision in Cologne, Germany, though most observers had him winning clearly in Sturm’s backyard. A blessing in disguise though perhaps, as due to the merit of his performance he would immediately receive a second title shot against the world’s premier middleweight.
World title challenge number two came eight months later against the lineal middleweight king Sergio Martinez, but Macklin came up short again despite a spirited effort and a seventh-round knockdown of the champion. Martinez stopped Macklin after scoring two knockdowns of his own in the eleventh. Once again, a chance to become the world middleweight champion had passed Macklin by.
Macklin might just have the luck of the Irish however as this weekend he’ll get his third world title shot, but looking across the ring at his opponent it’s likely that this isn’t a case of third time lucky. More bad luck coming in threes when he enters Foxwoods in Mashantucket, Connecticut, as he squares off against the unbeaten rising star of the division, WBA titleholder Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin.
Golovkin has built a fearsome reputation since joining the professional ranks, dispatching 23 of his 26 victims inside the distance and currently has the highest KO percentage of any active world champion or middleweight champion in history. He’s knocked out his last thirteen consecutive opponents and in the process made seven world title defences, his last three victories set before a backdrop of approval from fans and some of the leading lights in boxing’s media.
Many are already proclaiming Golovkin a pound-for-pound superstar in waiting, though a look at the Kazahkstani puncher’s résumé would indicate the need for sterner tests before bestowing such an appellation. Macklin is the best regarded and naturally the biggest opponent that Golovkin will have faced as a professional and the 31-year-old Birmingham-born challenger believes his experience at a higher level will be the difference on the night.
“There's a lot of strengths, not so many weaknesses, certainly nothing to exploit so far, but you know what he hasn't fought anyone. Boxing is all about levels, isn't it? And he hasn't fought anyone on my level, so I wouldn't have expected anything to be really exploited when you look at the calibre of opponent he's fought."
"I can't say he doesn't do this well or that well. It's more a case of he looked brilliant but he looked brilliant against B-level at best opposition. So let's see how he goes now with me. It'll be a different kettle of fish."
Macklin (29-4, 20 KO’s) may well be correct in his assessment of Golovkin’s opposition so far, with the WBA titleholder’s last two title defences – against Gabriel Rosado and Nobuhiro Ishida – coming against fringe world-level contenders and career light middleweights. But, as Macklin also pointed out, Golovkin has looked leagues above that level of opposition and in a long and storied career in the amateurs, he did mix it with the best.
Golovkin reportedly won 350 of his 355 fights in the unpaid ranks and defeated future professional standouts Andre Dirrell, Lucian Bute, Andy Lee and Daniel Geale. Of course, success in the amateur game doesn’t always precede success without headgear and vests, where attributes like punching power, finishing instinct, heart, stamina and a solid chin bear more importance. Golovkin seems to possess all of those necessary attributes however and his amateur achievements are testament to the skill and technical ability that are also part of his makeup.
Golovkin’s never been knocked down, let alone out, in almost 400 fights as an amateur or professional, which is quite simply an extraordinary statistic. Macklin has been stopped and has had to come through wars due to his brawling style and battling temperament, the kind of professional experience that will likely be detrimental to his chances on Saturday. Both men recently celebrated their 31st birthdays, Golovkin in fact is a month older, but he’s the fresher of the two because of the punishment Macklin has taken and the ageing battles that he’s been through.
Both fighters are aggressive, neither likes to take a backward step, which promises an entertaining scrap while the action lasts. A toe-toe-toe battle however could well spell disaster for Macklin. Chin and power are probably in favour of the Kazahk and he’s a great at fighting on the inside.
Macklin does carry pop of his own though of course and that much was evident in his last outing, a first-round blow out of former world light middleweight champion Joachim Alcine last September. There’s a lot to be admired about Macklin in and out of the ring and it certainly wasn’t luck that got him back here, but there’ll be no sentiment from Golovkin once the opening bell rings.
Bad luck Matthew.