Boxing: 'Real champion' Macklin ready to reclaim his title
IF statements and threats by both boxers are anything to go by, then next month's European and British middleweight championship bout between challenger Matthew 'Mack the Knife' Macklin and Darren Barker could be one of the fights of the year.
The talkative duo meet at the LG Arena in Birmingham on September 18 and promoter Frank Warren has promised that he will make every effort to secure a world title shot for the winner.
"This is my biggest show for a decade and there are seven title fights on it," said Warren yesterday. "Naturally, I'm billing it as the Magnificent Seven."
Macklin, whose father is from Roscommon and his mother from Tipperary, and Barker, a Londoner, have already gone head-to-head at a media conference to publicise the fight several weeks ago. And they have made their intentions quite clear: they want that championship more than anything else.
The fight is being billed as the biggest middleweight blockbuster since those two bitter rivals, Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn, clashed at the same venue in November 1990. In one of the greatest fights at 11st 6lbs ever witnessed on this side of the Atlantic, Eubank stopped the 'Dark Destroyer' in nine rounds to win the world title.
Macklin, who lives in Birmingham and can expect to enter the ring as favourite, is training in Freddie Roach's Wild Cat gym in Los Angeles. "The best thing I ever did was to come out here and work out at Freddie's gym," he said.
"It has made me a much better fighter, as Freddie is one of the most respected trainers in the world. Everybody is hungry at the Wild Cat and the sparring is fantastic. Everybody has a fight on the horizon and it makes a big difference when you spar."
Barker said: "Macklin can talk all he likes, as it's what happens in the ring that counts. I've been preparing for this fight like none other. It's going to be a defining fight for me."
Macklin will be going for a title he never lost in the ring. He was due to defend his European belt against his mandatory challenger Dimitry Pirog of Russia last April but was forced to pull out with a nose injury he suffered while sparring at Roach's gym.
"I decided to give up the title then as I did not want to hold the title up and deny others to box for it," he said. "Barker got the opportunity of boxing for it and he took it and won. But I consider he only has the title on loan. I'm the real champion.
"He made very hard work of winning the European title against the French southpaw Affif Belghecham, the same guy that Andy Lee had earlier won every round against in Limerick," added Macklin, who has won 26 of his 28 fights against Barker's 22 straight wins. The fight will be shown live on Sky.
Meanwhile, Frank Maloney expects his Belfast featherweight Martin Lindsay to get a world title fight within 12 months. "With 16 fights without a loss, I think he's the most exciting young boxer I've seen in many a day. Martin is currently closing in on a European title shot," he said.