Sunday 18 March 2018

Boxing: Macklin keeps world title in focus despite Varon struggle

Bernard O'Neill

MATTHEW MACKLIN has admitted that he made hard work out of Saturday's win over Ruben Varon.

The Irish middleweight earned a unanimous decision over the Spaniard to successfully defend his European middleweight title at Liverpool's Echo Arena.

However, Macklin finished the fight with cuts and bruises around both eyes, as both men traded heavy artillery in the final round of his second successful defence of his continental strap.

Macklin (28) was expected to cruise through Saturday's encounter and boost his world title aspirations with a convincing performance against Varon, who had won 35 of his 40 fights going into the Merseyside duel.

The Birmingham-born Irishman started brightly, but allowed himself to be dragged into a brawl by the Madrid native -- a rank outsider with some bookies -- who was deducted a point for persistent low blows in the fifth round.

The challenger also finished strong, and Macklin, who was suffering from a chest infection all last week, took two good shots to the head in the last round and looked the more relieved of the two to hear the final bell.

"Credit to Varon, he came to fight and he's an experienced boxer. He was cute the way he rode some of my shots and took the sting out of them, and he had a good defence," said Macklin.

"I finished up with cuts and bruises, but that's boxing -- it's not a game of draughts. I had a chest infection all week and was thinking of pulling out of the fight on Tuesday, but it improved a bit and we went ahead.

"It wasn't one of my better performances and I made hard work out of it. Sometimes you have to grind out results, and that is what I did. I'm still ranked in the top five and I'm still on track for a world title shot next year. That has always been my target," he added.

Also on the Liverpool card, England's James DeGale -- who beat the late Darren Sutherland in the 2008 Olympic semi-final in Beijing -- claimed the British super-middleweight title with a ninth-round stoppage of Paul Smith.


Amir Khan, meanwhile, had to come through some heavy punishment in the late rounds to beat Marcos Maidana on a unanimous points decision to retain the WBA light-welterweight title in Las Vegas.

Khan admitted that he was hurt in the fight, but credited the victory to his heart and determination.

"I have to say, Maidana's a warrior, he never took a step back and it shows that I've got a lion's heart," said Khan.

The 24-year-old was taken to hospital for a precautionary scan after a fight in which he answered critics who had questioned his chin.

Khan's trainer, Freddie Roach, declared that the British boxer will be good enough to beat Floyd Mayweather, should he land a fight with the unbeaten American multi-weight champion.

"It could happen. If he cleans up the 140lb division and goes to 147, Mayweather won't fight (Manny) Pacquiao, but maybe he will fight Amir Khan. It would be a fight I would welcome," said Roach.

Roach wants Khan to face either Tim Bradley or Devon Alexander, who fight next month, before moving up to welterweight to face Mayweather.

On the domestic scene, Nicole Hamill and Stephen Carroll fought the law and the law won at the National Intermediate Championships finals.

Hamill (66kg) and Carroll (67kg) lost out to Laoise Traynor and Adam Nolan -- both Gardai, who box out of the Bray BC where they are trained by Katie Taylor's father and coach, Peter Taylor. Traynor claimed a 4-2 victory over her Belfast opponent, while Nolan scored an impressive 11-3 verdict over Carroll.

Davey Joe Joyce -- a bronze medal winner at the 2008 AIBA World Youth Championships -- added an intermediate title to his recently acquired U-21 belt after Darndale cruiserweight Michael McDonagh was retired injured in round two.

Joyce, of the St Michael's Athy club, was out with a hand injury since winning his world bronze in Mexico, but has made a welcome return to action this year.

Geesala flyweight Katie Rowland also emerged victorious on Saturday. Rowland claimed a silver medal at the European Youth Championships in France this year, and followed that victory up with a 15-0 verdict over Grainne Garvey at IABA headquarters.

Current U-21 champions Patrick J Ward, Evan Metcalfe and Kenneth Okungbowa also had their hands raised in victory, while Michael O'Reilly edged out Rohan Date 4-3 in the light-welterweight decider.

Details in factfile

Irish Independent

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