As he prepares for the biggest fight of his career, star Irish middleweight Matthew “Mack the Knife” Macklin speaks with IrishCentral Community News about Tipperary hurling, his training regime at his New York base, and how exactly he plans to deal with the man considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet.
Macklin (29) meets WBC “Diamond” champion Sergio Martinez (37) at Madison Square Garden on March 17 in a fight which will be beamed across the world via HBO and Sky Sports.
Here's the full interview with Macklin:
When and why did you move to New York?
I've been living in New York now since last September. My last fight took place in Germany in June 2011 against Felix Sturm for the WBA World title and it was shown on the Epix network in the US. A lot of people saw that fight over here so it meant that US boxing fans got to see that I got a raw deal from the judges. That led to me signing a deal with the New York-based promoter, Lou DiBella, shortly after the fight. With that in place I wanted to relocate to New York and start to build a following here and give people the kind of nights they enjoyed when John Duddy was selling out venues in New York on a regular basis a few years back.
My first sporting love was actually hurling. Even though I grew up in Birmingham my dad who is from Four Roads in Roscommon was a hurling fanatic and my mum hails from Tipperary, where hurling is basically a religion, so from the age of about two I was always messing about with a hurley. I used to go back to Ireland for the summer when I would have my school holidays and played regularly back there. I was quite decent and would have played underage hurling with a lot of the lads on the current Tipp panel.
Actually just last week Eoin Kelly, who was the Tipperary captain when they won the All-Ireland in 2010, sent me a team photo from an under-18s South Final back in 1997. That brought back great memories. I was playing for Ballingarry although I was actually only 15 at the time, and it was during the school year so the club paid to fly me over from Birmingham for the final, which was a really big deal for me at the time. We were up against against Eoin's team, Mullinahone in the final and there was real rivalry there. There was a lot of local pride at stake because the two parishes are only a few miles apart. We beat them by two points that day and I scored three so I always give him a bit of slagging over that because Eoin, his brother Paul and another guy, Paul Curran, were on the Mullinahone team and would eventually go on to win All-Ireland hurling medals for Tipp at senior level.
So why go from hurling to boxing?
My Dad had always been a boxing fan too, so at the age of 11 I had my first amateur fight. Ironically it was on St. Patrick's Day 18 years to the day that I will fight Martinez at Madison Square Garden. I was hooked on the sport straight away and by the time I got to around 16 I knew I had to make a choice between hurling and boxing, because I was doing both at a decent level and I knew something had to give. In the end the choice was kind of made for me because I got a knee injury which stopped me from hurling for a few months but I was still able to do my boxing training so I kept going with the boxing after that.
You feel you made the right choice, then?
In the back of my mind I always wanted to make a career out of boxing but my parents always instilled into me how important it was to get an education so I went to start a law degree at Coventry University. I was practically a full-time amateur boxer at the same time so it made combining both very difficult. Inevitably my studies started to suffer so after the first year I met with my tutor and she could see how driven I was about my boxing career. She told me that the door would always be open to come back and resume the law degree at any time if I wanted to pursue the boxing on a full time basis. I have no regrets there in terms of my studies but from time to time I do wonder if I'd kept at the hurling instead of the boxing how far I could have gone. I would love to have played for Tipperary at senior level, to play at Semple Stadium on Munster Final day or Croke Park on All Ireland day would have been the ultimate.
Where do you train in New York?
I train at the Trinity Boxing Gym which is on Greenwich Street in the Financial District and I do strength and conditioning training at the Peak Performance gym in Midtown.
Who is your coach?
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