Middleweight Matthew Macklin (29-4, 20 KOs) will fight WBA and IBO champion Gennady Golovkin (26-0, 23 KOs) this Saturday night at the MGM Grand Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut. The fight will be televised on HBO and the pair will slug it out in a contest scheduled for 12 rounds.
This will be Macklin’s third tilt at a world title. He lost a controversial decision to Felix Sturm in June 2011, and his corner retired him after 11 rounds against Sergio Martinez on March 17, 2012.
Macklin faces an enormous challenge this weekend. He will fight a man who has knocked out 23 of his 26 opponents, and he will do so with only one round of competitive action since his loss to Martinez 15 months ago (a first round blowout win over Joachim Alcine in Las Vegas last September).
However, Macklin maintains that, like the champion, he possesses real power. Though he would have liked to fight a tune-up before this assignment, the window of opportunity to fight the much-heralded 2004 Olympic silver medalist for these titles was only open now, and he believes that he has what it takes to capitalize on that chance.
Macklin and his team feel that this fight might have come too soon for Golovkin, and that the Kazak’s inexperience against this level of opposition will be his biggest weakness. If Macklin can withstand the power of his 31-year-old opponent in the early going and take Golovkin into the later rounds, they feel that Macklin’s big fight experience could be a telling factor.
“Everyone can be beat, and Buddy and myself have spotted flaws that we believe we can take advantage of,” Macklin told the Irish Voice on Monday.
“Everyone has built up Golovkin to be a monster, and of course he is a very accomplished fighter, but he's had things pretty much all his own way against lesser quality and smaller opposition.”
Golovkin, through no fault of his own, has been forced to fight blown-up light middleweights, as none of the main players in the 160-pound division want anything to do with him. Before Macklin stepped up to the plate, the champion wore down Gabriel Rosado in seven rounds in January and dismantled Nobuhiro Ishida in three rounds in March.
To put the level of opposition for each man in perspective, in the same month when Macklin was fighting (and many would argue beating) Felix Sturm in Germany two years ago, Golovkin was fighting veteran Kassim Ouma (another light middleweight moving up to 160) and scored a 10th round TKO win in his longest fight as a professional (Macklin has gone over 10 rounds nine times in his career).
“For the first time, he's facing an opponent who is a naturally bigger [man] and [a] world class fighter. I believe I hit every bit as hard if not harder than him. He's had everything his own way to date in his career, but I believe on Saturday night that I can bring him to places he's never been as a pro and make it a very uncomfortable night for him,” added Macklin.
Golovkin, who trains out of Big Bear Lake in San Bernardino County, California, expects a hard fight this weekend.
“I think that this will be a very difficult fight for me and for him. It will be a very close fight, and it will be a very great fight for TV and fans,” he said.
The winning and losing of fights like this can come down to the fine details. Macklin says he has had a great training camp first in Marbella, Spain, and then at the Trinity Gym in the Financial District of New York City. He has sparred with the likes of unbeaten light heavyweight prospect Callum Johnson and fast-handed light middleweight Steve O’Meara, and no injuries have been reported from the camp.
The 31-year-old has eaten clean and said last week that he was already on weight. Finally, he underwent a procedure last winter to repair some long standing damage to his nose, which has allowed him to breathe better and get more oxygen into his body.
“I've definitely noticed a difference since having it done. Before I would be constantly having to clear it and literally open up the nostrils during training to try and get more air in,” Macklin said.
“The procedure was essentially to center the septum. It's held up fine in sparring and I've definitely noticed a difference.”
Unlike the chess match that was Macklin against the southpaw Martinez, the orthodox Golovkin will stand in front of Macklin and will be an easier target to hit.
"At times it will be tactical with spurts of toe-to-toe action,” Tomas Rohan, matchmaker for Brian Peters Promotions, told the Irish Voice when the fight was officially announced to the press in April.
“Then they will probably retreat and regroup and then explode again. With this one, there will be no surprises. It is going to be, at times, an all-out war with a bit of tactics.”
The fight will also pit Golovkin’s trainer, Abel Sanchez, against his counterpart James “Buddy” McGirt for the first time. They both acknowledged that on a recent conference call, with Sanchez quipping that they were “finally” going to pit wits against each other.
McGirt too commented on the fact that realizing Sanchez was the opposing trainer made him “put his thinking cap on” for the first time in eight years.
“I had to focus on doing different things with Matthew to make sure that we win this fight come June 29. He's prepared now,” McGirt said.
Irish American light welterweight Danny O’Connor (20-1, 7 KOs) will feature on the undercard of the fight. The Framingham, Massachusetts, native will take on Hector Munoz (21-10, 14KOs) in a contest scheduled for eight rounds.
"I'm not fighting on HBO, but I hope to impress the people there on June 29. Maybe my next fight will be on television? I'm coming off an injury and itching to get back in the ring. I'm fighting a tough veteran in Munoz, who keeps coming forward with his in-your-face style,” said O’Connor in the lead up to the fight.
Tickets are available at foxwoods.com.