Middleweight Matthew Macklin (29-5, 20 KOs) will fight Lamar Russ (14-0, 7 KOs) at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City this Saturday night in a contest scheduled for 10 rounds.
The fight, which will be televised on HBO, features on the undercard of the Guillermo Rigondeaux/Joseph Agbeko main event. Macklin got this HBO date as part of the deal he struck to fight Gennady Golovkin in June of this year.
Macklin lost to Golovkin by third round knockout, and the Irishman from Birmingham knows he must win and win well this weekend to remain a contender in the middleweight division.
In an effort to give himself the best chance to get back on track for another world title shot, Macklin enlisted Jamie Moore, who he fought in 2006 when both men campaigned in the light middleweight division, to train him.
Macklin arrived in New York on Saturday and is finishing his preparations at the Trinity Gym in the Financial District before he heads to Atlantic City later in the week. The Irish Voice caught up with him on Monday night to see how his camp has progressed.
“Training has gone well. [I’ve] really enjoyed working with Jamie [Moore] the past few weeks. Felt the best I’ve felt in a long time, probably since the Sturm fight!” Macklin told the Voice on Monday night.
He lost a controversial decision to then WBA champion Felix Sturm in June 2011, gave WBC champion Sergio Martinez a good fight in 2012 before being retired after the 11th round and was outclassed and knocked out by current WBA and IBO champion Golovkin in June. However, Macklin is focused firmly on his future.
“I’m looking forward to bouncing back with a big win. Russ is a good fighter, undefeated, but I think I’ll break him down bit by bit and KO him late!” he added.
This crossroads fight with Russ is not unfamiliar ground for the 31-year-old. After his 2012 St. Patrick’s night defeat to Sergio Martinez, Macklin took a make-or-break fight later that year in September against Joachim Alcine in Las Vegas. On that occasion he enhanced his reputation with a clinical first round knockout victory, a performance that set up his title fight with Golovkin.
Macklin is now in the same position again. He has just come off another unsuccessful tilt at a world title, albeit against arguably the most dangerous fighter in the division, and he needs to show both HBO and the boxing public that his best days are not behind him.
To do so, Macklin must navigate his way past Russ, who hails from North Carolina. Though he took the fight on short notice after original opponent Willie Nelson pulled out injured, Russ sounded confident in an interview with Boxingscene.com this week.
“I am taking a big fight with a top contender three weeks out, not because it’s HBO, but just because I can win this fight. Matthew Macklin is a great fighter. He’s a top 10 contender. He’s been in there with the best. But I’ve got the tools to beat him,” said the 26-year-old.
Another reason that Macklin needs to win well is to ensure that HBO retains an interest in a potential fight against Andy Lee sometime in 2014. Lee kept up his end of the bargain by looking good last week against Ferenc Hafner in a two round blowout TKO win in Manchester, England.
If Macklin can do something similar this weekend, then he would make the fight with Lee a much easier sell for Lou DiBella, who promotes both men. Dublin and New York have been touted as potential venues for that long anticipated showdown, but given DiBella’s long standing relationship with HBO, if the fight takes place in New York it will more than likely have some involvement from that network.
The mood emanating out of Macklin’s camp has been very positive, and his fans will hope that “Mack the Knife” can channel those good vibes into a strong performance this weekend, as his career hangs in the balance.
In other boxing news, Olympic gold medalist Katie Taylor won two exhibition bouts in the space of 24 hours last weekend when she defeated Finland’s Mira Potkonen in her hometown of Bray, Co. Wicklow and American Caroline Veyre in Dublin.