Once more into the trenches
Back in 2010 Enzo Maccarinelli suffered a brutal knockout loss at the hands of Alexander Frenkel in the first defence of his European cruiserweight title in Birmingham.
David Haye, Ola Afolabi and Denis Lebedev had previously separated Maccarinelli from his senses in high profile fights prompting concerned fans and sport insiders to call for the Swansea man to retire from the sport. Enzo wasn’t just losing; he was getting badly hurt.
But after attempting to reinvent himself as a light heavyweight with mixed success ‘Big Mac’ is making a late career charge to get back in the cruiserweight mix after surviving some dressing room shenanigans, moments after his icing of the legendary Roy Jones in Russia, and is gunning for his old European title when he tackles Ukraine’s Dmytro Kucher tonight at York Hall, live on Boxnation.
“At this moment in time only the big fights interest me," said Enzo, who was handed a surprise shot at the vacant European strap when old foe Ovill McKenzie was forced to withdraw through injury.
“I was asked by Boxnation to do commentary work on Ovil vs Kucher but then Andy Ayling [Frank Warren’s event manager] called me up asking if I wanted to step in at short notice because Ovil had picked up an injury and I jumped at the chance.
“He [Kucher] is a typical upright Eastern European fighter but he looks quite sharp with a good jab," said Enzo when speaking to Boxing Monthly .“But he doesn’t like to fight going backwards and that’s what we plan to do, put him under pressure and force him back.”
“It is an opportunity to win the European title again and to get back in the mix on the world scene," said Maccarinelli, who watched his friend Tony Bellew win the WBC world title in stunning fashion 12 days ago.
“I have only had three weeks in the gym with Gary [Lockett] but I always try to keep myself in shape and I run an amateur gym so I’m working with the boys all the time. If I produced what I’m doing in the gym on Friday night, I’ll be okay.”
Maccarinelli’s long-time friend and coach Gary Lockett has endured the lows and celebrated the highs of the Swansea puncher's career and he believes that just like any good veteran the 35-year-old is getting better and better with age and experience.
“He is a completely different animal to the one he was five years ago," said Lockett. “He has a massively improved defence, isn’t as reckless and has a better jab. He is much healthier too and obviously much more experienced.
“Kucher looks a pretty good fighter, sharp in the pocket and can fight up close but he slows down after three rounds," was Lockett’s assessment of Maccarinelli’s opponent.
“His record is great but if you look more closely he hasn’t beaten anyone that this version of Enzo wouldn’t beat.”
Enzo's move down a division to light heavyweight raised more than a few eyebrows within the trade at the time, given the fact that the 6’3” tall fighter had never campaigned at 175lbs, and was unsure how he would fair.
British and Commonwealth titles and an unsuccessful attempt to wrest the WBA World championship from Jurgen Braehmer were the highlights but Lockett insists that he was never totally at ease with the move.
“Light-heavy was taking something out of him for sure. My concerns were clouded over a bit when he knocked out Ovill but when he fought in October in Newport [a fifth round TKO win] he was a different animal and I told him ‘Enzo, you’re a cruiserweight’. I think he knew that all along but he needed to hear it from me.
“I did the weight as well as I could” said Enzo.
“I wouldn’t say I did it easy but I was okay, but it did take something out of me. I’m a lot stronger at cruiserweight and I’m hitting a lot harder. I feel fitter and my running times have dropped down since I started to put the weight back on. I won’t be a 15st cruiser boiling down I will be 14st 4lbs and feel great for it.”
Back in December Maccarinelli accepted an invitation to travel to Russia and face their latest and most high profile citizen Roy Jones Jnr. The problem was that Enzo wasn’t supposed to win, let alone completely obliterate a living legend inside four rounds with one of the most brutal knockouts of the year.
“I can’t believe the amount of people who thought I was going to lose that fight!” said Maccarinelli.
“The only reason I got picked to face him is because I’d been a light heavyweight for the last few years. When I went over to meet him in Russia to announce the fight I was down on my weight and looking thin in the face because I had a title shot lined up at 175, Jones looked at me and thought it would be an easy night.
“But when he saw me at the weigh-in I was totally different, back up at cruiser and a different fighter. I remember saying to him that it was an honour to fight him but I would knock him out! He gave me a look but wasn’t sure how to take it!"
The victory over Jones kept Maccarinelli’s career alive and the dynamite puncher hopes to replicate that victory with another blistering performance against Kucher tonight in London.