Revitalised Macklin knows career on the line
Matthew Macklin understands why Brian Rose is the favourite going into their sink or swim middleweight bout on Saturday night.
Recent performances from the 33-year-old three-time world title challenger have not suggested he is capable of summoning up the displays that pushed Felix Sturm to the brink and gave the gifted Sergio Martinez a hard night’s work at Madison Square Garden in 2012.
Macklin (34-6, 22 KOs), now trained by his younger brother Seamus, is honest enough to admit that defeat to Rose (28-3-1, 8 KOs) at London’s O2 Arena will put a 40-fight, 15 year career into retirement.
“It’s been a rollercoaster,” Macklin told Boxing Monthly when he looked back on his career to date. “Lots of ups and downs. I’ve had a lot more highs and lows. I’m glad the lows happened as well because it makes you appreciate the highs, the good times and it builds character, the mental toughness.
“Sometimes when you’re down you can’t see the good times but you don’t stay down forever. Persistence is important and believing in yourself, and that will and belief. That can be tested sometimes.
"What was it Sugar Ray Robinson said?: ‘To be a champ you have to believe in yourself when no-one else will’. And it’s so true, so true. And it’s a fine line between believing in yourself and being deluded. Sometimes when you’re saying things you think people will think you’re deluded but you have to keep that belief.”
That belief will be put to the test when Brian Rose, a man whose career is also on the line in this fight, will look to take Macklin to places of fortitude, stamina and desire that he hasn’t visited for a while.
The disappointing showing that Macklin gave against Jason Wellborn last time out (WUD10) has done enough to convince the Brummy Irishman that a repeat showing is enough for Rose to beat him and send him into retirement.
Macklin told BM that a new mental approach and listening to his body more has resulted in enough conviction for him to believe that not only is he good enough to beat Rose but is still capable of challenging for a world title.
“What I’ve done for this fight is I went out to America. I got some real quality sparring with Jason Quigley who’s a really sharp kid,” said Macklin. “He was just finishing off his sparring, I was just starting. He was sharp and his style is sharp. I haven’t done hundreds and hundreds of rounds of sparring but the sparring I have done has been good that’s a big difference, I think.
“Just the whole mental approach. Taking the fight seriously. It’s a mad one when you say that to people. It’s not like you’re in the pub getting drunk and not training. You’re still training, you’re still sparring… it’s the edge. It sounds corny but the eye of the tiger or whatever you want to call it, having the mind in the right place. Approaching it right mentally and having the right respect towards the fight and the opponent.
“Brian Rose ticks a lot of boxes. He’s good enough. If I’m 80% of when I fought Felix Sturm then I think I’ll knock Brian Rose out.”
With his brother Seamus in the corner for this fight, Matthew knows he has someone in his ear who will give him a kick up the backside if needed. A new style isn’t required. Caught between a no man’s land of trying to please a new trainer and doing his own thing is not what is required either. A 33-year-old man is not an old dog but Macklin isn’t interested in new tricks.
“Seamus is younger than me but since he left school he’s been with the likes of Billy Graham and around me. He was out in America with Buddy [McGirt] and Freddie [Roach] for all the camps. He knows boxing beyond his years and, more importantly, he knows me.
“At this stage of the game, I think I know plenty. Seamus is my brother and if anyone needs to tell me, if I need telling the truth, he’s well capable of doing that.”
A win for Macklin prolongs his career and throws his name back into the world middleweight title hat. Big fights are what he wants. If it’s a stay busy fight then, in his own words: “It literally is a stay busy fight as in a one-round job,” he laughed.
"Or I just wait. I’m in a different place in my life. I don’t drink anymore. I train a lot more. I don’t balloon up in weight. Either it’s a one-round job or bide your time, be patient, stay in the gym, keep your body right.”
Alcohol is something that Macklin has gone on and off over the years. It’s been a social thing, not something that’s interfered between himself and his boxing. He’s done with it. No more hangovers, he can’t deal with them anymore. He’s done with eating poorly in between fights, too. Everything has a knock-on effect, something he fully understands.
“It’s mad how things go,” he said. “You’re on the drink, you’re dieting, eating shit because you’re hungover. You don’t go in the gym either and all of a sudden six weeks have passed you by. You haven’t even done a run and they all go together hand-in-hand.
“I’m just living a better life in general. Not drinking means you’re not eating as much shit which means you feel better and fresher to go to the gym. I’m just generally looking after myself better in between fights.”
And it’s something that will have to continue. A world title shot is, to be honest, a bit of a dot on the horizon for Macklin and that will only grow and become closer with a win, and arguably a convincing one over Rose.
He is now in a division where one man (Gennady Golovkin) is way out in front, something Macklin can testify to after their encounter in 2013 when he was put away surgically in three rounds.
The jostling pack behind him led by the likes of Danny Jacobs and Billy Joe Saunders try to convince us they are the men to stop the unstoppable but in reality buying a lottery ticket and winning seems like better odds.
Macklin knows where he is at in his own career. Is he good enough to beat a Jacobs or a Saunders? Many will say no, Saturday might not convince them either but the man who will be doing the fighting and not the talking doesn’t care.
“If I lost this fight that would be it because three or four years ago I’d have gone through Brian Rose. Three or four years ago he wouldn’t have took the fight, in fact I would have put money on him not taking the fight. I understand why he did [take the fight] and why the bookies have him favourite.
“My recent performances [mean], on the surface, you’d have to assume I was shot or well on the slide so I get that. I was in Los Angeles six-seven weeks ago and done a lot of thinking.
“This fight with Brian Rose is good. Like I said, a few years I’d have gone through Brian. Will I go through him now? I think I will. I’ve had a good camp, I feel good and I feel I’ll go through him. If I don’t then I know and I’ll retire.”
Photo credit: Lawrence Lustig