Rarely in the modern history of boxing has someone benefitted more from a loss than Macklin.
Nearly nine months ago, Macklin came up just short in the biggest fight of his life. He lost a split decision to Felix Sturm in Germany for the WBA middleweight title June 25 that led to heartache and consternation.
It was good for Macklin, though, that the loss was televised in the United States. American fans were outraged by what they saw. Sturm, the house fighter, seemingly got a gift decision. It was Macklin who pushed the pace, who landed the more telling shots.
When the scores were read, the German-born Sturm got the split decision. Macklin was infuriated.
“I was disgusted by the decision and was, to be honest, very angry about it,” he said. “I thought I won the fight clearly.”
It turned out he got an “L” on his record but a “W” on his career. Never before had Macklin performed so well against such a highly rated opponent. Never before had he stirred an interest among American boxing fans.
The outrage over the verdict didn’t go unnoticed by promoter Lou DiBella and HBO executives.
As a result, Macklin landed a bout Saturday in The Theater at Madison Square Garden against Sergio Martinez, the No. 3-ranked pound-for-pound fighter in the world and a fighter much more highly regarded than Sturm.
“The only bad thing about it all is that I should have the [WBA] belt,” Macklin said. “I won the fight. Everyone who saw it knows that. So I should be going in with the belt. But it’s not like I lost. That’s the only thing I’m lacking, is the belt. I got the fight against real middleweight champion. I’m getting to fight the big fight in America. Of course, it’s worked out for the best.”
Martinez is regarded as the best fighter in the world without the name Mayweather or Pacquiao. He’s 48-2-2 and has been performing at a high level for more than a decade.
There is a school of thought in boxing circles, though, that Martinez, a cyclist and a former minor league soccer player, is more of an athlete than a boxer. He’s like Roy Jones Jr. in that regard. Jones dominated the middleweight, super middleweight and light heavyweight divisions for years, even though he wasn’t close to being technically sound.
Neither is Martinez, but he’s fast, he’s got good feet and he’s marvelously conditioned.
Macklin, however, plans to test it. Macklin is a pure brawler who gets into his opponent’s chest and fires away. Martinez is 37, and Macklin plans to find out how many miles are left on those legs.
“He has a lot of rounds of boxing on him,” Macklin said. “I’m going to keep the pressure on him for sure. There aren’t too many Bernard Hopkins’ in the world. I’m going to make him work and go at his body and that kind of thing will pay off in the later rounds.”
Macklin called Martinez a “one-trick pony” and said he didn’t regard Martinez anywhere near as good as Mayweather or Pacquiao, who hold the top two spots in the Yahoo! Sports rankings.
Macklin has changed trainers and brought on Buddy McGirt, who worked with him several years ago.
McGirt said he’s long been impressed by Macklin’s overall game.
“I’ve worked with him for the Yory Boy Campas fight a few years back, so I’ve been aware for a long time just how good he is,” McGirt said of Macklin. “We’re not going to shout or boast about doing this or that. Matthew’s just going to go in there and let his fists do the talking. I must say, though, that I am very confident that he is going to shock an awful lot of people in this fight.”
It would be an upset of epic proportions in one sense, because Macklin has yet to register a victory against a top 10-rated middleweight and Martinez is one of the great fighters in the sport.
But there are plenty of people on Martinez’s side who are worried about the fight. Martinez is hoping to land a bout with Mayweather later this year and knows he needs the win. While it’s expected, they know Macklin won’t be a pushover.
And for Macklin, this is one of those cases where, in retrospect, he’s glad he didn’t win.
“Would I have gotten this fight had I won [the Sturm fight]?” Macklin said. “You never know how things would have worked out. But the way that fight went and the decision and the react, all of that is why I got this great opportunity. And now that I have it, I plan to take full advantage of it.”