Mack the Knife Meets the Press

By Robert Ecksel on June 22, 2011
"I think the challenge of Felix will bring my game to another level"

“I think I punch hard enough,” Macklin said, “if I hit Felix clean on the chin in the first round, it could be over…”

In anticipation of Saturday’s fight from the Lanxess Arena in Cologne, Germany, between WBA middleweight champion Felix Sturm (35-2-1, 15 KOs) and top-rated contender Matthew Macklin (28-2, 19 KOs), both fighters met with the press on a telephone conference call. While the fight is Sturm’s 10th defense of his title, Macklin thinks it’s his time to shine, and Sturm’s experience won’t make any difference.

“I’ve won the European title twice, won the Irish title, the British title, and I’ve fought some really good opponents along the way,” Macklin said. “I’m excited, getting ready for my first world title shot.

“The training camp’s gone brilliantly. The biggest fight of my life, you want it to be the best training camp of your life, and it has been. Also, I think the challenge of Felix will bring my game to another level. I’ll have to be at my best, but no doubt I will be. And, yes, I’m really confident, really, really looking forward to it. And, yes, Saturday just can’t come soon enough now.

Of the two fighters, Sturm has the edge in experience, which could prove to be a problem.

“He’s very experienced,” said Macklin. “He’s always finds a way to win. He has a great defense, a very good jab, and I think that they’re two things that when I’ve watched him on tape consistently jumped out at you [are] his left jab, his left hook, and, you know, also his defense.”

Macklin said Strum has “an excellent jab, but it’s not an awkward jab. He doesn’t shoot it down from his hip. It’s a pretty orthodox, textbook jab. It’s hard. It’s fast. He gets a lot of rhythm off it, and he hooks off it well. He goes to the body off it well. And it’s constant. But you can always nullify the jab, especially if you’ve got a good jab yourself. I think sometimes I’ve neglected my jab in the past, and other fights I’ve used it really well. I’m pretty sure I’m going to match him for jabs and head movements.”

There have been several ups and down in Macklin’s career over the years. A proposed fight with Winky Wright bit the dust when Winky pulled out because of an injury. And then the fight with Sturm materialized as if from out of nowhere.

“I’m prepared to fight anyone to prove what I believe that I’m capable of,” Macklin said. “I believe I can go all the way in this division. I think I can be a champion and stay there for quite a while and defend against all the other top guys in the division. And, you know, the Winky Wright fight I was excited about. I thought it was a perfect name to just sort of launch me in America on a big pay-per-view card over there. I was gutted when it fell through, because I really saw that as a big opportunity for me to get my name out there.

“But when that kind of fell through it looked that the Khoren Gevor fight was on, which…wasn’t as good a fight as the Winky Wright fight, but he had fought Sturm before. He gave Felix Sturm a good fight. He also had a good fight with Arthur Abraham before getting knocked out and he’s a very good fighter in his own right. So it was still a good opponent. And then we were waiting on the contract to be signed. We went back and forth a little bit. And then slightly out of the blue, the Felix Sturm fight comes up.”

Macklin is fighting a champion on his own turf. He’s the challenger, and the underdog, so he has his work cut out for him.

“I have always respected Felix,” admitted Macklin. “This is his third reign as world champion…This is my first world title shot, so it’s only natural he’s going to be the favorite. But I’m twice European champion. I’ve beaten some good fighters. And to be honest, when I’ve had the best performances in my career is when I’m been in against the best fighters.

“For fighters not at my level I kind of drop my standard to their level, and I’ve not performed to the best of my abilities. But when I’ve been up against it or I’ve [been] an underdog or it’s seen as a 50/50 fight, that’s when you usually see the best of me.”

Mack the Knife always wanted to fight the best, and now is his chance.

“They make me sharper, my reflexes sharper,” he said. “I react quicker to punches. I counter faster. And I even feel like I punch faster and harder. I think it just affects everything, and it makes me perform to the best of my ability. You can either rise to the occasion or you can drop your standards and sometimes drop to their level. And I think that when I know I have to be on my best, I lift my game.”

Macklin has worked with several trainers over the years. He trained with Buddy McGirt, Billy Graham, and Floyd Mayweather Sr. Now Joe Gallagher is in his corner and he thinks it’s a perfect fit.

“Billy Graham tended to train you to be aggressive,” Macklin recalled, “to work the body a lot, to throw a lot of hard single punches, to be gung-ho-ish, really. But on the other side of that, Buddy McGirt was very jab-oriented. Everything has to jab, lots of jabs. And you take a bit from each one. But it’s good to be comfortable with the trainer and have faith in your trainer and be comfortable and be happy and familiar in your surroundings. All my best wins from a title point of view have come with Joe Gallagher, who I’ve been with for nearly three years now, so I’m pretty set up at the moment.

“So you’re always learning. You always take new ideas from people. But from a fight point of view, my last fights have been with Joe Gallagher and I’ve won the European title twice with him, and the British middleweight title. I think at the moment I have the best of both worlds.”

Macklin was asked for a prediction on Saturday’s fight, if he thought it would go to the cards or end in a knockout.

“Who knows?” he replied. “I think I punch hard enough, if I hit Felix clean on the chin in the first round, it could be over. But at the same time, he does have a good chin. He has a very good defense. And so I do see it definitely going into the later part of the fight. But, you know…it could be a 12-round fight. I’ve trained hard. I’m fit to go bell to bell for 12 rounds.”

Whether it goes the distance or not, Macklin knows the bout will be a barnburner.

“I think it’s going to be a great fight,” he said, “whether it’s three rounds or 12 rounds, I think Felix throws good punches. He sits in the pocket a lot. Like I said, he likes to put a lot of pressure on. He doesn’t really run too much. He kind of stands his ground in the center of the ring, and I’m pretty aggressive. I throw a lot of punches. It could well be fight of the year.” will stream the fight live this Saturday at 5:00 PM/ET.

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