All rosy in the Garden for focused Macklin

IT WAS a low point for Matthew “Mack the Knife” Macklin.

He had just walked out of Madison Square Garden in 2006 without throwing a punch on what should have been the biggest night of his professional career.

After a weigh-in mix-up involving his opponent, Macklin’s then trainer Billy Graham, the same man who brought Ricky Hatton to a world title, advised his young fighter to walk away from the debacle, swearing to his ambitious Birmingham-born, Tipperary-bred charge that one day he’d make it back to boxing’s biggest stage as a headliner.

On March 17, that promise will come true: a middleweight world title shot against Sergio Martinez.

“I’m glad Billy made my mind up for me that night,” Macklin recalled yesterday at a press conference in Madison Square Garden announcing a St Patrick’s Day line-up that will also include fellow middleweight Andy Lee.

“My head was all over the place. I had family and friends that had flown in, bought tickets and we basically walked out the back door. So it’s an amazing feeling to be back and to have this opportunity.”

Macklin relocated to the Bronx in preparation for this title shot and is training at the Trinity Boxing club in downtown Manhattan. He is also seeking to bounce back after a cruel points decision defeat in Germany against Felix Sturm last June, the 29-year-old’s third loss in a 31-fight career.

“I proved it against Sturm and everyone, bar the two judges who scored it for him, could see that,” Macklin said.

“Fights like the Sturm one and this Martinez fight are the type of fights I’ve craved my whole career. I’m at this level now and I’m determined to stay here.

“I have tonnes of respect for what Sergio has achieved and the way he conducts himself outside of the ring. He is an excellent athlete and almost universally regarded as the best boxer on the planet, outside of Mayweather and Pacquiao but I’ve always believed and said I belong at this level.

“It’ll be a battle of styles and who can impose their tactics. He’s a counter-puncher and he’s faster than me but I’m the bigger fighter. I will go through walls on St Patrick’s Day to win.”

A late-bloomer on the world stage, Argentine Martinez (48-2-2), 37 next month and based in California, is coming off a knockout victory against Darren Barker in New Jersey last October.

“My goal is to be the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world and March 17 is another step in that direction,” said Martinez.

“Macklin is a very tough opponent and I know that he will make for a very exciting fight.”

Meanwhile, Andy Lee, who flew in from Detroit for the press conference and has a record of 27-1 with 19 knockouts, acknowledged that this must be his breakthrough year as he approaches 28 in June.

“It’s the year of the Mayan and the year of Andy Lee!” he said yesterday.

“I’ve solidified myself as a contender. I believe I should have a title fight this year. If I win, I’ll be knocking on (promoter) Lou DiBella’s door.”

While his opponent has yet to be named, Dominican Republic middleweight Giovanni Lorenzo attended yesterday’s proceedings and negotiations were clearly going on in a bid to seal a deal.

It had been hoped Lee would take on John Duddy at the same venue but the Derry fighter’s January 2011 retirement ruled out the mouthwatering clash, to the surprise of many.

Another Irish boxer, Long Island-based light heavyweight, Seanie Monaghan, will also fight on the March 17 undercard, with his opponent yet to be announced.

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