Macklin arrived into a buzzing atmosphere at 3Arena, in front of a reduced capacity crowd of 5,000 with his ‘Mack the Knife’ signature entrance tune leading into a raucous version of ‘The Rocky Road to Dublin’.
The Birmingham-born Tipperary fighter’s career has been rocky throughout; from a knockout loss to Jamie Moore to two European titles; he had three world-title shots; he was robbed of the WBA world championship by the judges in Cologne when he fought Felix Sturm; and he travelled to the US to become a headliner on HBO TV against top pound-for-pound fighters in Sergio Martinez and Gennady Golovkin.
Now it seems likely that this could be the end.
Heiland and Macklin went toe to toe for 10 rounds. After a clean left hand landed on Macklin’s chin, a right hook from Heiland left the home fighter on the canvas 42 seconds into the round.
In truth, Macklin looked every inch of his 32 years from the third round onward and the aggregate damage of a pro career which started in his teens made him look, for the first time, a very tired fighter.
“He was decent and I knew he was good,” said Macklin of Heiland afterwards. “I suppose no one wants to admit they’re getting older but the pace of the fight… it probably suited him more than me.
“You start taking chances then because I’ve always said I’d rather get knocked out trying to win than lose, so I got caught with a few shots. That’s boxing.”
A constantly busy 27-year-old Heiland was too much to deal with.
“I’ve got the sort of face where I show every emotion anyway, so I looked tired after a round!” he laughed afterwards, but the 32-year-old is now, undoubtedly, considering retirement.
“I’ve had tough fights, tough spars and lived in f***ing hotel rooms all over the world! It’s a tough-ish life, but I’ve had more highs than lows, definitely.
“I’ll just have to see. It was a good fight and he [Heiland] is a good fighter. The atmosphere was electric and I’m really proud walking out there to see the atmosphere and that.
“It’d be a shame not to do it again but maybe it’s just not to be, we’ll see about that. I’ll take a few days, weeks and speak to family and friends. I’ll think about it.”
The unusual predicament he finds himself in is the possibility that he could yet book an All-Ireland showdown with Limerick’s Lee or big date with England’s Martin Murray.
Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn suggested he will return to Ireland with Sky Sports, but a loss for his headline star means plans are uncertain.
The Matchroom promoter pinpointed Dublin middleweight Luke Keeler as a star in the making after the 27-year-old demolished Gary Boulden in one round, while he also hinted that Cork’s Gary ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan could yet become a major player in the 160lb division.
Meanwhile, former amateur stars John Joe Nevin and Tommy McCarthy both recorded early stoppage wins.
“You will see us again, not as quickly as you would’ve done if he [Macklin] would’ve won, but I do believe you’ll see us in 2015 but probably not in spring,” added Hearn on a possible return to Dublin.
Those plans could yet hinge on Macklin’s career call, however.
“Look at the [Jake] LaMottas and all them – they lost many times and still went on and won a world title,” said Macklin. “Now’s not the time to make a decision.
“It’s a shame because now the world title looks further away and maybe it’s just not to be for me. Maybe that fight [against Sturm] in Germany will haunt me forever.”
Boxing rarely delivers a happy Rocky Balboa ending. Macklin’s rocky road, wherever it now leads, has been an entertaining journey throughout.