Ricky Hatton is backing British Middleweight Champion Matthew Macklin to conquer Europe and the World over the next 12 months. The Birmingham man is the latest addition to Hatton’s new promotional outfit and “The Hitman” has moved quickly to secure a European title shot for his newest signing. Macklin will contest the vacant European Middleweight title with World ranked Finn, Amin Asikainen at the Manchester Velodrome on September 25th as he looks to move within touching distance of a World title fight. Having won 5 World titles himself Hatton knows exactly what it takes to get to the very top and he believes that Macklin has all the right ingredients..
Hatton, who has yet to make a decision on his own ring career said, “I’ve had my fair share of success with World titles in the ring but now I want to start producing World Champions as a promoter and I firmly believe that Matthew Macklin will be one of them.
“I’ve known Matthew for a long time, we’ve trained together, sparred together and worked each others corners over the years and I’ve always believed that he has the ability to go all the way. He won the British title in very impressive fashion last time out and I think he has the ability to step straight up to European title level and I’m delighted to be able to give him that opportunity on one of my shows.”
However Hatton believes that Asikainen represents a huge challenge for Macklin. “Matthew’s facing a very tough challenge because Asikainen is a vastly experienced operator and he’s been European Champion before but I believe that it’s a fight Matthew can win and use as a spring board to a World title fight next year.”
Macklin says he’d delighted to be linking up with long time friend Hatton and he’s already looking ahead to September 25th. “It’s fitting that I’m working with Ricky as my promoter now because we’ve been good friends for so long. We’ve probably sparred over a hundred rounds together and we’ve always supported each other throughout our careers.
“Ricky promised that he would deliver me the big fights and in my very first fight with him I’ll be fighting for the European title so it’s a huge opportunity for me. I’ve seen quite a bit of Asikainen and I’ve got a lot of respect for him because he’s been campaigning at European title level for the last three years. He’s a big puncher and brings all that experience to the table but he has frailties as well and I believe I’ll be able to set a pace that he can’t cope with.”
Macklin believes he can use the European title as a launch pad to a World title shot next year. “I really feel that things are starting to come together for me now since winning the British title. To be honest I had planned on winning the British title a lot earlier in my career. I’m 27 now so the next few years are going to the most important so when the chance at the European title came along I knew I had to grab it.
“The European middleweight scene is red hot right now and particularly in Germany where they seem to be dominating the division even on the World stage. Obviously Arthur Abraham has just moved up to super middleweight and you have Sebastian Zbik who just won the interim WBC title while Felix Sturm has held the WBA title for the last 3 years.
“Another German, Sebastian Sylvester is fighting for the vacant IBF title in September and Asikainen is rated number 4 with the IBF so a win over him would leave me knocking on the door of a World title shot.”
Asikainen however has World title ambitions of his own and is also targeting a rubber match with old foe Sylvester, the two rivals currently have one win apiece in European title fights.
“Winning the European title for the second time would be great,” said Asikainen. “The European title is the most meaningful belt in boxing after the World title. Of course I dream of winning the World title too some day but right now I am totally focused on Matthew Macklin.”
The flying Finn says that fighting on away ground holds no fears for him. “Coming to Manchester to fight is not a problem for me. As an amateur I fought several times outside Finland and as a pro I have won 3 of my 4 fights abroad including a knockout win over Sebastian Sylvester in Germany. Actually I think that fighting away from home kind of suits me better as it takes some of the pressure off.
“I have power in both hands. I knocked out Sylvester with my left hand and I stopped Yori Boy Campas with my right hand so I am armed and dangerous. I am known as a knockout artist, but I never come looking for the knockout. If it happens, it happens but I will prepare for twelve hard rounds and I believe I can win either on points or by KO.”
Asikainen’s promoter Pekka Maki is equally bullish about his fighter’s chances. “Macklin is not a bad fighter, he has heart and skills but I see some big weaknesses as well. He makes a lot of mistakes in the ring and if you make mistakes against Amin Asikainen you will get knocked out.
“I believe that Macklin has been kept away from powerful punchers and there is a reason for that. Amin Asikainen is a big puncher and I can see a lot of scenarios for Asikainen to beat Macklin. Amin can outbox him, he can overpower him or he can knock Macklin out with a single counterpunch. Overall I just think that Macklin makes too many mistakes to go the distance with Asikainen.”
Despite the confidence within Team Asikainen Macklin believes that he can join British boxing legends like Randy Turpin, Alan Minter, Herol Graham and Richie Woodhall in lifting the European Middleweight title.
“Asikainen is someone I’ve had my eye on for quite some time now and I’ve always believed I have the right attributes to beat him,” said Macklin. “It won’t be easy because he is a quality fighter but I’m determined to prove that I belong up there with the best in the World and I can make a real statement in this fight.”
Macklin’s one regret with moving on to European level is that he won’t get to halt the unbeaten run of Commonwealth Champion Darren Barker. “I had been looking forward to the Barker fight because I firmly believe that I would have got him out of there early but the opportunity to get my hands on the European title was just too good to pass up. If Barker’s honest with himself he would have done exactly the same thing in my position.
“This is an opportunity for me to step up another level and I believe it’s a far tougher fight than Barker anyway. Asikainen is a proven operator at European level and he’s a World ranked fighter. There’s been a lot of hype around Darren but in reality he’s yet to prove himself at British level. I’ve beaten the likes of Yory Boy Campas, Wayne Elcock and highly rated European’s like Geard Ajetovic and Alexey Chirkov. Who has Barker beaten?”
ROGAN ON FIRE!
Tickets are now on sale for the big rematch between Sam Sexton and Martin Rogan on Friday 9th October at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast.
The warring heavyweights came head-to-head today in a heated press conference to announce their highly anticipated grudge match.
A fuming Rogan said to Sexton, “I’m going to take up artistry and paint you across the canvas. You’d better believe it, you’d better believe it!”
He added, “When a gladiator spits out his gumshield he has lost the fight. It shows that he’s a coward, only a coward spits out the gumshield. I’m going to crush him.”
On the controversial eighth round in their last fight, Rogan said: “Everybody knows the fight should have been stopped. He was all over the place. I’ve seen kids in creches walking better than you.”
Tickets, priced at £25 (tier), £30 (tier), £40 (central tier), £60 (floor), £100 (floor) and £150 (ringside) are available from:
Odyssey Arena Box Office
02890 739 074
0870 243 4455
Frank Warren Promotions
01992 550 888