By John Wight: British boxing should bow at the feet of Enzo Maccarinelli. His stunning first round victory over Alexander Kotlobay in St Petersburg on Tuesday night to bring home the vacant European cruiserweight title announces the return of a man who, if honest, even his most loyal and faithful supporters had written off. b After suffering three crushing defeats to David Haye, Ola Afolabi and Denis Lebedev, the Welshman’s stature in the sport had dropped faster than a lady of the night’s knickers in front of a fifty pound note..
In this the most unforgiving of sports, a British boxing fraternity that almost to a man once held the former WBO world champion to its bosom in affection turned its back on him, united in its verdict that retirement was the only option left open to a fighter who was suddenly being looked upon as yesterday’s man.
Boxing columns, chatrooms and blogs were clogged with the sort of withering criticism designed to tear up what reputation Maccarinelli had left in the sport, leaving it in tatters. Yet despite being on the receiving end of such an onslaught of negativity where his prospects and future was concerned, the big man refused to walk through the door marked exit and instead went to ground in an effort to resurrect his career.
Imagine how it must have felt to have tasted the heights of being part of the main event at a packed O2 Arena in London against David Haye, only to less than two years later being one half of the stand-in bout on the Amir Khan bill in Newcastle. Imagine how it must have stung to have walked out into an already half-empty arena after the main event had ended – the TV cameras having packed up, most of the writers already on their way back to their hotel to write their copy and spend the rest of the night in the bar – knowing that regardless if you won or lost you’d be lucky to get one or two sentences in the next day’s sports pages.
This was exactly the position that Enzo Maccarinelli found himself in last December in Newcastle as he attempted to claw his way back.
Lesser men would have balked at enduring such a transformation in fortunes. Lesser men would have opted for retirement rather than endure the humiliation and disdain involved. But not Enzo. Instead, demonstrating that rare combination of humility and quiet self belief, he took his medicine, absorbed the pain and carried himself with dignity throughout.
In the changing room before the fight, where this writer was privileged to be present with another fighter that night, Enzo was the very embodiment of everything that’s good about the fight game. He went around the room offering encouragement to the other fighters, cracking jokes here and there to break the tension, in the process never once revealing any trace of bitterness or self pity at his own predicament.
We all thought he was deluding himself it has to be said, with words of sympathy attaching themselves like an incurable disease to a man who’d once enjoyed the respect of commentators, fans and fellow fighters alike.
As such, it is now only right and proper that we give Enzo Maccarinelli the respect of admitting we were wrong to write him off. And while we’re at it, let’s also give credit to Frank Warren for sticking by the Welshman and allowing him the opportunity to prove us wrong.
Whether or not he manages to regain a world title, Enzo should take a moment at least to reflect on his achievement in regaining the respect and admiration of his fans and the more discerning of his critics.
As for the rest, they can go to hell.