By James Slater: Tonight, before a packed crowd in Wolverhampton, Welshman Enzo Maccarinelli survived one of the biggest crisis of his entire career, as he got up from a 1st-round knockdown to out-point defending British cruiserweight champ and local hero Shane McPhilbin. In the end, after a wild, at times hugely entertaining if somewhat crude slugfest, Maccarinelli prevailed by 12-round UD – winning by scores of 116-111, 115-110 and 115-111. But the final result does not begin to tell the full story.
31-year-old Maccarinelli is now 35-5(27). 26-year-old McPhilbin, who was making his first defence, is now 8-3(5).
In the opening session it was Maccarinelli who struck first, landing a hard right hand to the head that made the defending champ blink. McPhilbin, on of the hardest men in the game today, came back with his own right hand – and then he landed the punch of the night: a massive left hook to the head that sent Enzo crashing to the mat. Purely by instinct Maccarinelli beat the count, but his legs had gone and he looked a totally finished fighter. But before McPhilbin had a chance to end matters the bell inexplicably rang; with a full 47 seconds left on the clock!
The controversy over the timekeeper’s actions is sure to see to it that an investigation is done. In any case, “Big Macc” looked in no shape to be able to get through the 2nd, even with the quicker than usual break. And the 2nd was a torrid round for the Welshman. Two rights hit him in the back of the head, with Maccarinelli looking all gone and McPhilbin swinging wildly with everything. Another right hand to the head hurt Enzo but then the older man came back with a right of his own. The slugfest was well and truly on now!
Maccarinelli was down again in the 3rd, courtesy of a left/right combo upstairs. Right now it looked like there was no way Enzo would survive. Amazingly, however, he did, and also amazingly, the fight would go the distance! The two men traded after the second knockdown, but for now McPhilbin was getting his shots off quicker. Then a left hand hurt McPhilbin and as the champion briefly touched down the timekeeper began counting. This happened again seconds later, as McPhilbin’s glove touched the canvas. On neither occasion did the ref call a knockdown. This was one bizarre fight.
From the 4th-round on, it was pretty much all Maccarinelli. Corner-man Deal Powel got his man boxing again, and with his head clear Enzo was back in command. McPhilbin was dangerous at all times of course, but he was tired now. The action became very ragged on occasion, and what could have been a classic of sorts became too messy for such a distinction. Still, the action refused to let fans take their eyes off the ring.
McPhilbin complained to his corner that he was struggling to breathe during the middle rounds, and he did have the constant habit of leaning out of the ring ropes and spitting. McPhilbin also gazed out of the ring when in a clinch and looked into the audience.
At times McPhilbin clowned that he was not hurt after a good shot, at other times the champion was just plain disorganised. Tied up and being able to do nothing about it, the 26-year-old was by the 7th a very frustrated man. Enzo was boxing well and then holding up close. He was back in control.
In the 9th, Maccarinelli scored a knockdown of his own, when a left/right combo to the head forced McPhilbin to touch the mat with his knees and with his hands. A count was given but McPhilbin complained bitterly.
The remainder of the fight resulted in a messy brawl, with Enzo doing the far cleaner work. McPhilbin’s ever-vocal fans refused to give up on their hero, but his big chance had passed. There was no dramatic finish, with Maccarinelli taking the final three minutes.
A promise to his late father made good, Maccarinelli is now British champ. But what about that premature bell in the 1st? The controversy over events in this one may overshadow Enzo’s gutsy win. Will there be a rematch?