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Monday 25 September 2017

Macklin mission gets green light

BOXING: Irishman relishing shot at mighty Martinez on Paddy's Day

IRELAND'S Matthew Macklin's shot at world middleweight champion Sergio Martinez has been confirmed for St Patrick's Day at New York's Madison Square Garden.

The former European champion, born in Birmingham to Irish parents, has not boxed since suffering a highly controversial split decision defeat to WBA champion Felix Sturm in his first world title bid last summer.

Now he has the chance to go one better on March 17 when he fights Argentinian superstar Martinez, the recognised middleweight champion and a man widely regarded as the world's third-best pound-for-pound fighter behind Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao.

He will do so at the Mecca of boxing on a significant day in the city of New York, when another Irish favourite, fellow middleweight Andy Lee, also appears on the bill.

"The press conference was absolutely packed out, I couldn't believe it," said Macklin. "It was huge. It brings it home how big this is. Felix Sturm is a big deal over in Germany but this was a different level.

"Coming face-to-face with Martinez, he comes across as a nice, humble, friendly kind of guy and you can't read too much into it.

"Actions speak louder than words anyway so you can't gauge whether he's nervous or not, or whether he's looking past me, just from that.

"I don't think he is under-estimating me, though, from what he was saying. Over Christmas there was the talk of him fighting Julio Cesar Chavez Jr but now this fight is on with me, he's focused on it. Obviously he thinks he's going to win, but I think he knows he is in a real fight."

Despite losing a disputed decision to Sturm in Cologne last year, Macklin, 29, came out of the fight with enormous credit, with many believing he had beaten the long-time champion.

Indeed, he was immediately saluted by Martinez's team -- led by promoter Lou DiBella, who has since signed Macklin to a promotional deal.

That arrangement undoubtedly helped make the fight with 36-year-old stablemate Martinez (48-2-2, 27KOs) happen, especially after the South American southpaw saw a lucrative clash with Mexico's Chavez Jr fall by the wayside.

Exciting

Macklin (28-3, 19KOs)and Lee could also be joined on the bill by Northern Irishman Carl Frampton, the exciting Barry McGuigan-backed prospect currently cutting a swathe through the super-bantamweights in Europe.

Meanwhile, Pacquiao's camp says there is no economic sense in setting up a bout with Mayweather on May 5 after the unbeaten American publicly challenged the Filipino champion via Twitter.

Pacquiao's financial adviser Michael Koncz said a 45,000-seat boxing arena being built in Las Vegas won't be finished before the end of May and staging the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight in a smaller venue is "foolish from an economic standpoint".

Mayweather challenged and taunted Pacquiao to a May 5 bout in a tweet on Tuesday.

"Manny Pacquiao I'm calling you out let's fight May 5th and give the world what they want to see," he tweeted.

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