Macklin’s world title dreams end in Dublin.
Jorge Sebastian Heiland scored the biggest win of his 31-fight professional career on Saturday with a 10th round upset KO of long-time middleweight contender Matthew Macklin at Dublin’s 3Arena, laying to rest any hopes of a fourth world title challenge for the Birmingham born Irishman.
The bout, meant as a homecoming celebration and a step back towards world level for Macklin, had an ominous feel from early on with the veteran middleweight never able to truly wrestle control of the contest from his Argentinean counterpart. After a reasonable opening for Macklin, where he was able to pick off some nice shots and cover up well to the counter, Heiland started to take over from the third round on by forcing a work-rate the older man was uncomfortable with and using his activity and punch volume to gradually wear down his opponent.
The fight became a story of Macklin not being able to match the engine of his younger southpaw rival. Every time he landed with his best work, Heiland was able to immediately answer back, connecting with greater frequency, and more often than not, coming out of the exchange looking the stronger. A big effort in the 6th was enough to snatch a round back for Macklin, but not enough to turn the momentum of the fight. As he entered the second half of the bout, Macklin was already visibly exhausted and had the look of an aging fighter. These were signs Heiland no doubt picked up on as he started to ramp up the pressure further, putting Macklin on the back foot, walking him back against the ropes, and working away in at close quarters.
It was evident in the arena that the crowd could feel the fight slipping away from the 32 year old, who was becoming an easier and easier target to find with each passing round. By the time Macklin collapsed under the still relentless pressure of the visiting fighter early in round 10, it was clear he was a beaten man and there were few who were expecting him to beat the count.
The loss represents a colossal setback for Macklin and one which casts major doubt over his future in the sport. After two flat performances at the lower level and then being stopped by a fringe contender like Heiland, his world title ambitions now seem a long, long way off. My feeling going into this one was that Macklin, even at 75% of his best, would have enough to come through with victory. The fact that he didn’t, to me, is an indication that it’s the right time for him to leave his days as an in ring competitor behind.
It’s very difficult to keep alive both the skills to compete at world level and the desire to become champion into the final stages of a career. For Matthew, I have no doubt he still has the hunger to do it, but it’s just not quite there for him athletically anymore. While Macklin has said he wants to take time to think over his options, I believe this probably will be the last time we see him in the ring. He was very realistic and honest in the post fight assessment. He understands himself that he’s not the same force he used to be, and he was aware that a year or two prior, Heiland was the type of opponent he would have comfortable handled. I think that’s why he will make the tough but ultimately correct decision when it comes down to it.
There are still fights out there for him, but when you’re a name, there always will be. I personally wouldn’t like to see him fight on because I just didn’t see enough in this performance to suggest he could get back to competing at near the level he belongs at. Continuing on would likely only make him a target for young boxers on their way up in the sport. He mentioned Martin Murray and Andy Lee as big fights that could still happen, and those are bouts people have talked about for years, and would still sell for sure, but from a fans perspective, I believe it’s sometimes better to not get the fight you wanted at all than to get it too late.
If that is to be it for Matthew Macklin though, he can leave the sport with an incredible list of accomplishments and no regrets. He’s been one of the great value for money fighters of the past decade in Irish and British boxing. Having won two European championships and challenged for three world titles, while headlining countless shows on both sides of the Atlantic, he’s had a run very few in the sport could ever hope for. It’s just a shame in a lot of ways that he never secured a world title because I think his talent was deserving of that much. There are many lesser fighters who have gone on to carry championships. Given the right match at the right time, maybe one would have been his too. Sometimes the stars just never align, or maybe they did one night in Germany and he just didn’t get the rub of the green when he needed it.