Matthew Macklin is hoping a third time will be the charm when it comes to his pursuit of a middleweight title.
The Birmingham, England, native of Irish descent came oh-so close in his first two attempts, dropping back-to-back fights against Felix Sturm (in a 2011 split-decision defeat many thought he had won) and Sergio Martinez (when his corner threw in the towel after the 11th round in last year's clash).
But Macklin (29-4, 20 KOs) is in for a tough task when he faces heavy-handed titlist Gennady Golovkin (26-0, 23 KOs) on Saturday (HBO, 9:45 p.m. ET) at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods in Mashantucket, Conn.
The fighter recently took time away from training camp to speak with ESPN.com about the fight:
Golovkin has been spectacular, but he's also relatively untested against top-end competition. How does the element of the unknown factor into how you prepare to face him?
He looks spectacular. He looks very impressive, devastating at times. But when you take a step back, you expect him to look devastating against that kind of opposition. He's the middleweight champion of the world fighting B- and C-level junior middleweights, really. So, yeah, he's very good and obviously he can punch, and his amateur pedigree supports the fact that he's a great fighter. But this isn't the amateurs, it's the pros. And this is 12 rounds, it's not three or four. There are a lot of situations in 12-round fights that he hasn't been through. There are a lot of emotions and a lot of different things you have to go through, especially if you are in there with someone who wants it as much as you and wants to go in there and take it from you. You have to adapt and adjust. You have to dig deep and go to the well in a fast-paced and action-filled 12-round fight. Maybe he can do that, but we don't know if he can do that yet. I know I can. I've done it before. There are question marks, really.
By taking this fight, you will have faced two of the most avoided fighters in the sport in Martinez and Golovkin. Why are you so eager to take on these challenges?
I always want to be the best and try to prove that I am one of the best. Martinez is No. 1 in the world. He's very awkward and has been avoided for many years. Now Golovkin wants to prove he is the best in the division, but none of the top guys want to fight him. Nowadays, too many people are preoccupied with guarding their undefeated records or their reputation. I'd like to think I belong to a different era -- maybe a throwback to the '40s and '50s when you had guys like Rocky Graziano, Tony Zale, Jake LaMotta and Sugar Ray Robinson. You had all these guys fighting each other on a regular basis. Some you win, some you lose, but they are fights that everyone wanted to see. This fight [on Saturday] is probably going to be fight of the year. Win, lose or draw, there are going to be fireworks -- whether it's [Marvin] Hagler-[Thomas] Hearns for three rounds or it goes 12 rounds and it's up and down and back and forth. It's going to be a helluva fight and it could very well be a rematch or a trilogy.
In nearly 400 combined amateur and pro fights, Golovkin has never been knocked down. He also said recently he's never even been hurt. How much of a challenge is it to face a guy with that kind of reputation?
I definitely can hurt him. Anyone can be hurt. I was never down in the amateurs. I got knocked out at junior middleweight, but that was because of exhaustion, back in 2006. The only other time I went down in my career was against Sergio Martinez in the 11th round. It wasn't that I was massively hurt by [the punches], but they were good accurate shots. I've got a good chin. No doubt [Golovkin] has a good chin, but he hasn't fought the opposition I've fought. I'm not expecting him to be fragile or glass-chinned, but he's 160 pounds and I'm a big puncher. If he gets hit clean on the chin, he'll be hurt. Make no mistake about it.
This fight has essentially been sold as Golovkin's first real test. But what does this fight mean to you?
I'm fighting for the middleweight championship of the world. It's as simple as that. I've been here twice before and got robbed against Felix Sturm. And against Sergio Martinez, I came up short and gave him a very good fight for so long. I think going into the 11th I was up three on one card and a round down on another two. Sergio dropped me twice at the end of the round and my trainer didn't let me up for the 12th. It's my third chance, and I've been so close yet so far and have not quite tasted the words "new champion." For him, they are looking at it as a test and I am the best fighter he has faced by far. But from my point of view, I'm looking to become a world champion.
What was one thing you took from the Martinez loss that can help get you over the hump in this challenge?
Sergio, stylistically, is a difficult fight, and I'd sparred with Austin Trout and Sechew Powell but had to stop sparring about three weeks out because I bruised a rib and then I had a problem with a hand. Two and a half weeks out of that fight, I was just shadowboxing and running. In hindsight, I would have done a lot of things differently in preparation. Despite that, I was able to push Sergio so close. For me to be able to adapt from the Sturm fight and then into the Sergio fight, it shows my versatility and that I can adapt. With this fight, it will be a case where I'll have to do a little of both, and I'm looking forward to the challenge. I think I've proven that I'm world-class, and now I just have to go one step forward and prove that I'm a world champion.
I'm sure you were an interested observer in Martinez's recent fight with Martin Murray. Do you think the reason for his performance was related more to injuries, age or what Murray was doing to bother him?
I think there are a few things. I think there could be an injury issue. I think it could be an age issue and maybe even a complacency issue. I think what he was probably looking forward to at the time was being more preoccupied with the big event in Argentina than he was with Martin Murray, and that could be a problem. Of course he trained for the fight and of course he sparred and did his road work. There is no disputing that. But he didn't have that eye of the tiger, with his focus solely on Martin Murray. That's when banana skins can trip you up and you get beat. And even though he didn't get beat, that's when you underperform.
What's the one thing above all that has to go right in order for you to defeat Golovkin?
I don't know if there's just one thing. It's the whole thing. He's a good fighter and wants to come out and dictate. But he ain't going to be dictating against me. He likes to bully his way forward, and he ain't going to be bullying against me. I'm ready to go to war if it comes to that kind of a grueling fight. I've been there before. We don't know if he can do that yet and we'll know [on Saturday]. I've been in fights where I've thrown over 1,000 punches. I've been in some hectic fights where the pace was hard. I've been able to swim in those deep waters. Because he's a good fighter, he's had it all his own way. He's not going to get it his own way against me.