With 30 wins by stoppage – including a litany of spectacular one shot count outs – on his 44 fight ring slate, perhaps the boxing family should be a bit less dismissive of Enzo Maccarinelli’s prospects ahead of his audacious world title challenge this weekend.
The Bonymaen bomber ventures behind the old Iron Curtain to face off against German bad boy Juergen Braehmer for the WBO light-heavyweight title in Rostock, east Germany on Saturday evening.
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The likeable Welsh-Italian, a former WBO and WBU World Champion at cruiserweight, has been redeeming himself at 175lbs. Discounting a premature stoppage loss to Ovill McKenzie, he has won six times since resuming his career in November 2011, with five victims capitulating inside distance.
Those stats, coupled with his standing as a thrill-delivering ex world champion, have seen him rewarded with an unlikely return to world level. But can it be a triumphant one?
Prior to departing for the Fatherland, trainer Gary Lockett – the stone faced, stone fisted ex WBU middleweight king who’s widely credited with pumping fresh oxygen into ‘Big Macc’s career of late – spoke with boxing writer Glynn Evans about his man’s prospects.
What has been the focus of Enzo’s preparation?
Simply, finding a way to win the fight. The aim with Enzo is always to correct his technique. I want him to keep his hands high, work his beautiful jab more, move his top half and stay patient. The time’s when he’s been kayoed previously have usually been when he’s been in control of a fight but has then got reckless chasing a spectacular finish to please the crowd.
Enzo has to trust in his jab, trust in his defence and his technique and, if he does that, he’s almost certainly going to land clean once in the fight. Given how hard Enzo hits, once might be enough. He certainly hits harder than Braehmer does.
Do you envisage Braehmer’s southpaw stance inconveniencing Enzo?
No, not unduly. Enzo hasn’t struggled in sparring with any of the southpaws he’s faced for this. But you have to remember that he did hundreds of rounds in the gym with Joe Calzaghe and you’ll not get better southpaw sparring that!
Travelling to Germany, you’ll probably need to adopt a more adventurous game plan than if you were fighting in Wales. As Enzo’s trainer, does it help that you had common attributes as fighters; one shot kayo power and a similar psyche with regard to chasing knockouts?
That’s a main advantage. Enzo and I have both been knocking people out since we were 13 year old kids. During our careers, we could both just connect with arm punches and the fight would be over. When you have that knowledge and confidence inside of you, there’s a temptation to rush, force the knockout rather than just allow it to happen naturally.
I constantly drum into him the need to be patient. Sometimes on the pads, Enzo really loads up his jab, rams it in, exhales a loud noise as he’s doing it. But I can prepare to take the impact. The shots which really shudder my shoulders are the ones when he’s relaxed and popping them sharply. He’s such a naturally heavy handed puncher. I still don’t think he really realises.
What do you know about the venue, the Stadthalle in Rostock, east Germany?
I have to hold my hands up and say I don’t know a lot about it. I’m not big on statistics and I’ve not bothered to find out. I’d only be guessing at what I expect the capacity to be but whatever it is, I don’t expect it to have any impact, one way or the other, on Enzo or the outcome of the fight. I believe that between thirty and forty of Enzo’s mates will be travelling over and that’ll be more than enough to drown out the Germans.
Enzo has won major titles overseas before, icing Alexander Kotlobay in a round to bag the European cruiserweight crown, in St Petersburg, Russia, four years ago. What is it about Enzo’s character that makes him suited to such challenges?
Outside the ring, Enzo’s such a lovely guy but that shouldn’t disguise the fact that he’s one of the toughest fellas, mentally and physically, that you are ever going to meet. People don’t realise that, for his last fight against Courtney Fry, he entered the ring with a broken nose plus significant ligament damage around his elbow. Throughout his career he’s overcome all kinds of obstacles.
Boxing Monthly recently ran a spread: ‘The Nine Lives of Enzo Maccarinelli.’ Well, I think he’s now on his last life. At the start of the camp, I explained to Enzo that things were likely to get harder not easier, but he’s there now. He’s come through his preparation without any major injuries. All the hard work is done so now he just has to turn up on the night, put it on this guy, and reap the rewards.
I’ve been stressing to Enzo that this is an easier task than some of the stuff he’s had to come through previously. He’s had some real bad luck in his personal life and family life over the past few years.
What is your assessment of Braehmer as a fighter? Which of his qualities must Enzo be particularly mindful of?
Braehmer’s very talented; very clever out of the southpaw stance. His judgement of distance is exceptional. He’s almost got an amateur style in the manner in which he goes up on his toes and tosses out that range finding jab, before slamming in the back hand.
His defence seems tight and he’s a big hitter himself, particularly with the left cross. Technically, I don’t see that he’s weak in any specific area. Braehmer’s 35 so he’s not getting any younger either. But because of his conservative style, he’s not really been involved in many wars. I don’t think the age of either will influence the outcome.
Everything looks to be favouring the champion. What gives you cause for optimism that Enzo could spring an upset?
His attitude, his dedication, and his application in the gym, after all these years and so many damaging defeats. He’s still prepared to listen. Lately, his defence has improved and I’ve got him to think more.
I don’t think that Juergen Braehmer likes to be backed up so we need to force him into a fight. Enzo has got a wonderful jab himself and must apply steady pressure, forcing Braehmer to do work when he doesn’t want to.
Obviously, my view is biased but Enzo is a very, very talented fighter. It’s taken him time to settle with me – and he’s not yet the finished article that I think he can become – but he’s still, and always will be, a monstrous puncher.
Look, win or lose, he’s already proven everyone wrong by navigating his way back to a world title challenge when everybody said he was completely washed up and needed to retire before he got seriously hurt.
But I’d not be at all surprised if he pulls this off. Trawling through Braehmer’s record, I can’t see that he’s faced anybody before that can punch anything like Enzo.
Finally, where would a Maccarinelli victory elevate him to, within Welsh boxing?
A two weight world champion, dropping in weight to achieve it, says it all. He’d have to be considered one of our greatest ever.