29 July 2009 – By Mark Doyle
British middleweight champion Matthew Macklin will challenge Amin Asikainen for the Finn’s European crown at the Manchester Velodrome on September 25.
In confirming the bout, Macklin also revealed that he has signed with Ricky Hattons fledgling promotional company.
“Its fitting that Im working with Ricky now because weve been good friends for so long. Weve probably sparred over a hundred rounds together and weve always supported each other throughout our careers, he enthused.
“Ricky promised that he would deliver me the big fights and in my very first fight with him Ill be fighting for the European title so its a huge opportunity for me.
Ive seen quite a bit of Asikainen and Ive got a lot of respect for him because hes been campaigning at European title level for the last three years.
Hes a big puncher and brings all that experience to the table but he has frailties as well and I believe Ill be able to set a pace that he cant cope with.
Unsurprisingly, Hatton is thrilled that Macklin, who claimed the British title with a stunning stoppage win over Wayne Elcock earlier this year, has agreed to join his new promotional company.
Ive had my fair share of success with World titles in the ring but now I want to start producing World Champions as a promoter and I firmly believe that Matthew Macklin will be one of them, The Hitman enthused.
Ive known Matthew for a long time, weve trained together, sparred together and worked each others corners over the years and Ive always believed that he has the ability to go all the way.
He won the British title in very impressive fashion last time out and I think he has the ability to step straight up to European title level and Im delighted to be able to give him that opportunity on one of my shows.
Now that his once stop-start career has finally gathered real momentum, Macklin believes that he is not far away from realising his dream of winning a world title.
I really feel that things are starting to come together for me now since winning the British title, he said.
To be honest, I had planned on winning the British title a lot earlier in my career. Im 27 now so the next few years are going to the most important so when the chance at the European title came along I knew I had to grab it.
The European middleweight scene is red hot right now and particularly in Germany where they seem to be dominating the division even on the World stage. Obviously Arthur Abraham has just moved up to super-middleweight and you have Sebastian Zbik, who just won the interim WBC title while Felix Sturm has held the WBA title for the last 3 years.
Another German, Sebastian Sylvester is fighting for the vacant IBF title in September and Asikainen is rated number 4 with the IBF so a win over him would leave me knocking on the door of a World title shot.
Asikainen, though, is supremely confident of derailing those plans, believing that fighting on foreign soil will bring the best out of him.
Coming to Manchester to fight is not a problem for me. As an amateur I fought several times outside Finland and as a pro I have won 3 of my 4 fights abroad including a knockout win over Sebastian Sylvester in Germany. Actually I think that fighting away from home kind of suits me better as it takes some of the pressure off, he mused.
I have power in both hands. I knocked out Sylvester with my left hand and I stopped Yori Boy Campas with my right hand so I am armed and dangerous.
I am known as a knockout artist, but I never come looking for the knockout. If it happens, it happens but I will prepare for twelve hard rounds and I believe I can win either on points or by KO.
Macklin had originally intended to take on undefeated Commonwealth champion Darren Barker but that fight has now fallen by the wayside.
Macklin commented: I had been looking forward to the Barker fight because I firmly believe that I would have got him out of there early but the opportunity to get my hands on the European title was just too good to pass up. If Barkers honest with himself he would have done exactly the same thing in my position.
This is an opportunity for me to step up another level and I believe its a far tougher fight than Barker anyway. Asikainen is a proven operator at European level and hes a World ranked fighter.
Theres been a lot of hype around Darren but in reality hes yet to prove himself at British level. Ive beaten the likes of Yory Boy Campas, Wayne Elcock and highly rated Europeans like Geard Ajetovic and Alexey Chirkov. Who has Barker beaten?