By Ciarán Gallagher’s
Ciarán Gallagher’s Mail Box column appears every Friday in the Irish Daily Mail. Twitter: @gallagherbox
IRISH boxing legend Seán Mannion has backed Matthew Macklin to thrive in the surroundings of Madison Square Garden and take Sergio Martinez’s world title.
The 29-year-old takes on the Argentine for the recognised lineal middleweight championship this St Patrick’s Day at New York’s famous venue. He is the first Irish man to headline a world-title bout there since Mannion, who lost out to the then undefeated Mike McCallum back in 1984.
The tough Rosmuc native went the distance in their bout for the vacant WBA light-middleweight strap, but Mannion is backing Macklin to go one better this Saturday.
‘Matthew’s a very good friend of mine. But that’s not the reason I’m saying he’s going to win,’ said Mannion. ‘He’s a very strong middleweight, I would say he’s a Marvin Hagler-type fighter with his strength and he’s a gutsy fighter.
‘He’s one of our own and I know he has his head on his shoulders to stay focused on the fight,’ added Mannion, who has already offered his advice on fighting in the illustrious New York venue.
‘I told him, you’ll be fighting in the Garden and there’ll be all the Irish there. I know when I fought there, they had five extra trains coming from Boston – on top of the regular ones coming every hour –and you had more coming from California, New York and Chicago.
‘But I told him that I kept my mind on the fight and I didn’t see them [fans/friends] until after the fight because you have to keep your mind focused.’
Macklin’s controversial loss to WBA champ Felix Sturm last summer has also convinced Mannion that he has what it takes. ‘I’ve watched the fight over and over and I thought Sturm only won four rounds,’ he said.
‘If he fights the same way, it doesn’t matter who the other guy is, I think he’s going to handle him,’ said Mannion, who like Macklin was the underdog heading into his big bout.
‘I think Matthew would rather be the underdog, but I don’t think he is as much of an underdog as I was,’ he explained. ‘At the time when I fought McCallum, nobody knew much about him – he was undefeated, 21-0, but that was about it.
‘Tommy Hearns and Roberto Duran knew about him – they wouldn’t fight him and Marvin Hagler wouldn’t fight him. But I had to fight him if I wanted a shot at the title.
‘That’s why I think he’s going to win it – because he’s taking on the best and Matthew always wanted to fight the best,’ added Mannion.