March 2008 – by Mark Doyle
Matthew Macklin put a smile back on the faces of Irish boxing fans with a thoroughly deserved victory over the durable Luis Ramon Yori Boy Campas in Dublins National Stadium on Saturday night.
In his first outing under the tutelage of Don McGirt, the Birmingham-based son of Irish parents delivered a controlled and disciplined display, utilising his jab to great effect to claim a 98-95 victory in the eyes of the referee, Emile Tiedt.
The decision was bitterly contested by Campas but one suspects that, deep down, even he knew deep down that he had not even come close to winning the bout.
True, the Mexican has pressed forward for much of the fight but he had been unable to tempt Macklin to the all-out brawl which would have undoubtedly favoured him.
Macklin boxed cleverly on the outside, landing the cleaner, stronger punches throughout and, even when he did move inside, gave as good as he got.
The turnout was perhaps the only disappointment for Macklin on a night on which he really got his career back on track.
There were a number of empty seats dotted around the fringes of the arena. However, one would not have guessed that, given the reception Macklin received as he made his way to the ring.
Indeed, Macklins Birmingham-based fans traveled in big numbers for the bout and their raucous support made for a fantastic atmosphere.
Ricky Hatton was also present, the former light-welterweight world champion enthusiastically roaring his good friend on from ringside, The Hitmans passionate support no doubt fuelled by several pints of the black stuff.
Nice and smart, Matthew, nice and smart, the Mancunian shouted when the first bell sounded and Macklin certainly listened to his former stablemate.
Indeed, Macklin followed through on his promise to adopt a more technical approach under the guidance of McGirt.
That change of trainer was motivated by a fear that Billy Graham had taken him as far as he could and that he had lost touch with the boxing skills which had marked him out as such an exciting young talent.
Certainly, Macklin looks a far better balanced fighter under McGirt and it quickly became evident that his jab was going to prove the main punch in this particular fight.
Macklin continually kept Campas at bay with his left hand throughout the opening round. He also landed a stinging right but it drew nothing more than a wry smile from Campas, who, in his 103rd fight as a professional, clearly telling an opponent 11 years his junior that it would take more than one decent shot to knock him out.
Macklin continued his impressive work in the second. His head movement was good and although his habit of keeping his hands low remained a worry, he continued to control the bout, with his decent body shots keeping Campas guessing.
Campas increased his work-rate considerably in the third, however, and managed to gain foothold in the bout.
Macklin seemed somewhat frustrated by his diminishing dominance and it manifested itself two late punches on Campas unprotected chin at the end of the round.
In fairness to Macklin, he seemed genuinely apologetic and one suspects that the really didnt hear the bell but they were cheap blows all the same and Campas trainer Joe Diaz was understandably furious.
There was very little to choose between the two on the fourth, with Campas hurting Macklin for the first time with a sickening body punch which temporarily winded the crowd favourite.
That shot undoubtedly affected Macklin and his work-rated dropped in the fifth. Unsurprisingly, Campas began to press with greater menace and, for the first time in the bout, McGirts voice was audible at ringside.
Back to the jab, Matthew, back to the jab, the former two-weight world champion ordered and his charge took heed of his advice.
But it took a while. Campas probably edged the sixth. He continually pressed Macklin back, although he then allowed the younger man back into it in the final minute of the round.
The seventh was also evenly-contested and Campas cornermen had visibly grown in enthusiasm and excitement by the time the bell sounded for the end of the round.
However, just as in the sixth, there were again signs that Macklin was regaining control the fight.
Unsurprisingly, the jab had proven key in this regard. It laid a superb foundation for Macklin to attack from and led to a number of cracking right hands. Campas shook his head after one of those shots, again insisting that it had not hurt him but clearly it had.
Macklin now looked completely re-energised. Not only was the jab back, but so was the impressive footwork, the elusive movement and, most importantly, the confidence.
Macklin continually popped Campas head back with his jab in the ninth and, as we went into the tenth, it was obvious that the Mexican needed a knockout if he was to prevail.
In an impressive show of mutual respect, the pair embraced before the start of the final stanza. Campas did his best to press forward but there was just no getting past that jab.
However, for the final minute of the round, Macklin, after showing admirable restraint for most of the night, opted to step in and trade. It was a risky policy but one could hardly blame Macklin for a brief show of bravado against such an opponent.
And besides, it yielded the exciting finish that this absorbing contest had undoubtedly warranted.
It also gained Macklin extra favour and respect from the crowd. Indeed, less than 24 hours after Andy Lees shock defeat in Connecticut, Macklin, in impressively outpointing Campas, a man who had pushed John Duddy to the limit, had made a point: there are three promising Irishmen in the middleweight division – not just two.