04 November 2009 – By Mark Doyle
European middleweight champion Matthew Macklin will make his long-awaited return to Ireland when he takes on Rafa Sosa Pintos at the National Stadium in Dublin on December 5.
The Birmingham-based Irishman is on the verge of a world title shot after successive stoppage wins over Wayne Elcock and Amin Asikainen.
However, first he must get past Uruguayan Sosa Pintos, who has won all but four of his 34 professional bouts to date.
“Im expecting a tough fight. Pintos went ten rounds with Anthony Mundine, whos a former super-middleweight champion, and he lost on points to Khoren Gevor, who only just recently suffered a narrow points defeat to WBA middleweight champion Felix Sturm. So its not going to be an easy fight, Macklin conceded.
“But if I were to stop him it would be a real statement of intent. Its something that neither Mundine nor Gevor could do. And I dont think Ive been at my best on the occasions when Ive fought in Ireland so Id like to produce something special.
“At the same time, though, I wouldnt mind being taken the distance because itd be useful to get ten rounds under my belt ahead of the mandatory European title defence against Dmitry Pirog in February.”
Macklin believes that the highly-rated Pirog represents a formidable obstacle on a road which he hopes will end in world title glory. However, the former Tipperary minor hurler is in no doubt that he has what it takes to beat the undefeated Russian.
“Ive watched bits and pieces of Pirog and theres no doubt hes an excellent fighter but hes had it all his own way in his career so far. Hes been able to dictate the pace of all his fights so far because the guys that have been in there with him have been past their best and maybe lacking in ambition but it would be a different story against me, he declared.
Should he overcome Pirog, the path would then be clear for Macklin to secure a world title shot some time next summer. Manager Brian Peters has revealed that he has already held talks with representatives of IBF champion Sebastian Sylvester and, even more intriguingly, WBC and WBO titlist Kelly Pavlik.
Macklin, such is his confidence after his impressive wins over Elcock and Asikainen, is willing to take on any of the middleweight divisions finest.
“I think that, stylistically, Sylvester would be the easiest fight out there for me, he reasoned.
“And Sylvester could have taken me as a voluntary defence but his people werent very forthcoming when it came to negotiating a deal, which was not surprising given that I had just knocked out Asikainen, who had knocked out Sylvester when they first met. Even in their second fight, Asikainen was ahead on points until he got stopped in the 11th.
“Pavliks definitely the number one but I dont think he has the confidence he once had. I think his defeat by Bernard Hopkins last year knocked a lot out of him. Coming into that fight he had an air of invincibility about him but thats gone now and since then hes been pulling out of fights, supposedly because of hand problems. Even in his comeback fight (against Marco Antonio Rubio in February), he didnt look good.
“So Id have no problem fighting anyone at middleweight. The last two guys Ive fought were world rated and I didnt just beat them, I destroyed them and that suggests that Im ready to not only fight for a world title – but to win one.”