LAS VEGAS -- When last seen in the ring, middleweight contender Matthew Macklin had given lineal champion Sergio Martinez a very tough fight in March.
Macklin knocked the champ down in the seventh round but could not capitalize. Martinez, who is a great finisher, rallied to drop him twice in the 11th round before Macklin's corner stopped the fight at the end of the round.
It was a gallant effort, one that came on the heels of a June 2011 fight on the home turf of then-titleholder Felix Sturm in Germany. Despite appearing to many that he clearly won, Macklin was robbed when two judges gave Sturm the hometown split decision.
Macklin will now make his return on the undercard of Martinez's championship fight with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. on Saturday (HBO PPV, 9 ET, $49.95) at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
"Macklin put his name into the world boxing scene with great back-to-back performances against Felix Sturm and Sergio Martinez," said Lou DiBella, who promotes Macklin and Martinez. "While he came up a little short in those world title opportunities, he is hungrier than ever and looking to move himself back into the title picture."
Macklin (28-4, 19 KOs), an Irishman from England, will face former junior middleweight titlist Joachim Alcine (33-2-1, 19 KOs) of Canada hoping a win will set him up for another title shot.
"Regardless of how the fight goes, I'd love a shot at the winner," Macklin said. "But obviously I'm going to have to take care of business against Alcine first and that's my only priority right now. I think my last two fights have proven that I'm right up there at the top of one of the most exciting weight divisions in boxing right now.
"I have the utmost respect for Sergio. He won fair and square but there was nothing between us going into the 11th round. I was ahead on one of the cards by three rounds and only a point down on the other two cards, so it was very much all to play for. I still feel like I can improve an awful lot on that performance. I'd been out of the ring for nine months beforehand and had just started working with Buddy McGirt again as my trainer so I think with another camp with Buddy under my belt I will be able to show that I'm still an improving fighter."
Saturday's fight will be Macklin's fourth in the United States but his first in Las Vegas, where he has always wanted to fight.
"I've been going to Las Vegas for a long time both as a fight fan and when I was in the Ricky Hatton camp for his big fights," Macklin said. "I was due to fight Winky Wright there last year but he pulled out and the fight fell through, so I'm looking forward to finally fighting there on such a big night for the middleweight division.
"[Martinez-Chavez is] probably the most important middleweight fight since Bernard Hopkins fought Felix Trinidad back in 2001, so it's a fight I would definitely have been ringside for even if I wasn't fighting on the card. It's an intriguing fight. I'm leaning towards Sergio because he's an exceptional athlete, but Chavez was very impressive last time out against Andy Lee. He's a huge middleweight, he's very strong, closes the distance well and varies his punches. However, Sergio has quicker feet, he's very hard to pin down and his reflexes are excellent so I'd slightly favor him. But it wouldn't be a huge surprise if Chavez pulled it out."
Macklin trained in Spain, where he had opened a gym, and has been in Las Vegas finishing up for the past two weeks. He said he respects Alcine, who rejuvenated his career in December with an upset decision win against Montreal rival David Lemieux.
"Alcine is a proven fighter, he's a former world champion who has campaigned at the highest level and it's a massive opportunity for both of us to feature on a live HBO Pay-Per-View event," Macklin said. "He's coming off a great win over Lemieux, so I'm sure he will be coming into this with a lot of confidence. So it's up to me to burst his bubble."