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Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Irish bragging rights: Lee-Macklin?

By Dan Rafael

Former welterweight titleholders Paulie Malignaggi and Zab Judah just concluded their hyped “Battle of Brooklyn” on Saturday night with Malignaggi winning the decision and earning the “King of Brooklyn” tag. So how about we move two divisions north for a middleweight turf battle for Irish bragging rights?

Who’s up for a showdown between Ireland’s Andy Lee and Matthew Macklin, who is from England, but Irish by family heritage? Good fight, right? I sure think so and so does Lee, who tossed out a challenge to Macklin on Tuesday.

It’s been a fight that has been discussed a bit here and there, especially because Lou DiBella promotes both of them. It would be big in Ireland and would surely draw a crowd in New York, where the Irish fans are terrific and very supportive of their fighters.

“Matthew and I have both fought recently, we're both from Ireland, we're both middleweights, we're similarly rated, we're both in a similar position in our careers,” Lee said. “So let’s give the boxing public the fight they crave for and let the best man win.

“This is a massive fight in Ireland, Boston, Chicago or New York and will pack any venue. I am ready for the fight, we both have the same promoter, Lou DiBella. Therefore, the fight can easily be put together.”

If they were to fight, the winner would certainly put himself in a great position to earn another title fight.

Lee (31-2, 22 KOs), 29, has won three fights in a row since his 2012 stoppage loss in a world title fight against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., including a second-round blowout of Ferenc Hafner on Nov. 23.
Macklin (30-5, 20 KOs), 31, is 0-3 in world title fights, getting stopped by Sergio Martinez (in a highly competitive fight) and Gennady Golovkin but also getting ripped off against Felix Sturm in a terrible split decision.

Macklin righted his ship after the loss to Golovkin last June by winning a clear 10-round decision on HBO against Lamar Russ in an excellent performance on Saturday night on the James Kirkland-Glen Tapia undercard in Atlantic City, N.J. (I consider the horrible Guillermo Rigondeaux-Joseph Agbeko match to be the walk-out bout, and people really did walk out.)

“The fight would be a critical moment in both fighters’ careers,” Lee said. “A win for either of us would propel us to a world title fight again. Whoever wins the fight will go on and whoever loses the fight will have to either pack it in or start again. It is a fight I want. People talk about it all the time, so let’s make it happen.”

DiBella said it’s possible. But. There’s always a but, right?

“Macklin’s first choice is to fight Felix Sturm again,” DiBella said.

That’s a fight DiBella said could happen. Sturm won a title on Saturday by second-round knockout of Darren Barker, who re-injured his hip and could not continue. It’s an injury that could cause Barker to retire. If Barker doesn’t retire, he has an immediate rematch option to fight Sturm again, which would leave Macklin without the title fight. But if Barker does retire, Macklin could very well face Sturm next.

“Macklin is waiting to see what happens with Barker and Sturm,” DiBella said. “In the meantime, we’re in a holding pattern. But [Macklin-Lee] is a great fight. It could happen.”