Photos by Sumio Yamada
ENZO MACCARINELLI vs MARK HOBSON
While Joe Calzaghe tops the bill in Manchester another Welsh fighter of Italian extraction appears in the chief supporting fight when Enzo Maccarinelli defends the WBO cruiser title against Mark Hobson, the British champion, in a rematch.
Originally Maccarinelli was to have challenged veteran Johnny Nelson for the title, but the 39-year-old retired due to a troublesome knee injury.
Maccarinelli, who had stopped Argentinean Marcelo Dominguez to win the interim title in July, thus becomes the full champion.
The fight with Nelson would have been intriguing, but the return fight with Hobson is also a match of considerable interest.
When the two met in March, it was Hobsons first contest in 15 months after scheduled bouts had failed to materialise. He was coming in as a replacement for Johnny Nelson that night, too, although this time he has had much longer to prepare. The general feeling was that Maccarinelli would stop Hobson: the sportsbooks had an over/under of 7.5 rounds. Instead it turned out to be one of those life-and-death struggles for Maccarinelli. Hobson, dropped in the third round, came back strongly and although he lost the unanimous decision it was just a one-point fight on two of the scorecards: without the knockdown the fight would have been a draw.
Since then Hobson has won twice, stopping a fired-up British rival John Busterâ€? Keeton in the fourth but having to get off the floor to do so and then easily outpointing a survival-minded Czech southpaw in his last fight.
Maccarinelli, meanwhile, had probably his best win when he caught Marcelo Dominguez with a big uppercut in the ninth round of a fight that up until that one punch had looked like going the 12 rounds.
On paper this was a tremendous result as Dominguez, a former world champion, had never been stopped in 47 fights although at 36 and after a 15-year career perhaps the Argentineans resiliency was beginning to wane.
All credit to Maccarinelli, though, for getting the job done I confess that I did not think he would stop Dominguez.
At 26, Maccarinelli feels that he has reached a new level after Enzo Calzaghe became his trainer last May. He says he has been working on speed and an increased punch output but adds good-humouredly that Joe Calzaghes dad is a bit of a slave-driverâ€? in the gym.
If Maccarinelli has indeed improved, the Hobson fight should show us how much.
Hobson, 30, has said in interviews that he believes he will be facing much the same Maccarinelli as before but that his own increased sharpness, after two wins in four months, will be the difference in the fight.
Last time, most people expected the fight to end inside the distance no matter who won.
Maccarinelli had been stopped early in his career and had to survive a heavy knockdown to stop the 34-year-old Bruce Scott in the fourth round.
Hobson, meanwhile, was dropped twice before stopping Lee Swaby (the heavy-handed southpaw who had halted Maccarinelli) and he had lost in nine bruising rounds to the South African Sebastiaan Rothmann.
Sometimes, though, fights that we expect to end early go the distance, as was the case with Maccarinelli and Hobson. When you get two good punchers facing each other, both considered a bit suspect in the chin department, the fighters tend to be on full alert and braced for each others punches, so that each man becomes difficult to stop. That was the case in the first fight between Maccarinelli and Hobson and the rematch could be more of the same. These are two tall, intelligent, well-matched fighters and each seems to be very sure of winning. Their first fight was an excellent one and the rematch has the potential to be even better.
What a pity, then, that HBO Boxing After Dark" will be showing only the Calzaghe-Sakio Bika main event from Manchester.
Last time, Maccarinellis heavier blows made the slight difference in the scoring. He has told British reporters that he will be coming out looking to stop Hobson this time, and probably this is indeed his intention, but Hobson seemed able to take Maccarinellis punches last time he seems to be one of those fighters with great recuperative powers who can quickly recover after being dropped or hurt.
If Maccarinelli is to stop Hobson he will have to keep the pressure on him and rattle off the combinations and perhaps concentrate more on the body this time to try to sap his opponents strength. But Hobson will be throwing his own hard shots. Maccarinelli cannot simply walk through him. It could be that, much as before, the fight will settle down into a tactical boxing match with each respecting the others punches.
If either pulls off a dramatic win it is more likely to be Maccarinelli, and if it happens it will probably be late in the fight after Hobson has been worn down. The closeness of the first fight, however, does suggest another full-distance bout with Maccarinelli again winning a hard-fought decision.