NINE years ago today, inside a sweltering and enthusiastically packed George Carnall Leisure Centre just outside the city of Manchester, two light-middleweights gave British boxing a modern day classic to treasure.
Jamie Moore, the defending British champion, was facing friend Matthew Macklin. On this night, though the two had plenty of respect for one another, their friendship took a backseat to some intense and genuinely fierce hostilities.
Macklin, then sporting a 17-1 record (the sole defeat coming via close decision against Andrew Facey three years earlier) was the younger man by three years at age 24, and his lack of championship experience was to prove a factor in the fight. Moore, 24-3 (the losses coming against Scott Dixon, Ossie Duran, and Michael Jones) was engaging in his seventh British title fight and he had under his belt the experience of going the 12-round distance, whereas Macklin had gone past the fifth round on just two occasions.
Coming out like a train and fighting the entire fight like one that had lost its brakes, Macklin put severe pressure on his southpaw opponent. At times during the thrilling spectacle it looked as though Moore might be overwhelmed, but his ability to fight on the ropes, to turn his man and to pace himself served him well. Macklin, cornered by Billy Graham, was unwilling, or unable, to change tactics and though he had won his share of rounds, he had expended plenty of energy in the process. His mouth beginning to fall open in the later rounds – Macklin was feeling the pace more than Moore was.
It was a hard slog for both warriors, much to the delight of the sell out crowd with most of the fans in attendance seldom using anything but the edge of their seats, and the winner and the final result was in doubt to the very end. Later, when the media reported on and paid tribute to the epic that had unfolded live on Sky Sports, some called the fight a British Gatti-Ward. High praise indeed, but this fight was worthy of it.
After nine sizzling rounds, at least a couple of which were possible Round of The Year material, Moore closed the show on an already unforgettable war with a two-punch combination to the head, the final shot a wicked left, that left an exhausted Macklin facedown on the canvas in the 10th. The finish was brutal and for a time, as Macklin was being attended to in front of a suddenly silenced and concerned audience – which included Ricky Hatton, who is a good friend of both men and who was covering the fight in the Sky studios – fans feared the worst. Thankfully, as we all know, Matthew, after a precautionary visit to the hospital, made a full recovery and is still fighting at the highest level today.
Moore said later that he had too much experience and knowledge for Macklin, and that he was now more than ready for a world title shot. Sadly for the teak-tough lefty, no world title shot would come; with Jamie having to be content with winning the European crown just less than three years after his gutsy victory over Macklin.
After knocking lumps out of one another (a description of the action used by Jamie himself), both men went on to give us more great fights, yet Moore and Macklin – who became a team, with Moore training his former rival – will forever be linked for the slugfest they gave us eight years ago today.
And British boxing will forever be indebted to both fighters for what they did on September 29 2006.
What both fighters said about the fight to this writer years afterwards:
Jamie Moore: “I think Macklin was a little overeager in the fight, and I was a little more cute than he was. We had a great game-plan. I knew Matthew was being trained by Billy Graham, and I had an idea how hard the fight was going to be. Me and Oliver [Harrison, Jamie’s trainer] talked about how I would beat Macklin. Oliver told me that if I tried to outbox him, he’d walk right through me. He told me I had to break his heart to beat him, that I had to stand in front of him, but make him miss and then hurt him. Those tactics worked to an absolute tee. Oliver knew how tough Macklin would be, and without his guidance it could have been a different fight. I wish I had been ringside at that fight, as a fan!”
Matthew Macklin: “I’ve watched the fight many times. I watched it the next day. I had really struggled to make weight. Even as early as rounds two and three, I was tired and fighting on heart. I lost, but I don’t regret taking the fight at all. That fight let me know how deep I could dig – you never really know until you know. As a fighter, you always think you’re tough, but it’s because of that fight that I know what I have inside of me today.”