Tonight in Rostock, Germany, a cruel twist of fate thwarted Enzo Maccarinelli’s attempt to be the first Welsh boxer to become a world champion at two different weights. The incident which dictated the eventual outcome of the fight occurred right at the end of the first round of Maccarinelli’s challenge against WBA light-heavyweight champion Juergen Braehmer, 43-2 (32), when the German landed a booming straight left from his southpaw stance bang on the right eye of the Welshman. Even as Enzo, 38-7 (30), returned to his corner it was noticeable that the eye was already swelling.
This was irony indeed as only a minute beforehand, it was Braehmer who had initially sustained an injury to his right eye, when a clash of heads brought an immediate blob of red to the champion’s right eyebrow. Braehmer has always been prone to cut eyes and it looked bad for him. For that one minute between the two eye injuries then, it looked like destiny was on Enzo’s side. Hope was quickly snatched away though. A further irony was that after Braehmer’s corner worked on his cut in the interval between rounds, it never bled again throughout the contest.
Enzo’s injury became so severe, so quickly, that the fight could easily have been stopped at the end of the second round. The eye was already clamped shut. Maccarinelli responded to his trainer Gary Lockett’s query about whether he could see with “I can’t see nothing out of the right eye”. Lockett conferred with him and agreed that Enzo should have one more round to try and blast his man out. Braehmer is a canny old fox though. He is a past master at messing his opponent about inside. He knew exactly what to do in order to frustrate Maccarinelli, as he has done this countless times in the past. He would throw his southpaw one-two, get inside and grab. These are tactics that he generally uses when his tank is running low and he is fiddling his way through to the end of a hard contest. On this occasion, he used these tactics whilst knowing full well that Maccarinelli was on borrowed time and that sooner, rather than later, he would have to be pulled out due to the injury.
The third round was actually very close, with Enzo catching the champion towards the end of the round and putting him under pressure. This clearly encouraged Lockett, who sent his man out for the fourth round with instructions to “put it on him”. There were to be no more successes for Enzo though and although he came out for the fifth, his swollen eye had morphed into a completely swollen right cheek. The grotesquerie was now taking on Lebedev-like proportions. At the end of that round, and with Enzo now being five rounds down on the scorecards, Lockett rightly told Mac he could not let him continue and started to cut off the gloves. The dream was over.
There is no doubt that the facial injuries suffered by Maccarinelli spoilt the fight. However, it has to be said that Braehmer looked full of confidence right from the off, immediately going onto the front foot at the opening bell and landing easily with his classy straight one-twos. He showed absolutely no fear of Enzo’s vaunted power. He is a really fine veteran fighter who looks to have two or three more successful defences ahead of him. This is great news for his promoters, Sauerland Event. As for Maccarinelli, it really does look time for him to retire from the sport. He mused in an interview a couple of days before the fight that, win or lose, this might be his swansong. Despite the valid excuse of his injury, one cannot see the Sauerlands being able to sell a rematch with their man, and the other three major beltholders are not an option for Enzo.
In the chief supporting bout, “Golden” Jack Culcay, 17-1 (10), disappointed again, as he laboured to a wide points decision victory over Algerian-Frenchman Salim Larbi, 19-5-2 (7), over 12 deadly dull rounds. Larbi is mediocre opposition to say the least, and any light-middleweight worth their salt should be getting a stoppage over him. Culcay never came close. Once again, his lack of height and general size for a light-middleweight was abundantly clear, with his opponent having a three inch height advantage. This is not the main issue with Culcay though – it is his attitude.
Culcay is famously a former world amateur champion, but in the professional game this means nothing. So many top amateurs fail to cut the mustard in the pro game and he is clearly going to be one of them. The less said about his performance tonight, the better. He did just about enough to edge almost all of the rounds, against an opponent who did not really try to win, but was just happy to be fairly competitive and not getting hurt. Indeed, Larbi threw both arms up in the air at the final bell. He probably expected a much more difficult evening than he got. All three judges scored it 117-111 for the home fighter.
On the form Culcay has shown to date, even the EBU title will be out of his reach. By now, Kalle Sauerland would surely have been expecting Culcay to be topping bills. He is nowhere near being able to do that. The crowd in Rostock tonight showed no enthusiasm whatsoever for him and one could hear a pin drop throughout the contest. Gary Logan in the BoxNation studio probably nailed it when he informed viewers that Culcay, whom he briefly trained last year, is being paid a fortune for representing his promoters. This being the case, he seems to have lost any hunger he had as a budding pro and is merely going through the motions. He is not worth that massive contract and it is time that Kalle either reads him the riot act, or throws him in at the deep end to see what he is made of.
A far more popular young Sauerland prospect is Tyron Zeuge, 13-0 (7), who received big support from the crowd during his stoppage victory over Romanian, Gheorge Sabau, 10-1 (6). At least, the opponent was announced as being Sabau, but this writer suspects he was found brawling in an alley near to the arena, fed a couple of pints and then sent into the ring. In all seriousness, Sabau was awful. He had no boxing skills whatsoever, could not throw a straight punch to save his life and kept winding up bang in front of Zeuge with his hands down. Even then it took the young German nine rounds to get his man out of there after the fourth knockdown.
On this performance it may appear that Zeuge is improving. Do not be fooled though, as this opponent was brought in to help him get a much needed stoppage victory. Zeuge is a nice boxer and is only 21 years of age. He looks like a choirboy though and it is hard to see him surviving in this tough business as he steps up the ladder. He will clearly be a staple for the promoters for the next couple of years though, as they continue to match him very carefully in order to keep him unbeaten.
The most impressive boxer on the undercard was another Welshman, Liam Williams, 9-0-1 (4), who boxed superbly in stopping Yuri Pompilio in the eighth and final round. Pompilio, a naturalised Spaniard, was nothing much but Williams displayed so many positive attributes that his promoter Frank Warren must be excited about his future. On display tonight was a thudding left jab, which was like a heat-seeking missile to Pompilio’s nose, constantly snapping back his head on his shoulders. Williams also showed excellent footwork and general movement and looked much improved now that he has moved down to light-middleweight. With the support of the excellent Lockett in his corner, this young man, still only 21, should have an outstanding future in the sport.
Also on the card, but barely worth mentioning was an outing for Kubrat Pulev, 20-0 (11), from Bulgaria, the IBF’s mandatory challenger to heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko. Pulev slapped around a last-minute opponent from Croatia, Ivica Perkovic, 20-24 (15), in what was merely a keep-busy outing for him whilst he waits for his shot at Wlad. For the record, Perkovic quit on his stool at the end of the third round.