Enzo Maccarinelli vs. Juergen Braehmer: Head-to-Toe Breakdown of Both Fighters
Enzo Maccarinelli, one of Britain's most popular fighters of the past decade, travels to Rostock, Germany, as a heavy underdog for his fight with Juergen Braehmer on Saturday.
The WBA "regular" light heavyweight title will be on the line, but this is not a proper world title, as the WBA "super" light heavyweight champion, Beibut Shumenov, will put that belt up as collateral in a unification bout against Bernard Hopkins later this month.
Hopkins is expected to win that fight, and there's a reasonable chance he will then fail to meet the WBA's obligations and therefore be stripped of the title.
In that scenario, the winner of Maccarinelli-Braehmer may eventually be "upgraded" to full world champion status. Such is the flavour of boxing's thicker yet less satiating alphabet soup.
In the meantime, be duly skeptical of the fight hype and, in the event of an Enzo victory, the inevitable, spurious claims he has become a two-weight world champ.
Maccarinelli's popularity comes, to some extent, because his kill-or-be-killed record in the ring has always brought plenty of excitement.
Thirty-six of his 44 fights have ended by stoppage either for or against, an 82 percent ratio. If you ignore four-round fights at the start of his career, that rises to an incredible 94 percent.
Braehmer can't quite compete with that, but he is an entertaining German world champion who has acquired a belt and defended it on home turf without seriously looking to unify divisions or travel abroad for greater plaudits.
Here's the breakdown for this potentially explosive European clash.
Tale of the Tape
|Enzo Maccarinelli||Juergen Braehmer|
|Wins||38 with 30 KOs||42 with 31 KOs|
|Defeats||6, all 6 by KO||2, but 0 by KO|
Perhaps the most notable piece of info is Braehmer's age: 35. Historically, most boxers were finished by that age, but improved nutrition and conditioning have increased the average number of years fighters stay at the top.
Even so, you have to wonder if Braehmer might begin to feel his age if the fight goes long. On the other hand, Maccarinelli has had more tough nights in his career, so it may be that the younger man is the one with more mileage.
Even though Maccarinelli was stopped in three rounds by the last left-handed fighter he faced (Denis Lebedev in 2009), Enzo's trainer, Gary Lockett, dismissed the potential pitfalls of facing a southpaw, per BoxNation: "Enzo hasn't struggled in sparring with any of the southpaws he's faced for this...you have to remember that he did hundreds of rounds in the gym with Joe Calzaghe and you'll not get better southpaw sparring than that!"
Another thing to note is that, although Maccarinelli will tower over his opponent on fight night, that won't translate to an equally long reach advantage. Enzo is unusual for a pro boxer in that he is taller than his wingspan.
The Form Book
Both fighters have had an unusual time of it over the past few years. Braehmer has a near-two-year gap on his record from 2010 to 2012 because he was appealing a jail sentence, which was ultimately suspended. Maccarinelli made the highly unusual decision to move down in weight from cruiserweight to light heavyweight in 2011.
A laboured win in Braehmer's second fight back, against Vikapita Meroro, had many writing him off, and he was widely tipped to lose when he fought European champion Eduard Gutknecht in February last year.
However, Braehmer proved his critics wrong with a close but clear decision win, which was aided by a point deduction for Gutknecht, who fought a notably dirty fight.
In particular, the veteran impressed with his engine over the 12 rounds. It had been assumed Gutknecht would take over late if he could survive the early onslaught.
Since then, Braehmer has not really been tested in his last three fights. So although he enters on a 10-fight winning streak, he doesn't have a great deal of positive momentum.
Maccarinelli gets this chance because of a win in August against Ovill McKenzie, his best win since 2010 and his best win as a light heavyweight.
McKenzie is a good puncher, if somewhat limited, and he had a win over Maccarinelli due to a refereeing error in a 2012 bout, which saw the fight end prematurely.
Enzo showed more discipline than usual in the rematch to wear down the man they call the "Upsetter" before closing the show in good style in Round 11.
That win is the only notable one from his six outings at the lower weight, and you have to wonder if that provides adequate preparation for the experienced Braehmer.
Preparation and Mentality
Braehmer is perhaps best known to British fight fans for pulling out of a scheduled date with Nathan Cleverly in May 2011—a move that ultimately saw him stripped of his WBO crown, which Cleverly then captured.
Braehmer maneuvered his way back to the top of the WBO rankings last year, which put him on a collision course with Cleverly's conqueror, feared puncher Sergey Kovalev.
Braehmer swerved "Krusher," passing up the chance to reclaim his WBO title and instead going down the WBA path and picking up his current trinket. He is 35, so you can begin to question his motivation and whether he really wants to step up again in his career before retiring.
The German did put it together for the Gutknecht fight, but that was the exception across his performances in the past three years. It could have been an outlier, a last hurrah.
Against easier opponents, Braehmer has not looked his best, so questions arise about how seriously he is taking Maccarinelli. A repeat of the Gutknecht display, and he should win. Any less, and he gives the Welshman a chance.
Maccarinelli has gone into fights ridiculously underprepared. Perhaps most famously, he claimed to promoter Frank Warren that he had not sparred a single round for his fight against Ola Afolabi in 2009, Warren told the Guardian's Kevin Mitchell.
There is no doubt about Enzo's motivation for this fight. He has worked hard to get himself into contention in the division and desperately wants a win to cap his comeback.
After four stoppage defeats between 2008-10, many people thought the Swansea fighter should retire, including Warren.
The psychological effects of that disastrous run have taken much longer to heal than the physical damage. Although Enzo looked a fighter reborn against McKenzie, it is quite possible that old doubts will resurface on this assignment into hostile territory against a dangerous opponent.
Maccarinelli has been saying all the right things in the buildup, but there's no substitute for the honesty of the ring. Come Saturday, we will discover if he truly has the mental wiring top-level boxing requires.
Power and Punch Resistance
For this fight in particular, power and punch resistance are hot topics. When Enzo Mac is in action, you know not to blink, because it could end at any time.
Maccarinelli was a serious puncher at cruiserweight, and going into his world title unification bout with David Haye in 2008, Enzo had won six of his eight toughest assignments in impressive fashion by stoppage.
Since moving down to light heavyweight, Big Mac has not seemed quite so heavy-handed. He has looked generally lacking in confidence at times, and that might explain the deficit.
Braehmer has never been knocked out or really come close to being stopped, although he was dropped by Hector Velazco way back in 2007.
Enzo is probably a big enough puncher to stop Braehmer, but it would take an absolutely perfect single punch or, more likely, a combination of blows.
Although Braehmer is probably packing less heat than Maccarinelli, he surely has more power relative to Enzo's punch resistance than the other way around.
Barring the McKenzie farce, Enzo has been stopped five times. He was bombed out early by David Haye and Denis Lebedev, but they are bigger punchers than Braehmer.
Against Braehmer, the risks are more akin to the loss to Afolabi and Enzo's last heavy KO defeat, which came versus Alexander Frenkel in 2010.
On both of those occasions, Maccarinelli was winning the fight but tired and got sloppy, leaving gaps—openings his opponents ultimately took by throwing huge shots past his failing guard.
If he doesn't maintain his concentration as the fight wears on, there is a very high risk of another early night for Enzo, and that could spell the end of his 15-year pro career.
In his first fight with Mario Veit in 2006, Braehmer had the experienced fighter down in the first round but couldn't finish him. Round after round went by with Braehmer looking for the one big shot that never came.
Ultimately, Veit came away with a majority decision win because he was able to nick rounds, an opportunity Braehmer should not have afforded him.
With all the talk about Enzo's dodgy chin, Braehmer could fall into the same trap in this one, and that's something he must avoid.
Braehmer would do well to be thinking about wearing down Enzo before stopping him late instead of looking to finish it early.
It is always worth coming into a fight expecting to go the distance, no matter how much you think you can get your man out of there. Braehmer does, however, want to make Maccarinelli feel his power early, because that should put doubts in his mind.
If he can make Enzo retreat into a cautious mode, Braehmer can dictate the pace of the fight and rack up a points lead.
In terms of defence, the German can't afford to get caught on the ropes, where Big Mac could load up KO punches. If Braehmer can keep things in the centre of the ring, he should be able to win most exchanges with his amateur-style scoring punches.
Confidence in the ring is still hard to come by for Maccarinelli, who has looked unsure of himself quite often in recent years.
Enzo wants to work his way into the fight carefully, avoiding risks in the early rounds until he feels settled and comfortable.
The Welshman has the reach advantage and should look to establish his jab from the opening bell before mixing it up with some body punches.
Enzo does have the power to trouble Braehmer, but it is more important that he paces himself than it is that he tests the waters with heavy shots early, which might quickly tire him out. The haymakers are always there as a backup plan if Enzo can't outbox Braehmer.
The German is too old to be able to fight every round at a good pace. so if Maccarinelli is down on the cards, he should wait until Braehmer wants to take a breather before choosing that window to load up on his biggest shots.
Juergen Braehmer is understandably fancied to win this one, not least because he enjoys home advantage in Rostock.
However, the early odds seem to underestimate Maccarinelli's chances, per Oddschecker.
Maccarinelli may be damaged goods, and the jury is still out on whether his move to light heavyweight makes much sense. However, there are plenty of unknowns surrounding Braehmer given his extended absence from the ring, and his one good win (against Gutknecht) from the six fights since his return isn't enough to dispel those doubts.
This is a bout in which almost any result is possible, if not necessarily likely.
Provided Enzo doesn't get caught cold in the first couple of rounds, this should develop into an interesting tactical battle through the middle rounds.
Then, it becomes a question of who is better conditioned, especially with neither fighter being in the first flush of youth.
History suggests Braehmer will have more down the stretch, and if Maccarinelli tires and begins to leave gaps, there is a good chance he gets stopped.
Prediction: Braehmer by late-rounds stoppage.