Enzo Maccarinelli vs. Juergen Braehmer: Top Takeaways from Title Fight
Enzo Maccarinelli did not come out for the sixth round on Saturday night in Rostock, as he fell short in his challenge of Juergen Braehmer's secondary WBA world title.
Maccarinelli's night was over before it really began, as he suffered a bad eye injury towards the end of Round 1 which quickly closed up, leaving him with no vision in his right eye—a handicap which ultimately brought his retirement in the corner.
At 33, there will again be questions as to whether Maccarinelli should retire, with this defeat bringing his 2013 mini-revival to an end.
As for Braehmer, this was only really his second tough opponent since his 2012 comeback, and he must now decide whether to step up and potentially travel to fight one of the division's genuine world champions, or, at 35, to wind down his career in his native Germany.
Here are the main takeaways from Saturday's fight.
1. Enzo Did Have a Chance of Winning
The bookmakers made Braehmer a heavy favourite going in; Maccarinelli lost every round on the cards and didn't make it out for Round 6. True enough, but that doesn't tell the whole story.
In the first round, Braehmer hit Maccarinelli with some of his biggest shots, and despite the Welshman's reputation for poor punch resistance, he took those punches well. Maccarinelli also cut Braehmer in that round, albeit an injury that didn't compare to the one suffered in reverse.
After that, Maccarinelli was fighting with one eye, which makes it difficult to judge distance and leaves a significant blind spot on the side of the injury. Despite that, he was competitive, causing Braehmer visible discomfort, especially with body shots.
The pattern of the action that ensued with a clearly disadvantaged Maccarinelli could only make observers wonder what he might have achieved without that injury.
You would have to assume that an uninjured Maccarinelli would have performed markedly better, and that would have given us a close fight.
In that scenario, Braehmer would probably still be expected to prevail, partially because of the advantages of being at home, partially because he would be expected to outlast Maccarinelli—but Maccarinelli would have been a very live dog.
Overall, Maccarinelli's ability to stay in the fight with one eye suggests that, coming into it, he did have a genuine chance of winning.
2. Braehmer Conformed to the National Stereotype
When it comes to national stereotypes, that of German efficiency must be one of the most redoubtable. Whilst their football team has brought flair into their game in recent years, there was nothing flashy about Braehmer's performance on Saturday.
After an even opening salvo or two, the light heavyweight put Maccarinelli under serious pressure at the end of Round 1, inflicting the decisive eye injury in the process.
Whether or not the Braehmer corner did or did not know what was being said in the Maccarinelli corner, it must have known that the Welshman could not fight for long with such severe facial damage.
Braehmer therefore boxed very carefully from the second round, aware that an early knockout was now Maccarinelli's only real chance of winning.
Some fighters would have taken the injury as encouragement to push for a KO then and there, but Braehmer did the opposite, being happy to win rounds undramatically and wait for the inevitable.
The German also held extensively, tying up Maccarinelli's arms when he got into punching range. In a 12-round fight, warnings for that might result in points being taken away, but Braehmer knew the fight wasn't going long enough for that to happen.
You could question if Braehmer could have performed better from Round 2 to 5 with a handicapped opponent, but he simply wasn't willing to risk taking anything back the other way.
Such a performance won't have won the hometown fighter many international fans, but he must be doing something right given the size of the sold-out crowd and promoter Kalle Sauerland's estimate of 4-5 million fans watching on German TV (the figure mentioned in an interview with BoxNation's Steve Lillis).
Given the popularity of the Klitschko brothers in Germany, it is obvious that efficient, ruthless displays go down well with the fans there, regardless of how boring they might seem to overseas viewers.
3. Credit to Gary Lockett
It was a nightmare scenario for Maccarinelli's trainer Gary Lockett to see his man returning to the corner at the end of the first round with a rapidly closing eye that was obviously going to severely impair his vision and make it unlikely he would be medically permitted to go the distance.
Maccarinelli had worked hard for two-and-a-half years to get the chance to fight Braehmer and no doubt made many sacrifices in camp to prepare for this fight. On the one hand, then, as his friend and trainer, you want to give him every chance to turn the fight around.
On the other hand, you know the risks of such an injury—both the susceptibility it creates to taking big, unseen punches on that side—and the dangers of further punches connecting with the already injured eye.
Lockett did an excellent job of balancing all of those considerations with little time to make his decisions in a highly stressful and public environment.
He immediately questioned how long the fight could go with Maccarinelli, warning him that he might stop it. He gave Maccarinelli the chance to show something, and when he did better than you might have expected in Rounds 2 and 3, Lockett let the fight continue.
Then when the injury continued to get worse, Lockett gave Maccarinelli one last round, the fifth, to go for a knockout. At the end of that, Maccarinelli wanted to continue, but Lockett had seen enough, symbolically removing Maccarinelli's gloves in the corner.
Some people might criticise Lockett for letting Maccarinelli fight with the injured eye at all, but you have to realise that Lockett retained the option of throwing in the towel at any time if the injury was impairing Maccarinelli's performance too badly.
The reality is that Maccarinelli did not take serious punishment from Round 2 to Round 5, and that justified Lockett's decision to give him a window of opportunity to go for a stoppage.
4. Braehmer Wasn't Lucky
Enzo Maccarinelli is a popular figure among the British fight fraternity, and it's no surprise that there has been sympathy for him given the conclusion of the fight.
Certainly, Maccarinelli didn't really get the chance to show what he could do before the injury changed the complexion of the fight, and that's a shame.
However, it doesn't necessarily follow from that that Maccarinelli was unlucky, and it certainly doesn't mean that Braehmer was lucky.
Durability is a hugely important attribute in boxing. If Braehmer had knocked Maccarinelli down for the count in Round 1, there would be no such outpouring of sympathy for the vanquished Welshman.
Instead, by means of a punch and perfectly legally, Braehmer inflicted an injury in the first round that ultimately won him the fight. That's an entirely legitimate way to win a boxing match.
There's a reason Maccarinelli didn't lose in this sort of fashion in his last three fights against Courtney Fry, Ovill McKenzie and Carl Wild—those fighters weren't good enough to land big shots on his eye in the first round.
It seems strange to celebrate fighters who win by one-punch KO for the achievement and yet suggest that a fighter who wins by inflicting a fight-ending injury got lucky. It's the same effect—rendering your opponent in no condition to continue fighting.
Braehmer got the job done fair and square through hard, accurate punching. His win shouldn't be undermined by claims that he was lucky.
5. Enzo Will Find It Hard to Retire
Many people hoped Maccarinelli would retire in 2010 after his fourth bad KO defeat in just three years when it seemed that opponents had figured out his defence and he was taking far too many big punches.
He then pulled a surprise by deciding to drop down to light heavyweight, thus losing over 20 pounds from his cruiserweight frame.
Unconvincing displays against Ovill McKenzie and Shane McPhilbin (that one fight back at cruiser) did little to change the perception that Maccarinelli was a fighter with his best days well behind him.
However, a good win in the rematch with McKenzie put Maccarinelli back in the mix and helped him get the chance against Braehmer.
Although Maccarinelli's record now reads 45 fights with seven defeats, the performance against Braehmer was far from discouraging. He took a few big shots, bothered Braehmer with some in return and showed great courage under fire.
Because of the injury, Maccarinelli will feel he didn't get the chance to show just how much he has left. Provided that eye heals up OK, don't be surprised to see the Welshman give it one last go.
Whilst the choice to continue fighting in 2010 seemed reckless at the time, there was nothing particularly worrisome in the Braehmer fight, so people should respect whatever Maccarinelli now decides.
6. Don't Rule Out a Rematch
Juergen Braehmer is a very good fighter, but he would not be fancied against the top fighters in the light heavyweight division—Adonis Stevenson (WBC champion), Sergey Kovalev (WBO champion) and Bernard Hopkins (IBF champion).
At 35, Braehmer must decide whether he wishes to chase sporting greatness by challenging one of those men or if he is content to make a good living fighting in Germany against lesser opposition.
Because of the generous rewards to German titlists boxing at home, they are often reluctant to travel, as seen in the careers of Henry Maske, Sven Ottke and Felix Sturm—good fighters who have held world title belts without seriously trying to unify divisions.
If Braehmer follows in that vein, he will be looking for credible but beatable opponents for the future. Although Maccarinelli didn't do enough to justify an immediate rematch, he put in a respectable showing under the circumstances and asked enough questions that a return bout could be sold to the public.
Outside of Braehmer, there aren't any obvious opportunities for Maccarinelli at the weight. He is not good enough to challenge any other of the belt-holders, and his obvious domestic rivals—Tony Bellew and Nathan Cleverly—are moving to the cruiserweight division, where, admittedly, he could follow.
Maccarinelli could try to fight the winner of the vacant EBU light heavyweight title fight between Mohamed Belkacem and Igor Mikhalkin. Capturing that belt, which was previously held by Braehmer, could give Maccarinelli enough momentum to hype a rematch, especially if he travelled to Germany to win it.
All this will depend on what direction Braehmer decides to move in, but given the caution of many German belt-holders in choosing their opponents, Maccarinelli could well get another shot at Braehmer down the line.