TIPPERARY HURLING ICONS Eoin Kelly and Lar Corbett promised that the whole of Ireland will be behind Matthew Macklin when he steps into the ring against world middleweight champion Sergio Martinez on 17 March.
Kelly and Corbett flew out to New York this week to support Macklin, raised in his mother’s native Tipperary, ahead of the St Patrick’s Day showdown in Madison Square Garden.
The two GAA stars were clearly knocked off their feet by the hype and anticipation surrounding Macklin’s big night but the man himself is not letting it distract him, they said.
“I’ve known Matthew since we played hurling together as kids and it’s great to see him living his dream now on the big stage,” Kelly said at an open training session in Macklin’s Manhattan gym yesterday.
“The hype in the US for the fight is phenomenal. There are big billboards in Times Square and huge media interest in the fight, but Matthew seems to take it all in stride.”
Macklin’s record stands at 28-3 following a controversial split decision loss against WBA Super World middleweight champion Felix Sturm in Cologne last summer.
Martinez is a tougher prospect though, widely regarded as one of the best pound-for-pound punchers in the world, and Kelly is under no illusions about the magnitude of the occasion.
We came over to show our support to him because it’s an absolutely massive night, not just for Matthew but for all of Ireland to have someone competing at that level, fighting a guy considered to be up there with the likes of Mayweather and Pacquiao on St. Patrick’s Day at Madison Square Garden.
Corbett, who recently announced his decision to step back from the Tipp senior panel, was full of praise for his as well. “Matthew is training like a demon for this fight and the level of effort and dedication he puts into his boxing has to be seen to be believed.
“Matthew has always been a great supporter of Tipperary Hurling over the years, through thick and thin, so we felt it was only fair that we return that support.
“There is huge interest in this fight back in Tipperary. I know there are loads of people traveling over to New York for the fight but for the people not traveling over, they will be glued to the television and the whole country of Ireland is behind him.”