By Elliot Foster (@FreelanceFoz)
Matthew Macklin got back to winning ways at the Barclaycard Arena.
The middleweight stopped Budapest’s Sandor Micsko inside two rounds, live on Sky Sports, on a bill co-headlined by heavyweight sensation Anthony Joshua, who stopped his 12th opponent in the shape of Brazil’s Raphael Zumbano Love and Stourbridge welterweight Sam Eggington as he beat Ghana’s Joseph Lamptey to win the vacant Commonwealth title and defend his WBC Silver International prize.
In the first fight of what the Birmingham-born Irishman has called the final chapter of a glittering career — in which he’s won English, British, Irish, Commonwealth and European honours — Macklin’s right-hand was key. He used it to good effect for as long as the fight lasted.
It was a range finder for the first three minutes, but was used to unleash the fight-ending shot after 88 seconds of the second stanza — a body shot which landed the Hungarian champion on the canvas and unable to beat the referee’s count.
The 32-year-old, who was returning following six months out after defeat to Jorge Sebastian Heiland in Dublin last November, has now improved his ring record to 32-6 (21) and will be looking for another shot at world honours sooner rather than later.
“I was a bit eager in the first round,” he told Sky Sports, “looking to shake off some frustration.
“But it’s great to be back in Birmingham after six years.”
The shot at world honours that I mentioned earlier is a strong possibility, judging by promoter Eddie Hearn’s comments.
After Macklin’s win, Hearn said: “The Daniel Jacobs fight [for the WBA belt] is one that can get made for the summer or September.”
Callum Smith also returned after a six-month injury layoff as part of Matchroom Boxing’s ‘Resurrection’ show, which was their first in Birmingham in 13 years.
‘Mundo’, the 25-year-old Liverpudlian, ended the challenge of Latvia’s Olegs Fedotovs inside the eight scheduled rounds of their super middleweight bout, with the referee stepping between the pair after just 96 seconds, leaving Smith undefeated in 16 fights with 12 stoppages.
Letting go that devastating left hook to the body and vicious uppercuts, Smith got down to work early and ended the Riga native’s challenge inside two minutes.
Elsewhere, Olympic gold medal-winning lightweight Luke Campbell, who was added to the card only last week, scored a ninth straight stoppage win.
‘Cool Hand’, 27, was warming up for a domestic clash with local rival Tommy Coyle and stopped Aboubeker Bechelaghem in a one-sided, uncompetitive affair which lasted only three rounds.
Bechelaghem, who had not been stopped previously, lost the first two rounds routinely, but in the third round Campbell went out with bad intentions and wanted the stoppage.
It was the stoppage he got, too, as he unleashed a barrage of blistering shots after a feint right hand and a body shot, which opened up the defences of the Frenchman for him to expose.
And the Yafai brothers — Kal and Gamal — each scored wins to keep up their undefeated records.
Former Commonwealth 115lb champion Kal, 25, was set to take on Rey Megriño for the vacant WBC Silver flyweight title before the 29-year-old Filipino withdrew from the clash with injury.
But despite being “gutted” that the more prestigious fight fell out of bed, Yafai remained focused enough to deal with the test of Ghana’s Isaac Quaye.
Quaye, who went the distance with Commonwealth flyweight champion Kevin Satchell last year, was ousted in 82 seconds as the eldest of the duo moved to 15-0 with 10 knockouts.
His brother, Gamal, who shone at Wembley Stadium last year in front of 80,000 people, moved to 6-0 with a victory over Arnoldo Solano over eight rounds.
That wasn’t all one-way, though, as while Yafai was throwing hurtful shots packed with spite, the Nicaraguan — who boxed former Carl Frampton foe Jeremy Parodi in his last contest and has also boxed Josh Warrington victim Edwin Tellez — displayed good head and upper body movement to avoid being stopped.
But despite that, he was outpointed by 80 points to 71 after being deducted a point in the final round for persistent holding.
“Next time you will be going to the changing room,” was the unequivocal message of the referee as Solano had the point removed from his tally.
Meanwhile, there were wins for a trio of Midlands prospects in the shape of middleweight Lennox Clarke, points win specialist Michael Rooney, who dropped his opponent twice, and Bloxwich middleweight Dan Breeze.
And Jordan Cooke went the distance with Liam Richards of Trowbridge over four rounds, getting the decision to extend his record to four undefeated with two by stoppage.by