The career of Enzo Maccarinelli (b. 1980) has been a true rollercoaster, a thrilling ride that took him to the world cruiserweight title and to one of the biggest British world title fights of the new millennium.
‘Big Macc’s’ huge hitting and – as was later discovered – questionable chin meant he would always be a major attraction.
The Swansea man admits to having been something of a handful in his early years, but boxing helped give him focus. He won his first Welsh title at the age of 11, and would claim another eight on the bounce.
He won all 12 of his senior amateur fights by knock-out, and his burgeoning reputation increased when he turned professional in 1999 with trainer Charlie Pearson.
Three early knock-out victories saw some of the more imaginative boxing writers labelling the Welshman as ‘Swansea’s Mike Tyson’, and the excitement saw BBC Sport Wales position him at the centre of a new boxing strategy.
The glare of the cameras was there for his fourth fight as the 19-year-old headlined a Swansea Leisure Centre show against the unheralded Lee Swaby.
For three rounds the local boy looked the part, dancing around Swaby and hitting him at will. But a loss of concentration allowed the Englishman to throw in the leveller, and before the ring had stopped spinning for Maccarinelli he was yesterday’s news.
It would be a long road back, but after 10 wins in three years Maccarinelli – none of whose fights had gone beyond four rounds – secured a shot at the experienced Bruce Scott for the vacant WBU cruiserweight title.
The bout was the chief support for Joe Calzaghe v Byron Mitchell at the Cardiff International Arena, and it would play a full part in one of the most thrilling nights in Welsh boxing history.
Maccarinelli was dropped heavily in the first, leaving his senses scattered and his legs wobbling as ringside observers wrote off the youngster’s future in the game.
A generous count by the referee helped him make it to the end of the round, though, and he emerged a different fighter.
The Swansea man used his boxing skills, fast hands and accurate punching to stay out of danger while surprising Scott with some stinging blows.
When Pearson retired, Maccarinelli joined trainer Enzo Calzaghe, adding to the formidable wealth of talent at the latter’s ramshackle Newbridge gym.
Maccarinelli’s career began to soar, nine more early stoppage wins following the Scott victory before the Swansea man faced formidable Argentine Marcelo Fabian Dominguez for the interim WBO world title.
The July 2006 showdown was amongst the most impressive of the Welshman’s career as he boxed superbly to wear the dangerous Dominguez down before stopping him impressively in the ninth.
Maccarinelli was chasing long-reigning WBO champion Johnny Nelson, but the shrewd Englishman chose to retire, meaning that Swansea finally had a world champion to boast of, the first in the city’s long boxing history.
A more serious test was demanded, and promoter Frank Warren delivered in July 2007 when Wayne Braithwaite was brought to the Cardiff International Arena.
‘Big Truck’ was a former WBC title holder and a man whose boxing ambitions were very much alive.
But Maccarinelli again boxed superbly to keep the Guyanan at bay. He had to go the full distance for the first time in his eight-year career, but claimed a comfortable points win.
A routine defence against Mohamed Azzaoui then set up Maccarinelli for the biggest fight of his career, a unification bout against WBA and WBC title holder David Haye.
The O2 Arena was booked for the 8 March, 2008, in a promotion labelled as the ‘Battle of Britain’, arguably the biggest domestic fight that had been seen in the new millennium.
Future world heavyweight champion Haye had only lost once in his career – a 2004 stoppage defeat by Carl Thompson – but he had been struggling to make cruiserweight and many had him as the underdog going into the fight.
Under the intense spotlight, though, Maccarinelli froze and the ‘Hayemaker’ thrived.
Looking nervous from the moment he stepped from the changing room, Maccarinelli all-but sprinted to the ring.
He looked out of shape in comparison to the crafted Haye and was reckless from the outset.
The Swansea man connected once in the first round with a blow that appeared to trouble Haye, but he failed to follow it up and the clinical ‘Hayemaker’ shook Maccarinelli before stopping him in the second.
The Welshman would never be the same fighter again, and over the next 18 months suffered horrible knock-outs at the hands of Ola Afolabi and Denis Lebedev that left many calling for his retirement.
He could still box and punch, though, and when he was shipped out to Russia in April 2010 as the opponent for Alexander Kotlobay he stunned the St Petersburg crowd with a first-round knock-out win that gained Maccarinelli the vacant European title.
The new champion suffered another heavy knock-out defeat in his first defence, though, against Alexander Frenkel.
Maccarinelli’s outings became fewer as he flirted with retirement, but in March 2012 he added the British cruiserweight crown to his career collection.
The points win over Shane McPhilbin was hugely controversial, though. After Maccarinelli was dropped heavily in the first stanza, the bell to end the round was rung 47 seconds early.
He was down again in the third, but dropped his opponent in the seventh before going on to the points win.
The British Boxing Board of Control ordered a rematch, but that never happened as Maccarinelli had to serve a six-month ban after inadvertently taking an illegal substance that was on the Board’s banned drugs list.
The indefatigable Swansea man used the time to refocus and returned as a slimmer light-heavyweight for a shot at Ovill McKenzie’s Commonwealth title.
More controversy followed, though, as Maccarinelli was stopped in the second when he was clearly not in even the slightest amount of trouble – a fact acknowledged by McKenzie himself.
A rematch was ordered and it would prove another thriller. Maccarinelli came through a war, taking plenty of punishment but dishing out much more before he finally stopped McKenzie with a heavy, sustained salvo in the 11th.
The prospect of more history making was then raised when Maccarinelli was made challenger for Juergen Braehmer’s WBA light-heavyweight title.
He travelled to Rostock in Germany as a huge underdog, seeking to become the first Welshman to win titles at two weights, the first to regain a world title, and the first Briton since Bob Fitzsimmons in 1903 to drop down a division and become a two-weight champion.
Maccarinelli predictably put on a brave show, but a first-round clash left him with a grossly swollen eye and trainer Gary Lockett made the laudable and pragmatic decision to pull his fighter out after five rounds.