17 March 2008
After months of preparation and years of talk, the real number one cruiserweight in Great Britain and the world was decided in the early hours of Sunday, March 9.
It took only five minutes and five seconds for me to dispatch my nearest domestic and world rival, Enzo Maccarinelli, in the second round of our WBC/WBA/WBO and Ring Magazine title fight. I said I'd do the job in the first minute and that prediction was about the only thing I got wrong on the night.
The win signalled the end of my time at cruiserweight and allowed me to exit the division as the undisputed and unified number one. I'll now make the step-up to the heavyweight division towards the end of the year and wreak havoc on all those lumbering big guys who punch at slow-motion compared to what I'll be dishing out.
Meanwhile, the cruiserweight division will be left to scrap for all the belts I'll vacate. Included amongst those cruiserweights will be Enzo Maccarinelli, who can still claim to be the second best cruiser in the world. Despite the rivalry we've had over the last few years, it's only ever been purely professional and I'm sure he can return from this defeat and claim a belt or two.
Although beating Enzo in that kind of style was satisfying, the main incentive to win that fight in the way I did was to prove a lot of people wrong. For years I've had to listen to people say Enzo could do this and that to me, all the while knowing he wouldn't have a cat in hell's chance of doing those things. I always maintained I was too powerful, too quick and too clever for anything Maccarinelli may plan to do against me. And so it proved.
I knew as soon as I found my range - which I did in the second round - my right hand would land and the fight would be over. That could have happened at any time during the fight. As soon as I started countering his shots with my right hand I knew the end was near. After a cagey first round, I realised I had to counter his counters - with the help of feints - and an opening for that right hand would be there.
Enzo shouldn't feel bad about the way he boxed. He obviously had a plan and tried to carry it out. I just had an answer for everything he did and planned to do. I could have finished the fight early or late. It wasn't a mistake that lost Enzo the fight. It was my right hand and my ability to suss out what he had up his sleeve. The things Enzo was doing in that ring weren't mistakes; they were bad habits he'd picked up against sub-par opposition in the past. If you take those bad habits into the ring against a world-class puncher, it spells disaster. You can get away with those bad habits at a certain level - but not at the very top.
I knew that I had the better grounding going into the fight. I'd boxed at the very top as an amateur and as a professional I'd taken decent steps up from day one. The European title fights I had in 2006 stood me in good stead for big fights like the Maccarinelli one. The fight in Paris with Jean-Marc Mormeck was another fight that provided me with priceless experience. All in all, I'd experienced more things in the ring than Enzo had.
Enzo's now had a taste of the big time and has taken a risk against a world champion. He'll learn from this and I'm sure he'll come back stronger and pick up his old belt again in no time.
It wasn't just my jab and right hand Enzo had to face up to, either. The 20,000-strong crowd at the O2 Arena were unbelievable. It was the first time I'd ever boxed in South London and I couldn't have dreamed up a better reception.
I'd guess that at least 90% of those fans were there to support me, and I heard every single voice in the house when I made my ring entrance. If I could thank each and every one of those fans personally - as well as all the fans that rooted for me on Setanta - I would.
That kind of support bodes well for when I go up against the heavyweights. London hasn't had a star heavyweight to get behind since Lennox Lewis hung up the gloves. I believe I can take his place as Britain's next great heavyweight champion of the world.
In the meantime, I'll be letting my body return to its more natural state before embarking on a four or five month period of growing into a natural, fast, athletic and hard-punching heavyweight. I've pinpointed October or November as the time when I'll be ready to unleash the new and improved heavyweight Hayemaker on the world. It won't be too dissimilar from the one everyone saw at cruiserweight, only I'll be healthier, sharper and have more in my legs and punches on fight night. The speed and punch power will be maintained - and it will be those two ingredients in particular that will bring the heavyweight division to its knees.
The two top heavyweights in the world appear to be Wladimir Klitschko and Samuel Peter, but neither do anything for me. Peter's fat and fights with his face. Klitschko's robotic and doesn't fight, full stop. They are the best of a bad bunch but totally beatable. More than that, I'll at least look to put on some exciting fights - something these heavyweights appear scared or unable to do. If you watch heavyweight boxing nowadays you'll either see two guys stand across the ring from each other throwing sloppy jabs out of fear or you'll see two obese human beings hug each other for 12 rounds like two brothers who've just returned from war. At heavyweight I'll bring back some athleticism, speed, plenty of power, and more charisma than all the heavyweights put together.
The overseas interest in my fight with Maccarinelli will go some way to delivering that world heavyweight title shot as quickly as possible. Showtime televised the Maccarinelli fight out in the States and the reviews have been ridiculously positive in the aftermath. As well as the Brits, the Americans all seem to be getting behind me as a genuine heavyweight hope. At some point in the future I'd love to go over to America and box in a big heavyweight title fight.
I'd fight Klitschko or any other heavyweight champion tomorrow if I could. I don't fear any of the heavyweights. Chances are, though, I'll have to bide my time and wait. The plan will be executed exactly as it was at cruiserweight. I'll take risks, roll the dice, and climb my way up the rankings until the champion can no longer ignore me. Once that's done, and the title fight is made, I'll sweep up the belts and restore some excitement, speed, youth, charisma and, most importantly, respect to the heavyweight division again.
People will doubt me - but they'll probably be the same people who believed my "career was in tatters" four years ago. If you don't take risks you'll never win. On Sunday morning I took a risk and won. So did British boxing.
Next stop - the heavyweights.
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