Young Cruiserweight contender Enzo Maccarinelli makes the fifth defence of his peripheral WBU belt next week, and his handlers clearly hope to steer the big Welshman toward genuine world title honours (well the WBO at least).
The plan, made public by Frank Warren during the summer, is to pit veteran WBO champion Johnny Nelson against Maccarinelli in a fight that could bring down the curtain on the former’s long career. Not because Enzo is likely to win, but because Johnny is ready to hang ‘em’ up.
With several steps still to be negotiated in his fistic education, Maccarinelli is being kept busy and faces Dane Jesper Kristiansen on the September 3rd season opener in Newport, Wales. Kristiansen’s selection met with apathy from the boxing fraternity as it appeared another low-risk encounter and a chasm away from the level of opponent Nelson has engaged in his twenty-year career.
But just who is Jesper Kristiansen and what can we expect from him, is he really low-risk? An investigation of his record highlighted a failed European title tilt and mixed fortunes in minor title clashes. I caught up with Jesper to try and establish how serious his challenge really is.
So less than two weeks until you face Enzo, how has training been?
Training has been good. It’s been fine, and I will be ready come fight time.
Where have you been training?
I’ve just returned from my training camp in Cologne, Germany. Before that I trained in Aalborg, Denmark with my trainer Søren Larsen, and I will finish up my training in Aalborg as well.
Who have you been sparring with for preparation?
Mostly, I have been sparring with Rüdiger May, who will box the day after Enzo and me. Rüdiger, as you know, will challenge Johnny Nelson for the WBO title.
Have you seen tapes of Enzo? And what are you expecting from him in the fight?
Yes, I have seen tapes of him, and I expect him to come forward and try to knock me out. In fact, I’m very sure that’s what he is going to TRY!
Have you done anything differently to prepare for him?
Well, for the first time I’ve gone abroad for a training camp. Other than that I haven’t done anything extraordinary compared to my preparations for other title fights.
Enzo is being promoted as a puncher, and he does have some power, does this worry you? Algerian puncher Mohammed Benguesmia (KO2) stopped you early back in 2001.
I am not at all worried about Enzo being promoted as a puncher, or him actually being a puncher. I’m sure he IS a good puncher, but that doesn’t worry me at all. When Benguesmia stopped me, really that was a very lucky punch from him. I was controlling for every minute up until the point where he caught me, and it was simply a matter of me getting careless because things were going so well. And if there is one thing that Mohammed Benguesmia can do, it’s punch hard! I had him hurt badly with a body shot in the first round, and I’m sure I would have stopped him had I not gotten so careless. But Benguesmia* sure can punch!
*Benguesmia had lost to Yawe Davis for the EBU 175lb crown in his previous bout, but holds a stoppage win over a raw O’Neil Bell.
Most British and American fans probably haven't had the chance to see you fight before how would you describe your style? And what advantages do you feel you have over Enzo?
I am a technical fighter who does have some punch myself. Enzo is not the only one who can knock an opponent out, which my latest fights also show. My advantages? Hmmm, I won’t have any height advantage in this one, like I normally have. Actually he might be a little taller than me. I don’t know, maybe I have a little bit on the experience side when it comes down to it…
Which of your fights/victories give you the most satisfaction?
I think I am most happy with my fight against Garry Delaney. When I beat him, he was a better fighter than when Enzo beat him. I think I did a pretty good job against Delaney to win the WBO Intercontinental title**.
**Jesper stopped Delaney in 10 rounds in 2000. Enzo stopped Delaney with body-shots in the 8th round last February.
In a year when Britain's high-profile fighters have failed to secure BIG fights, the fans and media have been less than kind about your selection as an opponent? Do you think they, and the Enzo camp, have underestimated you?
Yes! Yes I do!
Your record suggests you've only fought twice in the last two years, what’s been the reason for your inactivity?
Well, that’s not entirely true David. I have had four fights the last two years***, but you are right about the fact that I haven’t been very active. But I had some managerial problems with former handlers, which kept me from fighting regularly. I switched from one promoter to another one, and after I fought for the European title I didn’t fight for almost a year. I signed with Risum Boxing and Fight Production early this year, and was actually supposed to fight Rüdiger May for the EU title in April. But then Rüdiger got a shot at the European title, and I was left without a fight. Since then I had one tune-up, but unfortunately injured my arm in that fight which also kept me out of the ring. But now I am ready, fit and I don’t feel rusty at all.
***Jesper has fought twice in the last 22 months
Should you beat Enzo, it will obviously lift your profile in the UK, where lucrative fights could exist with Enzo's domestic rivals like David Haye, Carl Thompson, Mark Hobson or even Enzo's Sports Network stable mate Johnny Nelson, what path are you hoping to take if you win on September 3rd?
Once I have beaten Enzo, I want to fight Johnny Nelson or Rüdiger May for the WBO title. It seems to me that Frank Warren have already lined up Johnny and Enzo to fight each other, but first these guys have to win on the 3rd and 4th against me and Rüdiger.
Would you defend the WBU title if you secured it?
Sure, why not?
How do you feel about the fact this fight is presented as a World-Title fight, when, with the greatest of respect, the fight is clearly some way short of that level. Do you think it misleads fans?
You know, I don’t worry too much about things like this. This is as much about beating Enzo as it is about winning a title. But I don’t think this fight has a lower level than so many other fights. I don’t worry about things like that though. I only concentrate on winning!
Will the bout be screened in Denmark?
No, it will not! TV in Denmark does not show much professional boxing, unfortunately.
Do you have any closing comments ahead of the clash?
All I have to say is that this will be no ‘walk in the park’ for Maccarinelli. I am coming to win!
Thanks Jesper, and good luck next week.
Thanks to Jesper and Henrik Risum for helping to set up this interview.
Comments and feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org