By Michael Norby: California based Englishman Ola Afolabi claimed the WBO interim cruiserweight boxing world title and in the process, exploded onto the world stage on Saturday night after he demolished former world champion Enzo Maccarinelli with a massive right hand in the ninth round at The MEN Arena in Manchester, England.
Although not exactly a household name, Afolabi 14-1-3 (6) proved his quality and toughness by handing highly touted power puncher Eric Fields his first defeat last April and his stunning victory this evening propels him firmly into the cruiserweight mix. It was a catastrophic defeat for Maccarinelli 29-3 (22) who was actually in the process of out-boxing his opponent and, apart from a shaky third round in which he was wobbled by a right hand, he looked to be in control.
A year after being brutally knocked out by David Haye, however, the Welshman’s famously glass-like chin again proved again to be his undoing as Afolabi left him sprawled on the canvas after landing a crushing right hand midway through the ninth round.
Afolabi planted his jab into the face and body of the Welshman to begin the first round and managed to keep Maccarinelli at bay with that punch alone for the first half of the frame. A straight right hand and left hook to the body signaled the former champion’s first success of the contest but Afolabi answered back with a right hand to the temple that stopped his foe’s assault. Maccarinelli was able to find his opponent’s body with a string of punches through the final minute, however, and clearly connected with the more telling shots of the three minutes.
Afolabi reverted to his jab in the second and ducked under a lot of what Maccarinelli threw at him to begin the round. Indeed, most of the power shots that both men attempted found either air or arms which made for a rather messy looking contest. In the final minute, however, the Welshman pinned his foe against the ropes where the two fighters scored with short hooks and uppercuts – but neither boxer came out of the exchange, or the round, with a clear advantage.
Macarinelli completed some eye-catching work early in the third round, however, after he landed an accurate series of body and head shots as his opponent rested against the ropes. Afolabi answered with body work of his own and, later in the round, he landed a vicious right hook that badly stunned Maccarinelli – only the bell arguably saving the naturally weak chinned former champion from total disaster.
Given that Afolabi has only managed to stop five opponents, the extent to which he hurt Maccarinelli displayed just how much of an Achilles heel that the Welshman’s chin can be. He recovered well enough to out-work the 28-year-old in the fourth round, although Afolabi spent most of the three minutes either covering up or clowning around. A curious tactic by the Londoner who elected against trying to press forward to capitalize on the damage he inflicted in the previous round.
This drowsy strategy allowed Maccarinelli to pocket rounds in the middle portion of the fight by strafing his opponent with head and body shots that, although Afolabi took well, scored heavily and built confidence. In the sixth round, the former champion wobbled his opponent with a left hook upstairs and looked in complete control as his body work began to seep energy and desire from Afolabi.
After another winning and workmanlike effort in the seventh, Maccarinelli’s trainer Enzo Calzaghe implored his man to use the uppercut, which he did to great effect throughout the eighth round. The Welshman scored beautifully with that punch and further stamped his authority on the fight with a constant work rate as Afolabi, surely realizing that he was well behind on points, searched for a jackpot punch.
With Maccarinelli’s desperate history of chin problems, there was never a calm moment in the fight. Indeed, in the ninth round, when Afolabi finally decided to step on the gas, the Welshman backed up and looked uncomfortable with the pressure. Midway through the round, Afolabi reached back and thumped Maccarinelli with a stunning right hook that sent the former champion crashing to the floor.
The 28-year-old bravely made it to his feet late in the count but, after taking a close look, referee Terry O’Connor immediately stopped the fight.
Time of stoppage: 1:50 RD9