“They’ll rob me if it goes to points so I’m going in with that mentality and attitude to end the fight myself.”
Martin Harkin says this is the opportunity he has been waiting for since he began boxing at eight-years-old.
This Sunday, the unbeaten Scottish welterweight fights the highly skilled and elusive Michael McKinson on an MTK Global event in South Kirby. Harkin has had 13 fights as a professional and has never really had the exposure that will present itself this weekend on a show which will be broadcast live on YouTube.
Harkin, 28, spoke to Boxing Social ahead of the biggest fight of his career, which would open a number of doors that he has really only been able to look at, to date, rather than getting the nod to knock on them and then kick them down.
His preparations have seen him venture south over the Border to spar ‘The Sandman’ Lewis Ritson, Whilst another journey has taken him north, three hours away from his home in Dumbarton, to Aberdeen mixing it up with another welterweight compatriot Dean Sutherland. These trips and workouts have put Harkin into a mindset of satisfaction that this camp, which has been mentally and physically tiring, have him in the best possible condition to tackle the tricky McKinson.
“I’m feeling sharp in sparring, I’m performing well, and my coach [Danny Lee] is happy with it but it’s just about delivering on the night,” said Harkin during a break from his job at the Procurator Fiscal’s office in Dumbarton.
Harkin then told Social what he thinks of his foe on Sunday and what he will have to do to upset the favourite who the World Boxing Organisation have positioned at No.8 in their welterweight rankings.
“From the footage I’ve seen on Michael he’s good. He’s foxy, he’s tricky, he can be quite negative at times,” said Harkin (13-0, 5 KOs). “He coasts and he likes to steal rounds. He might not be the most exciting to watch but it’s up to me to force him to fight my fight and that’s the attitude I’m going in with.”
But how do you force a fighter, already described as “quite negative” by Harkin, to get involved in the type of battle that will suit the underdog perfectly?
“One fact I know is that I’m never getting the decision against him if it goes to points. MTK, his management company, have invested a lot of money in him. He’s got a WBO ranking. [I am acting like] they’ll rob me if it goes to points so I’m going in with that mentality and attitude to end the fight myself. I don’t think he’s been in with anybody like me.
“There are a few people that he’s beat which are good names, but I think he’s the sort of fighter you can take more risks with because he doesn’t carry a dig. I don’t think he’s got power judging by his record, but anybody can get caught on the chin on any given night and it could be lights out. My priority is to close him down, bring him into my distance and not let him dictate. He likes to settle into his own pace. It’s up to me to really put the pressure on him. I need to impose my game on him.
“He sits back and he’s quite unorthodox. I think that’s why a lot of people don’t fight him. It’s not so much he’s a dominant and feared fighter but he’s got that potential to make good fighters look bad. Without sounding disrespectful, I think he’s very effective at what he does but I believe I am the better fighter overall. I believe I’ve got more tools than him. I think I can fight on the inside; I think I can fight a medium fight and I can box when I want to. I don’t want to say he’s one-dimensional, but his preference is to keep the fight long and keep guys on the back foot.”
On Sunday, we will be told a familiar tale of an away fighter attempting to make a name for himself on a stage he has never been on. Harkin is a family man and dedicated to the path he began 20 years ago. One who has never strayed towards nights out at the weekend or been tempted by vices that can put any one of us on a path of self-destruction. His father Robert blazed the family’s boxing trail for his son, to an extent, challenging for the Commonwealth and British super-lightweight titles between 1988 and 1989. Harkin Senior lost in Australia and Wolverhampton to Lester Ellis and Pat Barrett respectively. Martin was never forced into the sport; he simply fell in love with it from an early age and he describes boxing as his “first love”.
“I just love the satisfaction of putting on a good performance and winning. I’m a winner. I enjoy boxing, it’s all I’ve ever known really,” he said.
Scotland, like the other Celtic nations, usually has one or two stars who carry the nation’s boxing hopes on their shoulders with pride and passion. Sometimes longer than they have to. But nestled in behind is a group of boxers who are desperate for one chance to change their life. And one chance is what they might only get in the current climate. A loss on Sunday and Harkin goes back to a day job he has enjoyed since he started it in 2016, but unsure of what the future holds for himself or boxing shows in Scotland because of the ongoing Covid-19 situation.
“As soon as I was offered the fight, I took it without hesitation,” said Harkin. “It makes sense. He’s well above me in the rankings. I think it’s a riskier fight for him. I go down there, I beat him, I take his ranking and massive doors open. It puts me right up there. Scotland is not a big dominant boxing nation and not a lot of big fighters come out of it, so I think I’m relatively unknown, but I think if anybody watches the performances of my previous fights they’ll be quite impressed. I think I just need the right person to see what I can do, and I think this is the platform that I can deliver it on. I’m just grateful I’ve got this chance because I don’t think there will be any fights or shows in Scotland any time soon.”
Victory on Sunday could place Harkin in a predicament that most fighters would say yes to before hearing the question in full. If you got the opportunity to box full-time, would you take it?
“I would always like something to fall back on if I don’t make the end goal in boxing, if I don’t get where I want to be. It’s something I would consider if everything starts to go to plan and I start boxing for domestic titles,” he said. “It would be something I would need to sit down and think about and talk to my family about. Then again, my pal did say to me the other day, ‘Martin, you’re getting up there now and you’re getting this cracking opportunity. You can always go back and work in an office job, you can’t really turn back the clock with your boxing career.’ This is one chance, one shot. It’s a short career so I need to grab this opportunity with both hands and see how far I can go.”
Photo: Martin Harkin/MTK Global.