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Martin Harkin: Second Bite

Martin Harkin says that beating Kaisee Benjamin convincingly on Saturday night will finally enable him to put his last performance behind him.

The Scottish welterweight (13-1, 5 KOs) travelled to South Kirby in October to take on the elusive and highly skilled Michael McKinson on an MTK Global promotion. Harkin’s display left a sour taste in his mouth when his efforts were comfortably handled by the new Matchroom signing over ten rounds. The 29-year-old was dropped three times before the final bell and since that night has only watched a few rounds from the fight where he lost his unbeaten record.

The 300-mile trip to Coventry sees Harkin up against Kaisee Benjamin (11-1-1, 2 KOs) in a British welterweight title eliminator on Saturday night at the city’s Skydome venue. Fans in attendance and hopefully a healthy audience on Channel 5 (the card is headlined by Sam Eggington v Carlos Molina) are just some of the incentives for Harkin to grab the bull by the horns and put the misery of losing to McKinson behind him.

Harkin, who by day works at the Procurator Fiscal’s office in Dumbarton, spoke to Boxing Social recently about McKinson and his shot at career redemption against Benjamin.

“I got quite convincingly beat in that last fight. I was disappointed with myself at the time. A lot of fighters take a loss and that’s it for them. I want to just keep pushing and rebuild. I don’t think you can judge me too much on that fight. That guy’s [McKinson] style is just so awkward, so slippery and negative. He done the exact same to his last opponent (Chris Kongo) who is also a good fighter. I just don’t feel you can judge myself on that performance. It would be ideal if this guy I’m fighting does. As they say you’re only as good as your last fight. If he’s seen something in that fight, then great for me because he’s certainly not a McKinson. He is a good fighter in his own right, different qualities, certainly not as awkward as McKinson and not as negative as McKinson. I think I’ll be able to put some better punches on this guy than I did in the last fight. I hope I can show what I am really capable of in this fight which is what I plan on doing.”

The defeat could well have had Harkin playing a long waiting game until an appetising fight proposal was on the table. The Scot says that he is only interested in meaningful fights and believes had he took a six-rounder, for example, it would have been a step back for his career. Out of nowhere, after coming home from training one day, Harkin found himself with an interesting offer on his Instagram page. From there Kaisee Benjamin v Martin Harkin was born.

 “Sometimes when you get beat, you need to go back, rebuild, get two or three fights before you get another opportunity. It’s weird actually. It [the Benjamin fight] came about through an Instagram message, that’s how the fight came about. It was strange. Some matchmaker had messaged me. I’d got home from training, went on my Instagram page and they said we might have an opponent for you and an opportunity for yourself if you’re interested. Once he mentioned Channel 5 it was a no-brainer. If everything goes well and goes to plan and I win in convincing fashion, then who knows what eyes could be on it. The Channel 5 viewing figures could be good. It’s not like you have to subscribe to this. It’s ideal, definitely.”

Harkin has drawn a line under his sole professional loss. Like any other athlete his focus is on moving forward rather than looking back at what might have been. The effort and time he gives to boxing prompts high expectations where only a win is acceptable. The flip side is sheer disappointment when that doesn’t materialise.

The horror-film enthusiast is as aware as the next fighter that a boxing career is a short one. When opportunity knocks there can only be one answer for fighters with the current profile of Martin Harkin. And this is one of the reasons which makes Saturday night high stakes for Harkin and would do for many of his countrymen if they were in the same position. The depth of talent in Scottish boxing comes and goes on the big stage. Normally, like the other Celtic nations, they look to one individual to carry the nation’s boxing hopes on its shoulders. Joe Calzaghe, Carl Frampton, Ricky Burns and Josh Taylor are past and present examples. A loss this weekend doesn’t mean retirement for Harkin, and he said as much in this interview, but the reality is should he lose there won’t be an immediate third chance after McKinson and Benjamin. The pressure, however, is now cranked up a little bit and the away fighter realises that.

“To be honest I do feel a slight bit of pressure because I’m not coming off a win, I’m coming off a loss,” said Harkin.

“One or two losses in this game is hard to come back from. It’s not going to look good either coming off back-to-back defeats. I wouldn’t retire or anything, but it would send me back down the rankings and I would have to go back and build up again. It’s definitely an important fight for myself. It’s an important fight for the opponent too. I’d imagine there’s pressure on both of us.

“I’ve been fortunate to get a second opportunity and I need to win this now. It’s at the stage if I lose this where do I go from there. I need to win this and win it well in my eyes.”

Harkin, who has a real passion for the cinema, has tickets booked for himself and his partner to watch A Quiet Place Part II next week. Missing the big screen and restaurants has been one of the few downsides of the pandemic for the Scot. Fortunately, his life hasn’t been affected too greatly otherwise and he hopes there won’t be a horror showing against Benjamin in Coventry. Only a happy ending will suffice.

Main Image: Hennessy Sports