‘I know how Ricky’s Girl Felt. It’s Horrific. One Lethal Blow and That Could be it’
The pain and fear of watching a loved one get hurt in the ring was all too clear to see on the face of Jennifer Dooley, the fiancée of Ricky Hatton, when he was knocked out by Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas the last week. Those feelings are known all too well by Elouise Maccarinelli, the wife of Enzo Maccarinelli, the former WBO cruiserweight champion with whom she has four children.
Sitting ringside supporting a loved one can be a harrowing experience. Last year, Elouise, 33, was feet away when Enzo, 28, was stopped in two rounds by David Haye and, in March, she was there when he was heavily knocked down and stopped against Ola Afolabi. Here she tells The Times that, despite her fears, she remains completely supportive of her husband’s career.
I watched Ricky’s fight and can appreciate exactly how Jennifer felt. Before the fight, Pacquiao’s wife looked as cool as a cucumber, but when Ricky came into the ring, Jennifer looked on the verge of tears. She was trying to compose herself, but was welling up. You feel it the moment the music starts, because you know it’s time for the fight to start. I’m just like that too.
I pray that Enzo is going to be all right. It’s horrific. You just don’t know what is going to happen, one blow and that could be it. When I saw Jennifer at the end, I completely understood where she was coming from. Enzo’s last defeat and Ricky’s defeat are your worst nightmare.
I met Enzo when he was 19 and had only had a couple of professional fights. I’d never been to a fight live before, but I was brought up watching boxing, my mother loved it. She loved Barry McGuigan and my family used to sit down on a Saturday night and watch him or Chris Eubank or Evander Holyfield. You can imagine how happy she was when I told her I was going out with a boxer.
When I started going out with Enzo, I wouldn’t go to his fights. The atmosphere is completely different live than it is on TV, everything is much closer and on top of you. But I started going and I still wouldn’t watch. They give you a programme at ringside and I would just bury my face in it and listen to the crowd.
Watching Enzo being hit, or the fear of him being hurt, is something I will never get used to. The people I sit with are Enzo’s father, his nephew, Tobias, and friends and they always give you reassurance and you can hear from the noise of the crowd if he is doing well or not.
What happened with David Haye was my worst nightmare. It was everything you never want to see but I saw it all and what made it worse was that it happened all in the corner near my seat.
For the last fight [against Afolabi], Enzo got hurt in the third round and I burst out crying and went to the toilets. I just knew there was something wrong with Enzo that night and I had to get away. I asked someone if the fight was still going on and he said, “Yes”, then I asked another boy and he said that Enzo had been knocked out.
I ran back to ringside and my oldest daughter, Lucia, who is 15, was hysterical. Fortunately, Enzo was all right. I’ve never seen a tape of that fight, although I saw photos.
When he boxed Wayne Braithwaite [a successful defence of his WBO title in 2007], it was two weeks before I gave birth to Luca, so I couldn’t go. Instead I went out for the night with my mum. It was the longest night of my life — I would rather have been at the fight.
We went for a cup of coffee in the Mumbles, near to our home in Swansea, but the place had the fight on a big screen. So we drove around but it was on in about every pub.
But you can’t get it out of your mind. I was texting my friend to see how it was going. In the end I was texting three times a round. It would have been easier being there because at least you know what is going on. Not knowing is worse.
Because we have four children, that takes up a lot of time and it takes your mind off it in the run-up to a fight. They help keep Enzo relaxed, too. But when he goes away on the Wednesday before a fight, I start to worry.
I could never ask Enzo not to box. He was a boxer when I met him and it would be like asking him not to do his dream. But I hate him doing it. He’s putting his life on the line when he gets in the ring. One blow and I might never see my husband again. It can happen in any type of sport — we do speak about it together — and there was that case recently with the rugby league player [Leon Walker] in Maesteg who died during a match.
But it is different with boxing because it is a contact sport. They are in there to knock each other out, to hurt each other. As long as he is a boxer, I will always support him and his wishes.
Before a fight, he can tell I’m nervous, but I tend to say nothing. I can tell when he’s feeling nerves, too. Over the years you just learn to shut up, you can’t have any stress and animosity around the house.
I was one of the first people to tell him after his last defeat to carry on. I just knew he was better than that and that he shouldn’t retire after something like that. Enzo is always someone who has done boxing because he loves it first.
From a young age he always wanted to be the best, wanted to be a world champion. Money is secondary. He’s not someone who is coming back out of greed.
We went away on holiday and I told him he needed to think about what he wanted to do. He decided it would be best if he travelled away from home to train. He goes to Manchester four nights a week and comes home at weekends. It makes it harder with the kids, but it is something he has to do.
Enzo is very well known around Swansea. He is always doing things for local charities or going in to schools to talk to the kids. He gets letters all the time asking him to do things and he really hates it when he has to say no to anyone. One of our kids is quiet and hates it when others kids ask him for autographs.
Natalia, who is 7, always goes to the gym with Enzo and loves going to watch boxing shows with him. She even sits down and watched Rocky with him.
Not all wives and girlfriends are the same. Jo-Emma, who is Joe Calzaghe’s partner, gets nervous before fights but always watches. Kevin Mitchell’s partner, Amanda, gets very nervous, but gets stuck right in, always shouting, “Come on Kevin” when he is boxing.
Boxing will always be a part of Enzo’s life. He is always training — he goes out running on Christmas Day. His dad runs a boxing gym and he is always supporting the boys from there.
Our son Luca is nearly 2, and I have another boy on the way. Maybe they will be boxers one day themselves. If they want to be, I’ll support them, too.