The third installment of fights between cruiserweight rivals Ola Afolabi and WBO 200lb titlist Marco Huck promises to be the most thrilling as the Briton and German fighters have both declared war.
Alan Dawson – London
Marco Huck may have made a tenth successful defence of his WBO cruiserweight world title by obtaining an official win over challenger and fellow German, Firat Arslan, on Saturday, November 3 in Halle, but the champion failed to win over the crowd who booed the decision. On the same night, Lucian Bute got back to winning ways by outpointing Denis Grachev in Montreal, Quebec.
At the Gerry Weber Stadium stadium in the Nordrhein-Westfalen state in Germany, Huck (35-2-1, 25ko) seemingly had no answer for Arslan’s left uppercut, which he continually landed with aplomb for the majority of the early and middle rounds. In retaliation, Huck’s cannonry mostly cushioned off of Firat’s guard.
It was only until the latter stages in the argument where defending champ Huck – 15 years younger than his adversary – had his say and may have edged rounds ten to 12 on sheer activity alone.
But, when the scorecards were revealed – 115-113, 115-113 and, astonishingly, 117-111 – Arslan’s trainer Dieter Witmann failed to hide his anger, branding it “the biggest scam I have ever seen” and a “disgrace”.
Arslan (32-6-2, 21ko) agreed: “I’ve never experienced anything like this decision. I’ve seldom landed so many clean punches and he only scuffed me,” the veteran southpaw and former 200lb titlist was quoted to have said by Eurosport. “How can such a thing happen? This kind of thing is ruining boxing.
“I landed so many punches. I think the whole crowd believes I’m the winner. I’ve been robbed of my win. I would have been the new world champion today, I would have written history.”
Huck, showing defiance in defeat, said: “I think I landed more punches.”
In Canada four hours later, former IBF super middleweight ruler Bute (31-1-0, 24ko) boxed his way to a unanimous decision victory over previously undefeated Grachev (12-1-1, 8ko) and, in so doing, kept his case for a contractual rematch with his only conqueror – Carl Froch – in tact for the new year.
While Grachev was an unbeaten fast-rising contender with a good-looking win over Ismayl Sillakh on his resume, he remained a 9-1 underdog heading into fisticuffs with hometown favourite Bute. However, when leather was traded on fight night, a more competitive bout than anticipated ensued. Bute controlled the fight when the southpaw fought from distance and scored well with his jab and uppercut, however, he showed a vulnerability when Grachev backed him up onto the ropes during the contest’s midway point.
The 118-110 score granted to Bute appeared generous, with the two scores of 116-112 and 115-113 more on point but, regardless of winning margin, Lucian was buoyant in victory. “I’m very happy with my performance against a very tough opponent,” he said, as reported by The Montreal Gazette. “I took some shots, but he was very aggressive. It was a good experience for me.”
The defeated party was aggrieved post-fight and claimed the judging to be “unfair”. Grachev said: “Maybe I lost three or four rounds.”
With the win, Bute added the NABF light heavyweight belt to his honours roll. He will now wait on the result of Froch’s fight with Yusaf Mack on November 17 to find out whether his shot at redemption will go ahead as planned.
On The Beak – Admin
WBO interim cruiserweight titlist Ola Afolabi watched with interest on Saturday night as 200lb contenders Antonio Tarver and Lateef Kayode squared off in a twelve round bout at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California. Afolabi, though, regarded his two bouts with Marco Huck, who he regards to be the true cruiserweight champion, to be pugilism of a higher quality. The Briton’s manager even stated Ola would welcome a tussle with Lateef or Antonio.
(Embedded video above credit – YouTube, Gstaron76)
“It was a somewhat entertaining fight as they’re on similar levels, but both of my world title bouts with Marco Huck were much better fights. Marco is considered the best champion and we are truly world-class cruiserweights, competing at a higher level than either Tarver or Kayode,” said the Los Angeles resident Afolabi. “I would be very interested in the opportunity to defend my WBO title in this country against either of them on Showtime.”
Afolabi and Huck battled in a fight of the year candidate on Saturday, May 5 in Erfurt, Germany, in what was a sensational action-packed bout that was scored a draw at the conclusion of the memorable twelve round clash.
Said Tom Loeffler, managing director of K2 Promotions: “We all thought Ola beat Huck… it was a war and a huge event in Germany. I commend Showtime for showing this cruiserweight fight as the main event of their show, I know Ola would fight either Lateef or Antonio.”
Originally from London, England, Afolabi has trained in recent years at the Wild Card Boxing Gym in Hollywood.
“Ola has shown his interest in fighting the best cruiserweights in the world and has traveled all over Europe in the last four years to do so. It would be great to have him fight in the US again, now that the cruiserweights have been showcased and caught the attention of the US boxing fans.
Petra Kirsch – Gelsenkirchen
Cruiserweight champion of the WBO; Marco Huck, 27, has issued a riposte to Vitali Klitschko‘s trainer Fritz Sdunek‘s statement that the dominant heavyweight would eat Huck alive. The Käpt’n, who is 0-1-1, 0ko in 2012, believes either Klitschko would experience problems if Marco was served up as an opponent and scoffed at the level of fighter Vitali is currently considering for his next match-up.
“I respect Mr Sdunek a lot but I am surely no snack for either Klitschko brother,” Huck stated, before claiming that Vitali would only be challenged by himself, and not the shortlist put to the Ukrainian likely headed by contender Manuel Charr. “I guess there was a mistake in the translation. You only have to look at all the names currently discussed as possible opponents for Vitali for September to know that I would be a far better option than any of the guys they are talking about. At least I always come to fight.”
Huck has already fought twice in 2012 and is yet to record a win. In his most recent outing, he was inseparable from 200lb rival Ola Afolabi, a regular sparring partner for both Klitschko siblings; Wladimir and Vitali. And, earlier in the year, Huck lost a disputed decision to Aleksandr Povetkin in what was his first trip in the heavyweight division.
“I know that I didn’t have my best day against Ola Afolabi – but I hung in there and defended my title. A fight against either Klitschko brother would be a completely different story. Afolabi was a mandatory fight, so I did what I had to do. If Fritz Sdunek wants to know what a fight between me and Vitali would look like he should watch the tape of me beating up Alexander Povetkin. That is the kind of Marco Huck Vitali would need to be ready for. And he would look as clumsy as Povetkin who was a huge favourite against me as well.”
Huck continued: “Instead, Vitali prefers to pick some kind of vegetable from the patch which is known as WBC world ratings. Fritz Sdunek was quoted saying I shouldn’t even talk about a Klitschko fight. With all due respect, Mr Sdunek, you mentioned my name and brought it up right now. And I think it’s because you know that none of the tomato cans Vitali is negotiating at the moment brings as much to the table as I do.”
Petra Kirsch – Gelsenkirchen
WBO cruiserweight world champion Marco Huck, 27, engaged in a fight of two halves with challenger Ola Afolabi, 31, at the Massehalle in Erfurt on Saturday, May 5 as Afolabi’s skill outshone Huck in rounds one to five only for Huck’s power to see him mount a macho comeback in the contest’s latter half. There were no knockdowns but the 12th became a contender for round of the year as both fighter’s went all in, only for a majority draw to be announced.
Official verdict: Majority draw (115-113 to Huck, 114-114, 114-114).
Walking out to the distinctive Favela melodies of classic Baile Funk – the unmistakeable sounds of the Copacabana ghettos in Brazil – it was clear reigning cruiserweight world champion Marco Huck had one thing in mind; to drag fast-improving 200lber Ola Afolabi into a street fight. Huck did just that when challenging Aleksandr Povetkin for the ‘Regular’ WBA heavyweight title in his most recent outing but was denied glory due to polarising judging but, in his first round back at cruiser, he fought tentatively as Afolabi controlled the pace, style and distance in the opening three minutes.
Captain Huck, a pug notorious for fighting more actively in the final 30 seconds of each round, threw too little shots to actually perturb his opponent from attack and so Afolabi sent thumping body shots into each side of Huck’s midsection, perhaps in an attempt to prevent any late onslaught. What may have attracted the attention of judges at ringside was one thunderous power punch from Huck (that Ola took extremely well – his sparring duties for the Klitschko brothers perhaps serving him well) but that was balanced by Afolabi seemingly flooring Huck at the round’s end. The Briton, though, was left questioning the referee why it was not given as a knockdown.
Afolabi’s shot selection was astute and his jabbing was particularly exquisite. Both fighters had clearly improved markedly since their first duel in 2009 (a competitive distance fight edged by Marco) but, from the first quarter of their rematch, it was Ola who was in control, reducing Huck to bleeding from his nose and mouth. Entering the second quarter, Afolabi continued his domination… his careful dismantling of Huck who, despite his best efforts to fight in the alleyways in Erfurt, was finding it an arduous task actually landing on a mobile target.
Nailing Huck with troubling uppercuts, Afolabi also landed jabs to the abs, right hands to the temple and pawing gloves through a weakening guard. When Huck attempted an attack, Afolabi easily glided away from danger, showing plentiful upper body movement and frustrating the home fighter. At fundamental levels, Huck was just getting out-skilled and, largely, schooled. In the sixth round, Huck landed one of his most meaningful punches and certainly one of the hardest overall, as he scored an uppercut that would have been labeled hellacious should he have been facing any number of the other cruiserweights but Afolabi was unfazed, underwhelmed and proving himself to be a tough OG.
A mental game ensued at the beginning of the second half of the contest. Slugs were exchanged… Afolabi with his trusted right hand and Huck with his typical flurry but the change in pace and fighting style was an un-necessary one for Ola, who had been dominating when he was boxing. In a punch-for-punch brawl, Huck traditionally excels.
Nicknamed ‘Capn’, Marco could easily be renamed ‘Left Hook’ Huck such was his ability to tee off from the wide angles whilst also combining the punch with straight rights. By the eighth round, Afolabi’s movement had deteriorated and so Huck’s accuracy improved.
Gameplans were vital in Huck v Afolabi II. Ola dominated when he was disciplined in the first five rounds and stuck to his boxing skills, but when he dug himself into the trenches, he was outgunned by Huck, whose famous final 30 second bursts became so intense that at the end of round nine he almost finished the fight. Afolabi was left covering up as Huck gave the Los Angeles-based Londoner a shellacking. Should Huck have continued that motif into the tenth, the same score would have appeared, but the exchanges were too even to split the combatants.
With Huck’s one fight foray at heavyweight, there were question marks over whether he would be conditioned enough having shed 20lbs+ to return to cruiser, however, in the championship rounds, Huck grew in strength. So much so, that in the final stanza, he did as he so long desired to – got into a Baile Funk ruckus – as he and Afolabi fired so many cannon balls into each others frames that the 12th will no doubt go down as a round of the year contender.
Neither fighter was rewarded for their grueling work as no victory was announced, rather, a majority draw. Considering the different styles of both men, the thrilling climax and their now two-fight history, a third showdown must surely be booked. With the draw, Huck and Afolabi moved to 34-2-1, 23ko and 19-2-4, 9ko respectively.
Photo credit: Karina Hessland
On The Beak – Admin
Robert Woge (8-0-0, 7ko) will face his next challenge on Saturday, May 5 at the Messehalle in Erfurt. Further to the three boxing highlights of Marco Huck’s WBO cruiserweight title defense, Robert Stieglitz’s mandatory defense of his super-middleweight belt and the bout for the vacant European heavyweight title between Kubrat Pulev and Alexander Dimitrenko, Robert Woge will take on his ninth opponent; Hungarian light heavy southpaw Ferenc Hafner (12-0-0, 9ko).
Hafner is currently unbeaten in his twelve fights as a professional, ending nine of the bouts early. The fight in Erfurt is a special occasion for the Bernburg-born Woge: “A lot of my friends will be there to support me. This is like a fight on home soil. I want to shine on the night.”
He certainly did during his last bout. The last man who fell victim to Woge was Carl Dilks on March 31 in Kiel.
Dilks got knocked down twice before the referee had to end the contest. “I am where I want to be,” said the German afterwards. “I was really nervous during my first outing at a Sauerland show back in October 2010. But that is definitely a thing of the past. I have arrived and it is going really well now.”
And so it should be. In Hafner, Woge is facing a previously undefeated professional: “I am taking him quite lightly. It was the same thing before the last match-up. I am always sparring against top quality opponents, therefore I can take on the next challenge in a relaxed manner,” said the resident of Halle an der Saale, in a calm manner. He then continued: “Of course it is tough to break the will of an opponent who is undefeated. But I am ready for the challenge. I only took four or five days off after my last fight. After that I immediately continued with the preparations for this fight. I am in great shape.”
The fact that his Hungarian opponent is a southpaw does not bother the prodigy of coach Ulli Wegner: “Actually I always did really well against southpaws during my amateur days,” the light-heavyweight explained. “I haven’t fought against one on a professional level but the Italian Roberto Cocco, who I faced last February, changed his style during the fight. That did not matter to me at all. In contrary, I still won against him early in round seven.”
Another exciting match-up is on the cards on May 5 in Erfurt as 175lbers Dustin Dirks and Thomas Ulrich, both from Germany, will square off in the Messehalle. Dirks is undefeated, having won all of his previous 23 fights (17 by way of knockout).
Ulrich on the other hand, surprisingly lost his last bout back in April 2011 against the Lithuanian Sergej Razvadovskij. The record of the former European Champion stands at 32 victories (22 by way of knockout) to six losses.
The fight in the Messehalle will determine who will play a bigger role in the future of the light-heavyweight division.
Up until now the bout has been ill-omened. The fight has already been rescheduled twice. The first time, Thomas Ulrich had to cancel the bout scheduled for January 14. During his training camp, the former European champion broke his left eye socket while sparring in the ring: “It was a fracture to my orbital cavity,” he said. “It looked worse than it actually was. But of course I was not able to step into the ring. Fortunately, I did not have to rest too much and I was able to continue with my running training,” Ulrich reminisced.
A lot is on the line for the 36-year-old. The former world title challenger and previous European champion knows that he will have a strong opposition in Dirks: “He is a tough kid, maybe even the rising star in the division,” said the boxer of coach Ali Yildirim. “If I manage to access only 80 percent of my abilities, it could be enough for a strong guy such as Dirks is.”
Coach Yildirim is just as confident as his boxer: “In my opinion, Thomas is still a natural. If he just keeps boxing and his head is right, he can challenge the very best the sport has to offer.”
Dustin Dirks is not underestimating his opponent. The prodigy of coach Otto Ramin had to pass on the second date of the fight scheduled for March 31 in Kiel: “It started off with a flu. Then I was head-butted during sparring and had a bruise. I had a huge headache. And it turned out that I also had a dislocation of a vertebra in my neck. Now I am fine and look forward to taking on Thomas Ulrich. I have never faced such a strong opponent,” Dirks said.
Although both men are from Berlin and both are signed to the same team, it is not about the prestige. “I treat every opponent the same way and with the same level of respect. Therefore it is a fight like any other. Some people may say that he is past his peak but I have to be prepared for every eventuality.
“He probably just had a bad day during his last fight. It could be a whole different thing when he squares off with me. Ulrich is very agile. He is also capable off throwing some fast punches. For both of us this fight will determine where we stand.”
As both Berlin-based men are in full training mode, the bout scheduled for May 5 should go ahead as planned and third time hopefully is the charm.
The night of boxing in Erfurt also offers some more world-class fights: former heavyweight world title challenger Marco Huck (34-2-0, 25ko) returns to 200lbs to defend his WBO cruiserweight belt against mandatory challenger and interim champion Ola Afolabi (19-2-3, 9ko).
Super middleweight star Robert Stieglitz (41-2, 23ko) also puts his belt on the line on the same night. The boxing fans can also look forward to a heavyweight title fight when Kubrat Pulev (15-0, 7ko) and Alexander Dimitrenko (32-1, 21ko) will battle it out for the vacant European championship.
On The Beak – Admin
There are three highlights at Erfurt, Germany’s night of boxing on Saturday, May 5: the WBO cruiserweight championship fight between Marco Huck (34-2-0, 25ko) and Ola Afolabi (19-2-3, 9ko); Robert Stieglitz (41-2-0, 23ko) defending his WBO super middleweight belt against George Groves (14-0-0, 11ko) and Kubrat Pulev (15-0-0, 7ko) against Alexander Dimitrenko (32-1-0, 21ko) for the vacant European heavyweight title.
The fight for the European heavyweight crown promises to be very interesting: “The fight against Alexander Dimitrenko is going to be the toughest of my career to this point,” said the 30-year-old Pulev. “First I want to be the champion of Europe. After that I will start thinking about which Klitschko I want to fight next.”
Conversely, the possibility of a shot against one of the Klitschko brothers is something Dimitrenko has not even thought about: “The only thing on my mind is the fight for the European title in Erfurt. I do not care about what other people are saying. I am taking one step after the other.” The 29-year-old also got himself a new coach in the Brit Scott Welch, to ensure that he will be victorious against Pulev. “We are currently preparing in Aschaffenburg,” admitted the former European champion. “Due to an injury I had to vacate my title. Now I am completely fine and I want to be the champion of Europe once more.”
Also on the card is George Groves who is gunning for his first world title. Unfortunately, the 24-year-old prodigy of coach Adam Booth could not attend the press conference in Erfurt, but Stieglitz is not taking his opponent lightly: “He is a good guy – young and hungry for success. But he hasn’t been in as many fights as I have. I believe that my experience is going to make the difference and give me the advantage for this bout,” stated the 32-year-old.
SES coach Dirk Dzemski is also expecting a victory: “Robert has held his title for three years now. He has every reason to be optimistic when he steps into the ring.”
A title defence against Arthur Abraham is next on the cards. Frederick Ness, general manager of Sauerland Event concluded: “We are happy that Robert Stieglitz is part of the fight card in Erfurt. He is a great athlete. If he should win against Groves, we can all look forward to an all German showdown versus Arthur.”
On The Beak – Admin
Marco Huck (34-2-0, 25ko) will return to the cruiserweight division following last month’s exciting clash with WBA heavyweight world champion Aleksandr Povetkin. After long talks with promoter Wilfried Sauerland and coach Ulli Wegner, Huck made the decision to continue at 200lbs, where he holds the WBO title. His next opponent will be mandatory challenger and interim champion Ola Afolabi (19-2-3, 9ko).
Next up for Povetkin is the mandatory defence against Hasim Rahman, while the earliest date for a potential rematch between Huck and Povetkin would be fall 2012. “We believe that defending his WBO cruiserweight belt is the best thing for Marco to do,” Sauerland said. “At the age of 27 he is still very young for a boxer. He can always move up to heavyweight later.”
Huck accepted Sauerland’s advice: “I would have loved to remain at heavyweight but my team convinced me to stay at cruiserweight for the time being,” he explained. “That’s fine for me. I am happy to continue my domination and keep destroying opponents.
“I will start with Afolabi,” he stressed. “He is a dangerous fighter but he has no chance against me.”
Talks regarding the date and the venue have already been held between Team Sauerland and Tom Loeffler, Afolabi’s representative. It will be second time they meet in the ring. After winning the WBO championship in August 2009, Huck made a spectacular first defence against Afolabi in December 2009. The 31-year-old has won five straight since, while Huck clinched seven more victories until his dramatic battle against Povetkin.
Petra Kirsch – Gelsenkirchen
The heavyweight division is firmly in the spotlight as, following on from Dereck Chisora’s valiant effort against Vitali Klitschko in Germany last week, Aleksandr Povetkin and Marco Huck exchanged slugs in the very same country, on Saturday, February 25 inside Stuttgart’s Porsche-Arena. King of the cruiserweights, Huck proved he could hang with the sport’s big men as he provided Povetkin with sterling competition. Aleksandr, meanwhile, was forced to show a champion’s instinct as he was forced to overcome the mid-contest tempo to grind out an epic win.
Official verdict: Povetkin wins by way of majority decision (116-113, 116-112, 114-114).
Following a range-finding opening round from both fighters, defending champion Povetkin began to take control in the second round due to his activity, ability to take on the role of ring general and his effective aggression. He threw punches in bunches… often in two to three shot bursts and varied his attention to the head and body, even causing Huck to bleed from the mouth.
In the third, Huck began to feel the power difference from accepting punches from a cruiserweight and a heavyweight as Povetkin landed his assertive jab with ease and followed up with a hard right hand.
The fourth round saw a shift in momentum as Huck stole the authority away from Povetkin by connecting with huge right hands that staggered the Russian. Povetkin, though, recovered quickly and showed off his technical superiority in the final minute by letting his fists go, making Huck miss by slipping and ducking before spoiling, but there was no escaping the fact that.
Endurance proved to be a factor in the fifth and sixth stanzas as the tempo in the preceding rounds had had a clear effect on Povetkin’s energy reserves… the reigning ‘Regular’ WBA champ was lagging, while Huck commanded a lead in the contest with his jab.
Povetkin attempted to box his way back into scoring in the seventh with double uppercuts but his good work was increasingly sabotaged by Huck’s clubbing overhand rights and his rough-housing game-plan. Huck finished the round in incredible form, forcing Povetkin onto the ropes, sapping the undefeated big man of his strength and energy and the sight of Povetkin turning his back to the action on numerous occasions became an alarming one.
In the eighth round, the motif of Povetkin’s technical skills getting overshadowed by Huck’s speed, willingness to take chances and fitness continued. What Povetkin arguably needed most, was Teddy Atlas, but his head coach was unable to take control of his heavyweight fighter’s corner because of his contractual obligation to ESPN. When Povetkin won the ‘Regular’ WBA belt against Ruslan Chagaev, he lagged in the middle of the fight – much like he did versus Huck in Stuttgart – and it required a rousing Atlas speech to provide Povetkin with a second wind, something that he – crucially – was also able to muster this evening.
Povetkin may have entered the tenth round on shaky legs, but he finished it sturdy as he left Huck weeping blood out of his eye and flurried exquisitely. By the 11th, Huck, if he had not realised already, was in a real heavyweight fight as his was considerably marked up, boxed defensively as Povetkin counter-punched to a ten score. The tale of the 12th, though, was entirely different as Huck landed three huge right hands that almost sealed the upset victory before what had appeared to be the necessity of the judges scorecards. The shots shook Povetkin up, but the Russian remained vertical.
The crowd at the Porsche Arena were raucous from beginning to end, cheering what had been an undeniable slobberknocker and, while Huck was the aggressor and had the edge on On The Beak‘s unofficial scorecard, there was no escaping the fact that it was Huck’s cornermen who were working on their man’s cuts by the end of the fight… their white medical gloves caked in the claret of a slugger who fought with pride for 36 thrilling minutes but his bloodied and bruised face was a stark contrast to Povetkin’s cleaner appearance.
Two of the three judges at ringside favoured Povetkin’s physicality and technique, over Huck’s courage, pride and desire to slug as the defending champ retained possession of the WBA title and remained unbeaten in what will no doubt be a replayable contest.
With the win, he rose to 24-0-0, 16ko while Huck suffered his second professional defeat and dropped to 35-2-0, 26ko.
On The Beak – Admin
Regular WBA heavyweight world champion Aleksandr Povetin (23-0-0, 16ko) and WBO cruiserweight world champion Marco Huck (34-1-0, 25ko) faced the media this week at the final press conference ahead of their showdown in Stuttgart on Saturday, February 25: “Povetkin is good, but I can beat him. We once did sparring together and he has bad memories of me,” the challenger revealed. “On Saturday I will be the new champ. He is going down!”
“I’m ready to become heavyweight champion,” Huck continued. “I would not have taken the fight if I didn’t believe in myself.
While Huck tried his best to provoke Povetkin, the 32-year-old Russian remained calm: “At first I was surprised about Huck’s challenge because he has never fought at heavyweight before but I am happy to defend my title against anybody out there. I am in great shape and I will win.”
Huck’s coach Ulli Wegner expects a hard-fought battle: “This will be an exciting fight,” he said. “It’s time to bring back some excitement to the heavyweight division and Saturday will be the first step. We believe that Marco has a better stamina than Povetkin but we will find out about that in the ring.”
Said Povetkin’s coach Alexander Zimin: “We had a very good preparation. Alexander has improved physically, I would say he is 20 to 30 percent stronger than in his last fight. But the best is yet to come. He has got great potential.”
Promoter Kalle Sauerland said the clash will be a real treat for fans: “This is what the heavyweight division needs,” he stated. “It will be very exciting. Both are fast, aggressive, strong and full of confidence. And both do not always have the best defence. It’s going to be spectacular.”