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.
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
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.
Alan Dawson – London
Reigning WBC heavyweight world champion Vitali Klitschko will enhance his knockout ratio on September 10 at the Municipal Stadium in Wroclaw, Poland, according to sparring partner Ola Afolabi, who claims that Tomasz Adamek’s desire to “fight and not run” will ensure his trainer, Roger Bloodworth, will have to throw in the towel to “save him from himself“. Afolabi competes on the undercard against Lukasz Rusiewicz in an eight round cruiserweight fight.
Afolabi (17-2-3, 8ko), a seasoned campaigner in the 200lb (14 stones 4) weight division, has solid defensive capabilities, good head and upper body movement and deceptive power in his right hand.
Born in London, raised in England and Nigeria before making a pit-stop to train out of Los Angeles, Afolabi embarked on a voyage he’s made a number of times before (for Vitali and Wladimir) as he headed to Klitschko’s main training base in Austria (pictured left) to link up with Vitali and trainer Fritz Sdunek.
For four weeks he provided long-reigning WBC titlist Klitschko (42-2-0, 39ko) with his main preparation for the Ukrainian’s upcoming defence against former two-weight world champion Tomasz Adamek (44-1-0, 28ko).
“I don’t remember how many rounds [we boxed],” 31-year-old Afolabi exclusively told On The Beak. “But four days a week for four weeks, and he’s looking sharp,” Ola added, issuing a warning to Adamek.
The Pole, who fights in front of an estimated 42,000 of his own fans in Wroclaw come Saturday night, has previously indicated that he expects his scrap with Vitali to escalate into a war – unlike David Haye’s tentative performance against Wladimir.
Afolabi, though, opined that this will play into Vitali’s advantages and that a fighter as proud as Adamek will refuse to quit. His corner, headed by Roger Bloodworth, will therefore have to throw in the towel. Afolabi said: “I think Adamek will fight [and] not run. Vitali will stop him but I think Adamek’s corner will have to stop the fight because Adamek doesn’t know how to quit – they’ll have to save him from himself.”
Alan Dawson – London
Cruiserweight contender Ola Afolabi has been stood up seven times en route to his September 10 date with late replacement Lukasz Rusiewicz. Afolabi and Rusiewicz provide the chief support to K2 Promotions stablemate Vitali Klitschko’s heavyweight title clash with Tomasz Adamek in Germany, and London-born Afolabi spoke exclusively with On The Beak about training camp, his 200lb rivals, learning from new trainer Fritz Sdunek, and being an avoided fighter.
It won’t be long before Andre 3000 will have to revisit his lyric sheet to apply Tipp-Ex correction fluid over his answer to what’s cooler than being cool? ‘Ice cold’ was the initial answer, but Ola Afolabi is ahead of it. The man is happy-go-lucky with a dapper dress sense and a fine sense of humour outside of the ring, but meet him inside that square circle and you better watch out for his bastard of an overhand right or he’ll knock your bloody block off.
The 31-year-old has next to no amateur career to speak of, was propelled into the professional ranks for need of money, but has – in the past – credited his foundations in the sport to defending himself against seven boisterous older brothers… two of whom are boxers, together with his father, who was also a fighter.
His 17-2-3 record with 8ko may, on the face of it, seem like he lacks power, but since signing with K2, training with Sdunek and sparring the Klitschko siblings Wladimir and Vitali, Afolabi has developed multiple aspects of his game – including strength.
Afolabi was slated to box undefeated Polish sensation Pawel Kolodziej but a car accident sustained by the national star inhibited his ability to train effectively. K2 attempted to draft in Mateusz Masternak, another highly-rated Polish cruiser, but he rejected the offer as it was deemed too short notice to take on someone as dangerous as Ola.
Considering the amount of time it took to find someone willing to take on Afolabi (Rusiewicz was only confirmed the middle of this week – four days prior to fight night), a natural lead question to ask Ola concerned his approach to training when an opponent is not confirmed: “It’s okay when you don’t know the opponent… that way you can just keep training hard, but when you know the opponent and you study for his specific style and then he pulls out, that’s when it’s more difficult because you’re trained specifically for him,” Afolabi said to On The Beak.
“I’ve had seven potential opponents this camp,” he added. “They’re either scared or scared! We have found a last minute guy, he has nine wins and ten losses but I must still take him seriously as a man with nothing to lose can be dangerous. This fight will just be an eight rounder to keep me active and not waste a good training camp.”
So how has training been? “Training camp is training camp: a lot of hard work and a lot of hard sparring. Training with Fritz has totally changed and improved my style. I have trained with world class trainers before but never with one that has as much time or spends as much time with me personally than Fritz, so I learn more.”
Fritz Sdunek is an esteemed trainer in central Europe who, as well as Afolabi, trains Vitali Klitschko (42-2-0, 39ko) and middleweight ruler Felix Sturm (36-2-1, 15ko), both of whom hold major championship belts and it won’t be long before Ola joins them as the chipper prizefighter is currently ranked second best cruiser by the WBO, third with the WBA, seventh by the WBC, seventh in the IBF and ninth with The Ring (ninth also by On The Beak).
Afolabi announced his arrival on the world circuit in 2009 when he dropped the jaws of onlookers by knocking out Enzo Maccarinelli at the MEN Arena. Enzo had dominated the scorecards up until the middle rounds due to a higher work-rate, however, by the eighth and most notably the ninth round, fatigue crept in, his defence became leaky and Afolabi sensed the stoppage. Body-shots lowered Maccarinelli’s guard and he staggered the Welshman with an uppercut before finishing him with a hard overhand right.
Along with perhaps Giovani Segura in Mexico and Arthur Abraham in Germany, Enzo Mac in England was the most high-profile fighter operating in the world on that night. He was a 20 to one odds-on favourite to defeat Afolabi, so for Ola to win by knockout was a headline-grabbing feat. He became an interim champion with the WBO due to the win and was therefore granted a shot at full WBO titlist, Marco Huck, whom he dropped a closely-contested decision to later that year.
Afolabi then committed to K2 and bounced back while operating under their banner and fighting on Klitschko undercards. He beat Sandro Siproshvili by way of decision when Vitali out-pointed Shannon Briggs in 2010, he stopped Lubos Suda in five rounds due to cuts on the same night Vitali embarrassed Odlanier Solis in the opening stanza earlier this year and then Ola got his own first round knockout – struck once more with the overhand right – against Terry Dunstan when Wladimir silenced David Haye.
This weekend he again partners up with one of his sparring partners, Vitali, as Klitschko takes on Adamek when he goes to work with Rusiewicz, however, Afolabi stressed that he is ready to headline a show himself and is gunning for vengeance against Cap’n Huck.
“Next year I see myself knocking out Marco Huck. Till then I’ll fight any big fight,” Afolabi vowed, clearly not short on cojones.
Ola has fought predominantly in the US, latterly in Germany and only once in England, but was swift to note: “I prefer to fight where I am loved the most, which so far is UK and Germany, but I represent the UK.”
At it’s coolest, ice cold is absolute zero. British fight fans are already warm on Afolabi, evidenced by their raucous ‘winter wonderland’ chanting of “There’s only one Afolabi… walking along, singing a song, walking in an Ola wonderland,” at his last contest, so should he continue to spark opponents out, upset odds and fortify his standing amongst the division’s elite, then Britain will long continue to support a hero in a weight class that may be on the cusp of heating up.