Ola Afolabi and Huck box a barnburner but Marco retains WBO belt after majority draw verdict

5 May

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.

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Kirsch’s scorecard

Round 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
10 10 10 10 10 9 9 9 9 10
9 9
9 9 9
9 9 10 10 10 10 10 10 10

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.

Germany’s two premier trainers Fritz Sdunek (left) and Olli Wegner (right) were inseparable as their boxers fought a draw

Photo credit: Karina Hessland

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