The cruiserweight division is a woefully neglected division in the United States. But in Europe, the 200 pounders get a lot more attention and over the past generation, Marco Huck has been one of Germany’s biggest boxing stars.
His series with Ola Afolabi has also been one of this century’s best boxing rivalries. Saturday’s bout in Nordrhein-Westfalen will be their fourth meeting.
Huck reigned as the WBO cruiserweight champion from August 2009, when he beat Victor Emilio Ramirez, until August of last year when he got knocked out by Poland’s Krzysztof Glowacki in a stunning upset. During that six-year run, his only loss came against one of the top heavyweights on the planet, Alexander Povetkin, by hard-fought majority decision.
Afolabi was his toughest opponent during that time. They faced off for the first time in December 2009, with Huck taking a very close unanimous decision. Their second bout, in May 2012, was a draw. In June 2013, Huck won their third bout by majority decision.
Huck accounts for two of Afolabi’s four losses. Afolabi is a fighter who came up the hard way. He drew in his first professional fight. His first loss came in a fourth fight, a four-rounder against future contender Allan Green. He drew again in his sixth fight, another four rounder, and in a sixth rounder in his 12th fight. But since then, he has emerged as one of the division’s elite fighters.
Between 2005 and 2009, Afolabi beat Orlin Norris, Eric Field and Enzo Maccarinelli to earn his first crack at Huck. He lost a bid for the interim IBF title last April against Ramirez. But he rebounded last November to knockout Rakhim Chakhkiev in Round 5, claiming the interim IBO belt.
I honestly expected Huck’s return bout after getting stopped by Glowacki to be a rematch. That fight was televised in the United States and created a lot of buzz. It was my own runner-up for last year’s Fight of the Year and a second go-around would have gained some real attention for the cruiserweight division.
But with the history they share in Germany, Afolabi vs. Huck makes a certain sense from a business stand point. At 31, Marco Huck has been a pro for over a decade. Afolabi is 36. Both men have almost certainly seen their best days in the ring. But expect them to have more than enough left to write another interesting chapter.