Marco Huck (right), of Germany, retained his WBO cruiserweight title when he and rival Ola Afolabi (left), of England, fought to a majority draw last May at Messehalle in Erfurt, Germany. Photo / Karina Hessland-Bongarts
When Marco Huck takes on Ola Afolabi on Saturday it will be for the third time in their heated rivalry, one that always seems destined to be closely contested. If these two fought 100 times we’d have a tough time dividing them.
They first met in 2009 with Huck winning a close 12-round decision. Afolabi wanted a rematch but had to wait until last year, and this time the judges couldn’t separate either participant with the official verdict being a draw. Now both veterans know they have to lay it all on the line. The rubbermach takes place in Berlin, Germany, which happens to be Huck’s hometown.
Stylistically, these two are poles apart, the marauding seek-and-destroy style of Huck, who fights behind a high tight guard, against Afolabi’s cute shoulder-roll defenfe and counter-punching skills.
In Germany, Huck (35-2-1, 25 knockouts) is one of the most popular fighters, regularly drawing crowds to an array of areas throughout his adopted homeland (he is originally from Serbia).
Last year, in his three contests, he drew 32.7 percent of the market share for the Alexander Povetkin heavyweight tussle, while 23.8 percent tuned in for the Afolabi rematch and 26.8 percent watched his close battle with Firat Arslan.
The 28-year-old “Capt. Huck” won the WBO strap in 2009, retaining it 10 times so far, last time out equaling the cruiserweight title defense mark set by Juan Carlos Gomez. He’s closing in on the division record of 13 held by Johnny Nelson.
Huck took time out to share his thoughts on a variety of things with RingTV.com.
Anson Wainwright: On June 8 you meet Ola Afolabi for the third time. What are your thoughts going into the fight?
Marco Huck: I am feeling very good at the moment. I didn’t want to be feeling guilty when we faced each other a third time; therefore I gave 100 percent during training.
AW: You know each other having shared a ring for 24 rounds, what do you think of him as a fighter? Can you break down what you see as his strengths and weaknesses?
MH: I know that he is a good boxer, otherwise he wouldn’t be my mandatory challenger. Hence, I have to take him serious. He has improved in boxing terms. But I will do what I can to in order to destroy him.
A weakness? Everyone has something.
AW: Originally Don King won the purse bid to your fight with Afolabi. He defaulted and so for a while you didn’t know exactly what was happening. What was that period of time when you didn’t know what was happening like?
MH: It was a weird feeling as I didn’t know when I would get to step into the ring. It has an effect on you, especially on your training. You don’t know whether you have to prepare for an upcoming fight or if you just have to keep yourself in decent shape. This was an extraordinary situation.
AW: Your last fight was back in November when you met Firat Arslan. He gave you a very tough fight, looking back on that contest what are your thoughts?
MH: I don’t really think about that fight anymore. It is in the past and not relevant to my current situation. I won against Arslan, although I made it very difficult for myself. That’s about it.
AW: You’re from Serbia. Can you tell us about your youth there and making the move to Germany?
MH: I was born in Serbia but we moved to Germany when I was only 8 years old, so I don’t have a lot of memories. Now, there are days I visit my old home on a regular basis as I still have family there. It is also a good place to relax and to remember where I have come from. I believe it is very important to remember that no matter where you are now.
AW: You came into boxing with a strong Taekwondo background. You were actually a former world champion?
MH: I started off with Taekwondo and won pretty much everything. After being successful in the sport I had to look for a new challenge. Therefore, I picked up kickboxing. Again, I was very successful. I was the world champion for the German team at age 18. And again I had to look for a new challenge. I actually stood in front of the mirror and said to myself “I need to do something new.” I want to be a world champion in professional boxing. And so I got into boxing.
AW: For much of your career, you’ve been trained by Ulli Wegner. He’s known as one of the best trainers ever in Germany. Can you tell us about the relationship the two of your share?
MH: I have an amazing relationship with Mr. Wegner. He is a real educator not only in the sport boxing but also in life in general. He is very knowledgeable and guides you as an athlete but also in my private life. His influence on my career is undoubtedly huge. He took me on as a young kid and turned me into the champion I am today. I owe him pretty much everything.
AW: Sixteen months ago you met Alexander Povetkin up at heavyweight. You put forth a very good performance only narrowly losing a questionable decision to him. Looking back, what are your thoughts on that fight? Is it likely we may see you go up to heavyweight again?
MH: It was a great all-action fight, especially for the fans of boxing. Unfortunately I didn’t end in the way that I was hoping for and I was very disappointed. But life goes on and so I just got on with it. I don’t know yet if I will return to the heavyweight division. But, as always, everything is possible.
AW: What are your thoughts on the cruiserweight division at the moment, it looks pretty talented? What do you think of the current titleholders of the WBC, Krzysztof Wlodarczyk, the IBF and RING champion Yoan Pablo Hernandez, and WBA beltholder, Guillermo Jones?
MH: I believe that the cruiserweight division is currently one of the most talented and exciting divisions in the sport. All of the current champions must be very good; otherwise they would not be holding a belt.
AW: Let’s look at our cruiserweight rankings (as of , if you can give us your thoughts:
Champ: YOAN PABLO HERNANDEZ (RING & IBF) – My teammate, a southpaw and a good technician.
1. MARCO HUCK (WBO) – no comment.
2. KRZYSZTOF WLODARCZYK (WBC) – He is physically very strong and rightfully holding a world title.
3. OLA AFOLABI – The guy I have to fight next. I cannot wait to get rid of him, finally.
4. GUILLERMO JONES (WBA) – Had an impressive outing in his win over Lebedev.
5. DENIS LEBEDEV – I already shared the ring with him in a good scrap in 2010. Has a fighter’s instinct as one could have seen in his fight vs. Jones.
6. LATEEF KAYODE – He fought Tarver to a draw so he cannot be that bad. Still, I really cannot comment on him as I haven’t seen him fight.
7. MATEUSZ MASTERNAK – Also fights for Team Sauerland, the current European Champion.
8. TROY ROSS – Had the chance to win a world title on several occasions but came up short against (Steve) Cunningham and Hernandez.
9. FIRAT ARSLAN – He gave me a real fight back in November. He fights like a machine considering his age. I wouldn’t mind a rematch down the line.
10. DMYTRO KUCHER – Sorry, but I never heard of him.
AW: What did you think of the Guillermo Jones-Denis Lebedev fight?
MH: One of the best fights I have seen in a long time. Lebedev was affected early by his right eye, it was awfully swollen but he fought through it and gave Jones a good scrap. It was a real give and take (fight) with both of them landing hard shots to the other one’s chin.
AW: Tell us about yourself as a person, what do you enjoy doing away from boxing?
MH: I actually have a lot of interests. But the most important thing for me is to enjoy my life. No matter what I do, I always try to make sure that I am happy. It is no secret that I like to have a good time. I enjoy the good things in life. I like to be around my family, friends, all my loved ones. I go out for nice meals, I go on nice vacations, things that make me and the people closest to me happy.
AW: In closing do you have a message for Ola Afolabi ahead your meeting with him?
MH: Your time is over. I will destroy you and there won’t be any debate afterwards. The clock is ticking for you.