Arthur is one of the favorites for a reason
One look at Arthur Abraham in action might not be enough to convince you that he’s special.
The unbeaten Armenian-German super middleweight has an awkward style. He’s not a beautiful stylist. And he doesn’t appear to be particularly fast. “You watch him on TV and you think, ‘This guy looks so beatable,'” former middleweight titleholder Raul Marquez said.
Then Marquez stepped through the ropes and met Abraham face to face. And it wasn’t pretty.
Marquez, a tough, seasoned veteran in the twilight of his career, encountered an unusually strong and deceptively skillful athlete with experience and a fighter’s heart in a middleweight bout last November. This guy, it turns out, is a freakin monster who stopped Marquez in six rounds.
This is why Abraham joins Mikkel Kessler as the favorites to win the round-robin Super Six Boxing Classic. Abraham opens against Jermain Taylor on Oct. 17 in Berlin, Germany.
“Abraham is a very difficult guy to beat,” said Marquez, who also fought Taylor. “He’s strong, durable, he can take a shot, he can give a shot. And you saw what happened against Edison Miranda. He broke (Abraham's) jaw but kept going. That’s a warrior.
“The guy is just a bull. I’m not saying that because I fought him and he beat me. That’s what I really think.”
King Arthur (30-0, 24 knockouts) already has conquered Germany, where all but two of his fights have taken place.
Gunnar Meinhardt, a respected boxing writer and fellow Berliner, said Abraham doesn’t have the status of the giant Klitschko brothers in Germany but would be next in line in terms of widespread popularity.
The Germans like a winner as much anyone and Abraham, a former middleweight titleholder with 10 successful defenses, has never lost. They like him as a person. Meinhardt said his reputation is that of a gentleman and an accomplished chess player, so devoted to the game that he was the invited guest of the Armenian national chess team during the recent world championships in Germany.
And they love his success story. Abraham immigrated to Germany with his family when he was 14 and is now a star.
“He has a very strong mind, very strong will,” Meinhardt said. “That’s because of his roots. He came from Armenia, a very poor country. He grew up very poor as boy. Now he knows what it’s like to have a very good life. And he knows how hard you have to work to get there.
“This is how Abraham is, a tough guy.”
Abraham proved his toughness in his 2006 fight against Miranda, who broke the then-titleholder’s jaw in the fourth round. The champion somehow persevered in spite of extreme pain, which was reminiscent of the first Muahmmad Ali-Ken Norton fight.
Only Abraham, unlike Ali, pulled out a unanimous decision to retain his belt. It reportedly took two titanium plates and 22 surgically implanted screws to repair his jaw.
The feat didn’t go unnoticed his adopted homeland.
“It was a big win for me,” Abraham said through a translator on a conference call Tuesday. “It made me even more popular than if it were just a normal victory. ÔÇª No one fights eight rounds with a broken jaw and wins. It was a big victory.
“Then, when I came to the States (for the rematch in 2008 in Hollywood, Fla.), I took revenge and showed what kind of boxer I am. Those were two very important fights for me.”
Abraham has a lot more going for him than just toughness, as Marquez pointed out.
Marquez, who fought him at 160 pounds, said he was surprised by Abraham’s physical strength. He described him as a “big, thick middleweight. It was like hitting a brick wall. He’s by far the strongest guy I ever fought.”
It apparently isn’t easy to hit the brick wall. Abraham holds his hands together in front of his face, similar to Winky Wright, a defense that is very difficult to penetrate. Marquez said he’s much faster and athletic than he might seem to be.
He’s a very economical puncher, meaning he doesn’t waste punches but makes them count when he does unload. In other words, Marquez said, it hurts when he hits you.
And he no longer has to struggle to make the middleweight limit of 160 pounds. He gave up his 160-pound title and is a full-fledged 168-pounder, which means he's been able to focus less on the scale and more on boxing.
Add all that up – toughness, strength, speed, athleticism, good defense, hard, accurate punches and a more-comfortable weight class – and you understand what Marquez is talking about. Then you throw in a pinch of craziness and Taylor might be in trouble on Oct. 17.
“I went to see Jermain train (in Houston),” said Marquez, who lives in Houston. “He wanted some pointers. He wanted to know what I thought about Abraham. I told him the truth. He’s a strong guy. You can’t afford to get tired. He’s very durable. You can pound on him and pound on him and he'll call you over and say, ‘Hit me some more.’ I think it gives him energy or something.
“I told Jermain he’s a strong guy who hits harder than you do. You better be in good shape.”
Abraham, 29, opens the Super Six tournament in familiar surroundings; this will be his sixth fight in Berlin. However, he probably will fight in the United States – for the second time – at some point in the tournament.
And when he wins the competition, he says, he hopes it will be a springboard to more big fights in the U.S.
“Making big fights in America is what drives me,” he said. “ÔÇª I want to be a big champion, to make big fights like Sugar Ray Leonard, Floyd Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya. I love America; it’s a great country.
“My goal is to make big fights in Las Vegas and Madison Square Garden in New York. I will do everything to accomplish that goal.”
Obviously, he's won the Germans over. Why not the Americans?
Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]