Gerry Weber Stadium, Halle - Marco Huck retained his WBO world cruiserweight title last night defeating Firat Arslan in controversial circumstances. Huck was given a unanimous decision after 12 of the hardest rounds he'll ever have to survive. Sadly, the boos and whistles from the crowd at hearing the judges verdict yet again tell an all too familiar story.
Last night Huck was expected to breeze past 42-year old former WBA world title holder Firat Arslan but unfortunately someone forgot to give the challenger the script. Arslan dominated the fight from the first round until the final bell and even looked fresh enough at the end to have gone another half a dozen rounds. The same could not be said of Huck.
From the opening round Arslan took the fight to the champion, getting in tight and successfully working his uppercut from close quarters. Huck's defence simply did not stand up to the test and, as usual, Huck's only answer was to swing a barrage of wild punches in the hope that one might hit and buy him a precious few seconds to clam up again.
Arslan got his strategy spot on by not allowing Huck the resting time for him to reload. He easily absorbed the short spells of pressure from Huck and simply walked straight back into his face again, unphased and unhurt as if starting the round over again from his stool.
Arslan was able to effectively execute his left uppercut all night long and Huck must have wondered what he would have to do to get out of the ring intact. At no point during the bout did it look like the challenger was hurt or wobbled. In fact, by the 12th round it was Huck that was the more physically drained and the first to begin holding to buy time for a breather.
This was an epic scrap. A battle between two very solid fighters, both with granite chins. In some ways it looked like Huck could be fighting his older self. One might wonder whether "Captain" Huck could go toe-to-toe with a champion 14-15 years his junior in a world title fight when he is 42 years-old, let alone put in the kind of performance Firat Arslan gave last night.
In another world, Arslan would be waking up this morning as world champion but for some reason the judges refused to believes their own eyes. The two British judges, Paul Thomas and Mickey Vann both scored the bout closely in Huck's favour at 115-113. The third official, Giustino Di Giovanni of Italy gave the fight to Huck by a dubious 117-111 margin.
Huck has been no stranger to controversy this year. When Alexander Povetkin beat him on points in Stuttgart back in February, after Huck seemed to have got the better of the Russian champion, there too was an ill feeling. It was close but sadly these things happen in boxing.
In May, Huck fought Ola Afolabi in a rematch which Huck had won on points 2 years earlier. This time Afolabi was the busier, better boxer and although they almost battered each other to a stand-still, in the eyes of most onlookers, Huck failed to win as many rounds and so was expected to lose his title. The judges scored the bout a majority draw and he retained it.
After last night, all three of his fights in 2012 have involved controversial decisions and it's making it very difficult to put it down to the old cliche of: "Well, that's boxing." It's actually making boxing in Germany very difficult to take seriously and the biggest shame is that it's spoiling some really spectacular fights. Not only that but it creates awkward moments whereby promoters and trainers alike have to defend their fighter in the face of damning evidence to the contrary. Ulli Wegner does a good job of that but it's surely not the most satisfying part of his job.
Despite a valiant effort Firat Arslan has probably lost the last opportunity he'll get for a world title. To a lot of boxing fans, he was the real winner even if that fact was not recognised inside the ring.
Huck now has 10 successful defences of the WBO world cruiserweight title and should be forced to face the interim champion, Britain's Ola Afolabi next. That would be a third encounter between the two and one that Afolabi must surely be confident of winning. The question is will Huck be brave enough to fight outside of Germany, perhaps in the United Kingdom where British boxing fans could be treated to watch Londoner Afolabi win the world title. Huck has fought 36 of his 38 professional bouts on German soil and Afolabi fully expects to fight here yet again.