Marco Huck vs. Ola Afolabi: Preview and Prediction for Title Fight
On Saturday, June 8, WBO cruiserweight champion Marco Huck defends his title against Ola Afolabi at the Max Schmeling Halle in Berlin, Germany. This will be the third meeting between the two. Huck won a close unanimous decision in December 2009, and they fought to a draw in May 2012.
Cruiserweight is the Rodney Dangerfield of boxing weight classes. For some reason, the not-quite heavyweights get less love and attention than anybody else, aside from the very smallest fighters, campaigning below 118.
In mixed martial arts, the 205-pound light heavyweight division is the glamor class and always has been. But in the United States, at least, 200-pound boxers go largely ignored.
The situation is slightly different in Europe, and Huck-Afolabi III will pack the house in Berlin. It should be a competitive and highly entertaining bout. These are two high-level professionals who know each other well.
Tale of the Tape
|Marco Huck||Ola Afolabi|
|Record:||35-2-1, 25 KOs||19-2-4, 9 KOs|
|Weight:||200 pounds||200 pounds|
|Hometown:||Berlin, Germany||Los Angeles, California|
Ola Afolabi is the taller and longer fighter, though that hasn't always been obvious when these two have been in the ring together, as Huck is a more classic, upright fighter, and Afolabi tends to lower levels and work from a crouch.
Although Afolabi is five years older than Huck, he has had many less wars in the ring and might actually be the fresher fighter.
Huck is a Serbian native who is extremely popular in his adopted home of Germany. Afolabi was born in London but has fought his entire career based out of L.A.
Huck and Afolabi are two of the top names in the cruiserweight division, and this will be their third meeting. Huck's unanimous-decision victory in 2009 was close, and many fans felt Afolabi deserved to win their rematch last year, which was instead ruled a draw.
Controversial decisions are as common as good beer in Germany, and Huck has benefited from home cooking in recent years. In addition to his draw with Afolabi, his decision victories over Denis Lebedev and Firat Arslan could easily have gone against him.
At the same time, when he jumped to heavyweight in February 2012 and lost a majority decision to WBA “regular” champion Alexander Povetkin, many felt he had done enough to win.
Afolabi has been a pro for 11 years but has not always been extremely active. He took a break of nearly three years from 2005 to 2008 and has been very good since, beating highly rated contender Eric Fields and former world champion Enzo Maccarinelli.
Huck is a strong, durable fighter, as he demonstrated by standing up to heavyweight Alexander Povetkin last year. He doesn't necessarily have monster power, but he has stopped a decent percentage of opponents, and his big overhand right has to be respected by anybody looking to finish the night standing against him.
Huck fights behind a tight, European-style high guard. He does not leave much of an open target and uses basic, efficient footwork to prevent his opponents from taking an angle on him.
Afolabi is a former sparring partner of Wladimir Klitschko. He's a seasoned professional who has been around the sport at a high level for the past half decade.
Afolabi is a very good technical boxer. He has a nice defensive shoulder roll and changes levels while moving in and out of range. He has a very good sense of when to let his hands go.
Huck may still be two years shy of 30, but sometimes prize fighters age as quickly as NFL running backs. In my opinion, he has not looked as sharp since his heroic stand against Povetkin in February 2012.
In his last fight with Afolabi, and in his subsequent clash with Firat Arslan, he spent too much time camped out behind his guard, flat-footed and waiting. This allowed both opponents to dictate the pace and stay very comfortable while they probed his defensive shell for openings.
Afolabi enjoys a reach advantage against Huck, but in their past two fights, Huck has often been able to reach him first by throwing tight, straight punches inside of Afolabi's wide punches.
With only nine stoppages in 25 fights, Afolabi is not exactly a banger. He has one-punch power, as he showed against Terry Dunstan in 2011, but I just don't see him catching Huck with a similar punch.
To win this fight, he's going to have to capture enough rounds on the cards. In Germany, that might be a challenge.
Marco Huck Will Win If...
To legitimately win this fight, Marco Huck is going to need to be more active than he was in the last fight between these two. If he simply camps behind his guard, waiting to unload with a counter, Afolabi will outwork him. He'll eventually get an angle to score through, or around, Huck's blocking.
Huck had his best luck when he threw straight punches inside of Afolabi's wide punches. He needs to time his jab and cross to disrupt Afolabi when the challenger is setting up to unload from the outside.
Huck should look to come forward behind the jab and drive Afolabi backwards, where he will not be well-set to receive Huck's big right. Afolabi is the better boxer, so Huck needs to be the smarter, tougher fighter.
Huck needs to force the pace and create a brawl. Afolabi attacks from a wider variety of angles, so Huck needs to close up the space between them, by moving forward and forcing the engagement on his own terms.
Ola Afolabi Will Win If...
To win this fight, Ola Afolabi is going to have to be a very busy fighter. He is going to have to outwork, and outscore, Huck. He changes levels and uses movement very well, and he will need to move under and around Huck's straight punches.
Afolabi should invest in a body attack early. He needs to try to slow Huck down and make him a stationary target as the fight moves along.
I do not believe Afolabi can knock Huck out, and it will be extremely hard for him to win very close rounds. So if he doesn't clearly outwork Huck, this is going to be a very difficult fight to win.
This is not an easy fight to pick. Huck and Afolabi have engaged in two very close, competitive bouts already, and it is reasonable to expect them to fight on pretty even terms the third time around.
In Germany, a close fight will probably once more favor Huck. But I think this time, Afolabi will do enough to clearly separate himself from Huck down the stretch, earning a decision, even in Berlin.
At 33, this is could be Afolabi's last really good shot to capture a world title. I think he will start fast, attacking the body and winning the early rounds. He will finesse his way through the middle rounds, when Huck looks to press harder and claw his way back into the fight.
Then Afolabi will finish strong in the championship rounds to capture the decision.