A Career On Thin Ice?



A Career On Thin Ice?

There is a beautiful, almost-idyllic town in Germany called Braunlage that sits at the foot of the Harz mountains. It has no cinema, no train station, a handful of shops, but there is a surfeit of hotels and restaurants, way more than could be expected for a place with fewer than 5,000 residents.

This is because Braunlage is a tourist hub for those heading off into the surrounding mountains and woods to hike, sky, cycle, or explore.

So it was strange that the biggest attraction last weekend was Marco Huck, who was visiting to take on Dennis Lewandowski over ten rounds, at heavyweight, at the local ice rink. 

Huck’s career has been on the wane for some time, and he is no longer the biggest name in German boxing. He picked up the WBO cruiserweight title in 2009 and defended it thirteen times, before losing to Krzysztof Glowacki in 2015 and even managed, along the way, to lose a majority decision to Alexander Povetkin for the WBA heavyweight title.

Worse than losing his title, the 35 year old Huck (repping Berlin; click here for his BoxRec) had left the Sauerland stable in order to pursue a career in the US. The Glowacki fight had been the first step in that.

Back in Germany, he had won twice, once in a fourth fight against Ola Afolabi and Dmytro Kucher, but quickly became unstuck with comprehensive losses to Mairis Briedis and Oleksander Usyk. Things had been spotty since then—a TKO victory over an overachieving Yakup Saglam in Munich, followed by a damp squib of a no contest against Nick Guivas in Connecticut. Fifteen months of inactivity followed, during which he had been scheduled to fight Joe Joyce in Hannover for the European title in January, before an injury cancelled that fight.

He is the best example, as a fighter, of doing as much as you can with the little that you have. Despite the number of defences, Huck is not a great, or even good, fighter. The man born in Serbia plods, is slow, and—despite his name—has no idea what a hook is. The miracle is not that he managed to defend his title so many times, but that they could find that many opponents that could not beat him.

That said, there is a lot to admire. It takes a lot to beat him. You do not go into the later rounds against the likes of Usyk and Glowacki if you are a pushover. He seems like a nice guy, too, and has tried, since splitting with the Sauerlands, to step each time out of his comfort zone.

In boxing, career trajectories arc towards the tragic. It had not taken Huck long to fall from a WBO title, to a knockout loss in the first fight of the World Boxing Super Series, to a European title, to this. He is also suffering from the lack of a decent German TV deal after leaving the Sauerlands. The event in Braunlage was called ‘Back to the Top’. It sounded overly ambitious. If Huck was ever to be relevant again, the Lewandowski fight was the first step.

The fight was to be broadcast on the website for the German newspaper Bild.

Arguably the country’s highest-profile newspaper, it has a populist appeal across great swathes of the people. But despite this, it was a marked step down from the likes of national broadcaster ARD, which had shown Huck’s biggest fights.

The man standing in the opposite corner had quite a different career. There was no real reason for the 26 year old German Lewandowski to be there, other than to make up the other half of the main event. For starters, he was not even a full-time fighter, having taken the night off from his usual job of being a postman. After beginning his career in 2014, he ambled through the professional ranks until outpointed by Tom Schwarz in 2016 and his record since then had been fairly balanced, with four wins and three losses. Ominously, those three losses had all come immediately before the Huck fight, and against less-than-stellar opposition.

Given that his weight at the beginning of his career had been around 250-260lbs, and that he had weighed over 315lbs in at least two of his three preceding fights, Lewandowski seemed to be a fighter who had reached his level, and was happy there.

It was a drab and glum event. Although it had been rumoured that five hundred people would attend, the crowd was sparse. These are corona times and temperatures were checked on the way into the venue and the seats, particularly on the arena floor, were spaced apart.

And while there were a few bells and whistles to the production, it was dispiriting and there was the sense not that Huck had taken a step down from the big time, but was actually on the floor below.

Back To The Top, not likely. It may well be time for a deep appraisal of his participation in the pugilism realm for Huck.

Sponsorship for the event came from the local Maritim hotel, and it was here, five hundred metres from the arena, where it seemed the fighters and those around them were staying. It is understood that Huck has links with the town and that he regularly goes to training camp there. But if the event had been calculated to take advantage of tourism into the area, it failed.

Lewandowski came into the ring first. He had weighed in the day before at 336lbs, and it showed. He had gotten heavier over his career, but not taller. Rolls of fat spilled over his shorts, and his body looked like a figure eight that someone had wrapped thickly in wool, then covered in yoghurt. Huck was naturally a cruiserweight. It looked like Lewandowski (landing a right, below, pic from Lewandowski Instagram page) would be, too, if he trained properly.

Huck came next, and the crowd began to cheer. He wore white and gold, his shorts were black-and-white tiger print, and he had a small black goatee that made him look like a villain in an old and cheap film.

The fight itself was largely a wash, ten rounds that went by interminably. Huck won with three identical scores of 100-90, and there was no argument. But he had been expected to put Lewandowski away quickly and had not done so.

Huck never looks sharp in the ring. He puts too much power on his jab and it looks ponderous. Often—pretty much always—he throws two of them and then clubs at his opponent with his right hand. Lewandowski kept his hands high in the first and took jabs, but he threw back and, when he did, he landed with punches that, coming from the larger man, had more beef behind them. Huck, wisely, looked hesitant at the prospect of being caught by any of them. After all, it had only been a week since another cruiserweight had dabbled disastrously among the heavier boys after time out of the ring.

The second round followed the same pattern as the first and the crowd began to boo Lewandowski. Even the referee seemed to get in on the act twice, separating and warning both fighters.

Huck continued to be crude, and he winged his hardest punches at Lewandowski. He, in turn, covered up and held when he could, and moved back when he had to. His face turned red and his arms, which were taking most of what Huck threw, turned a darker and deeper colour to the rest of him. He had a good jab when he used it, but the problem was that his tempo with it was too slow and he seemed hesitant, as if waiting for the perfect moment before he would loose it.

There was nothing in the fourth of note, but the fifth saw a right hand from Lewandowski that caused Huck to hold on and it seemed as if he might have gone down if Lewandowski had not stopped to admire his work. By the seventh, it had become attritional. Huck was not hitting with better or harder punches, just more. The eighth saw Lewandowski cover up for most of it, only occasionally throwing some punches. He seemed content to merely be there.

The tenth nearly saw a knockdown, but it was neither Huck nor Lewandowski who nearly suffered it. The pair of them rolled into one of the cameramen who wobbled momentarily before his colleague stuck their hand on his back to steady him.

It was cold by the end and the crowd quickly began to empty the arena, not waiting for the scores. There was no surprises. Huck looked disappointed, and he should have been after going ten rounds with an opponent any moderately-talented heavyweight would have toppled within a few rounds. A top-flight cruiserweight would have done the same. The fact that Huck did not spoke volumes.

Huck spoke to Bild after the fight and said that he planned to fight again in October. He praised Lewandowski who, in turn, said he planned to train harder and eat better so he could come in 45-65lbs lighter.

Meanwhile, outside in Braunlage, it was very, very cold.

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