I arrived in Wuppertal in the early Friday afternoon on the night of the fight. It was a long way from Berlin. That said, Wuppertal seems far from anywhere, a place that many in Germany have probably heard of but never visited.
It had taken four-and-a-half hours on the train to get there, going from the west of the country to the east. I sat next to a doctor from one of the Berlin hospitals on the journey over, and she slept most of the way, having gotten on the train straight from a night shift. She said goodbye as I got off; she was going a little further, into Cologne, for the weekend.
After dropping off my bags at the hotel, I went back out to find the Schwebebahn, a tram system unique to Wuppertal in which the rails run above the carriages rather than below them. I rode two stops in one direction, got off, and then rode one back the way I had come. In 1950, a local circus as part of a publicity drive had somehow put a baby elephant on the Schwebebahn, but the animal had become distressed and started to move around the carriage until it busted through one of the walls and fell into the Wupper river below. A stone elephant now sits in that water, and I tried unsuccessfully to find it. Tuffi, the elephant in question, reportedly survived and died in Paris in 1989.
I was in town for the latest Legacy Sports Management (LSM) event, to be held at the Stadthalle just outside the main center of the city. LSM is a newcomer on the boxing scene, having promoted its first event in 2020. Since then, it has run shows between Germany and the UAE. Saturday was its fifth. Austin Trout is the biggest name on its roster, although Cuban fighter Mike Perez and the British Lenroy Thomas have some name recognition.
It was Trout’s second fight LSM. He had last fought in August, defeating the ordinary and light-handed Alejandro Davila on points in a hotel in Dubai. Now, on a card in Wuppertal, Trout was a literal and metaphorical long way from the US, where he had had his biggest nights against Miguel Cotto in 2012, Canelo the following year, and the Charlo brothers in 2016 and 2019. He was thirty-six and facing Florin Cardos of Romania, a so-so fighter with a so-so record.
There was little atmosphere in the hall. It was a small crowd, five hundred at most, and it was spread out on one level. It did not help that everyone fighting there was from somewhere else. At one point, a dropped plastic Pepsi bottle caused a noise that rattled around the hall and caused everyone’s head to spin. The bout between Trout and Cardos was last. Eight rounds at super-middleweight. Former European champion at super-lightweight Cardos came to the ring; first, wearing wore black shorts. His body lacked definition and had some flab belted around his waist.
Trout then came out, walking from the stage at the end of the hall and down a walkway. He was dressed in white, and when he removed his robe, you could see that his body was lean and taut, all sinew and muscle. It was the body of a young man, but the face looked old, pinched and tight from too many wars. The eyes were eyes that have seen things. His white mouthpiece looked too big, and it jutted, making it seem as if he was smiling.
Both men are southpaws, and they moved around each other in the first round. Trout landed the first punch—a jab—that he threw. He was bigger and more fluid, more athletic. The distance between him and Cardos was the gap between a very-good fighter and a passable one. The Romanian was thick and strong like a tree, but with fewer moves and needed less time in order to be cut down.
Trout was happy by the third to treat his opponent like a heavy bag, and he moved around him, going from the inside to the outside and back again. He jabbed him to the body as much as he could. Sweat dripped from both by the fifth, and it got messy when Cardos tried to rush and muscle his way in. Neither man was light of foot, and they stamped on the ring when they stepped on it. Cardos went down in the sixth, and an easier referee may have been tempted to call it a knockdown. But then he got up, and his face was unflushed and unmarked, and it was the visage of a man who had not been fighting for nearly twenty minutes but had instead spent the time walking gently uphill.
The seventh came and went, and the fighters seemed content to go to points. Cardos swung a few times wildly. Trout fenced. When it ended after the eighth, Trout walked back to his corner and stood with his seconds. He shook his head and grimaced. His lips were tight. He stared off towards the big screen at the far end of the hall, high over the heads of those around him, and he watched the replays that were being shown. After a few moments, he walked around the ring, one fist clenched and held in the air, a smile upon his face. His eyes looked tired, wearied.
He won by majority decision: 79-73, 76-76, 78-76. It was announced, mistakenly, as being split. Trout smiled wryly at his opponent. He shrugged his shoulders. I guess it went that way; he seemed to say. Good one, man.
I got up the next morning and went to Magdeburg, a three-and-a-half-hour journey from Wupperal. I took an early train to Hanover, which was delayed by ten minutes, and then ran for the connection. For the second time, I stayed at the B&B Hotel on Otto-von-Guericke-Straße. I last stayed there on the night that Agit Kabayel fought Kevin Johnson in June 2021. There was a riot that night at the Seebühne Elbauenpark that was instigated by Kabayel’s fans. He looked embarrassed when it happened and has fought only once since, a one-round blowout against Pavel Sour at the same venue in May.
I rested in the afternoon and walked the five or so minutes to the Maritim Hotel, which is alongside the same street. The fights that night were held in a function room, with about 1,000 people watching, and were broadcast on at least German, US, and Canadian television.
There were two main events: the German Michael Eifert and the Italian Adriano Sperandio over ten rounds for an obscure title that no one apart from those in the ring and those on the outside making money from its sanctioning cared about; and Tom Dzemski and Alexander Lorch, for the vacant German title. Both fights were at light-heavyweight, and Eifert and Dzemski had fought each other in 2020 and 2021.
Eifert-Sperandio was on first and crawled to a unanimous but close decision for the former. Neither fighter had much power, and a timid first round was followed by another that saw Eifert grab the real estate around the edge of the ring and stay there. He fell in the third, a shove, and Sperandio, who had become more compact and tighter in his guard by this point, began to rush and barge in.
Both were cut by the fifth, above the left eye for Eifert and high on the nose for Sperandio. The Italian bled more; his features were more aquiline. The biggest punch, if had landed, would have been the wild swing that went past Eifert and whistled millimetres past the referee.
Dzemski and Lorch was a sadder affair, but for Lorch. His body began to turn pink early in the first round, a rose-like blemishing that expanded with every right hand that Dzemski landed on that spot—and he landed many of them. Lorch took repeated jabs in the second and his nose, like Sperandio’s, began to bleed heavily. It looked broken. It turned ugly in the third, and every blow from Dzemski seemed to land. Lorch had been undefeated in seven fights before Saturday, and it was hard and cruel to watch as his confidence and self-image were stripped so brutally from him in nine minutes. His corner pulled him out at the end of the third.
Lorch stood in the ring afterwards and waited for his opponent to come to him. He looked shocked and disappointed, having been moved harshly from being an unbeaten fighter to a beaten one. There is no one lonelier than the outclassed and beaten man who is forced by convention to stand and congratulate his vanquisher. I stayed for a little while afterwards and drank and ate with the promoters. The team behind SES Boxing—Christof Hawerkamp and Ulf Steinforth—run their own brewery alongside promoting events and are always generous with their hospitality.
Afterwards, I left and walked the five minutes or so back to my hotel. It was a warm night, not cold enough for any type of jacket, and while it was still early if late nights are your thing, there was a ticket with my name printed on it for an early train the next morning back to Berlin
Click here to read more from and learn about Pete Carvill.