Ola Afolabi stood with his head down, sweat dripping from his disappointed face as the judges’ final tally was announced, deeming Marco Huck the winner of their cruiserweight title tilt in Huck’s hometown of Germany.
The scores were razor thin – 116-112, 115-113 and 115-113 – all in favor of Huck, who retained his WBO belt with the victory.
Huck outworked Afolabi over the second half of the bout as the two worked on the inside, giving him the edge.
That was in December of 2009. More than two years later, the 32-year-old native of London, England has a chance at redemption, as he once again travels to Germany to face THE RING’s No. 1-rated cruiserweight on Saturday in Erfurt, Germany.
“I will win because I am a more complete fighter now after working with Fritz Sdunek,” Afolabi told RingTV.com, speaking about the same man who trains WBC heavyweight titleholder Vitali Klitschko. “When I fought Huck the first time I did not have a real trainer and was not well prepared. Fritz has developed my style and has a game plan for the rematch. For the first fight I had no game plan and I am in much better condition now as well.”
Huck (34-2, 25 knockouts) agrees that Afolabi (19-2-3, 9 KOs) has improved, but believes he has enhanced his own game heading into the rematch against THE RING’s No. 5 cruiserweight.
“He must have developed since our last meeting, otherwise he wouldn´t be the mandatory challenger for my belt,” said Huck, 27. “But I myself have become a better boxer in comparison to two years ago. With each fight I become wiser and more experienced.
“I know that I will win this one again. This time I will be even more convincing. He should be prepared for an early end to his night.”
The legendary Sdunek feels that Huck’s short layoff could prove costly in this bout. Huck moved up to heavyweight for a crack at Alexander Povetkin in February, barely coming up short via majority decision in an exciting brawl. With little rest before he started training camp for this encounter, that could give Afolabi the edge.
“Marco´s break after the Povetkin encounter at the heavyweight division was quite short,” said Sdunek. “That must have taken its toll and it might be too early for him to take on Ola.”
Afolabi’s powerful jab and sneaky right hand has caused problems for opposing cruisers. He opened eyes in March 2009, saying one of the highlights of his career was “knocking out Maccarenelli in England as a big underdog.”
Afolabi, a resident of Los Angeles, Calif., said his two biggest strengths are his “unpredictability” and “willingness to fight,” throwbacks to his days fighting on the streets of London, which led to his career choice.
“When I was growing up in London, I was in a street fight against two guys. An old man chased them away and took me to the Battersea Boys Club to learn how to box,” he said. “I will give Marco a boxing lesson and if he tries anything crazy I will knock him out. “
While all eyes will be on Floyd Mayweather’s contest with Miguel Cotto on Saturday, fans of “The Sweet Science” would be wise to turn an eye to this sure-to-be action bout earlier that day.
“I think he has proven to be a great champion,” said Afolabi. “but I am going to take the belt on Saturday.”
Mike Coppinger is a regular boxing contributor to USA TODAY and THE RING. He is a member of THE RING Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Sports Boxing Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger