By Wolfgang Schiffbauer
Former cruiserweight world champion Firat Arslan, at the advanced age of 42 (for a fighter that is), almost captured his second world crown last night in Halle, Germany. For twelve grueling and exciting rounds, Arslan was not only the aggressor against WBO cruiserweight beltholder Marco Huck, who, at 27, is 15 years younger than yesterday’s challenger, but also landed more and the cleaner punches. Especially in the first half of the bout, the fighter from Suessen, Germany, was unable to miss with his uppercuts and body hooks.
His countryman Huck, whose promoter Sauerland Event staged the show not far away from the champion’s hometown, had no answer early on for Arslan’s pressure. He got better late, but most of his flurries were picked apart by the defense of his strong foe. While he might have landed the harder shots, Arslan connected way more often and snapped Huck’s head back over and over again at the inside. Nevertheless, the judges reached a unanimous verdict (by scores of 115-113 twice and an incredible bad 117-111 by Italian judge Giustino Di Giovanni) in favor of the defending champion, a decision that was booed loudly by the crowd. And while most experts had Arslan ahead, most of them also knew what was coming when the final bell rang. This writer scored the bout 117-111 in favor of the challenger but did not believe that he would actually get the pay off for his hard work.
After the conclusion, broadcasting German TV station ARD conducted interviews with both fighters and their trainers. Naturally, Arslan was furious with the verdict. “I told everyone numerous times that I was hoping for a fair decision,” he said. “And now that happened. I’ve never experienced anything like this decision. I’ve seldom landed so many clean punches and he only hit my hands. How can such a thing happen? This is ruining boxing. The crowd knows I won this fight. I’ve been robbed. I should be the new world champion today, I would have written history. I’m not a sore loser, but this is just not fair.”
He later posted on his official Facebook page, that he is at “a loss for words,” earning consolation from his fans. His trainer, Dieter Wittmann, went one step further and said on air: “I’ve never seen such a bad decision in all my years in this sport. This was a highway robbery and a shame for this sport. It’s a shame for all the people at ARD and it’s a shame for Sauerland Event. You are all frauds!”
Marco Huck, who made the tenth defense of his title and now has to face mandatory challenger Ola Afolabi a third time after a close draw a couple months ago, saw it the other way: “It was a hard fight, hard work. He fought like a lion and worked very hard. And I’m not judge, but I believe I landed more punches and I landed harder punches. This was one of the most difficult fights of my career.”
When asked about moving up to heavyweight to challenge Wladimir Klitschko, something Huck mentioned time after time in the buildup for the Arslan bout, he answered, that “I need to take my time after such a hard fight to see what comes next.”
His trainer Ulli Wegner, who usually defends his protégées like a lion after close fights, was unusually quiet when interviewed: “The fans saw a great fight. It was very close. I don’t want to make any further comments about the decision.” Wegner, who, and there is no doubt about that, is very knowledgeable about the sport of boxing, might have known that his fighter did not deserve to leave the ring with the championship belt still in his hands.