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Azad Championship Report - Afolabi Faces Huck (Again)

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While most of the boxing world’s attention is on the dueling cards taking place on HBO and Showtime, one of the more overlooked and underrated rivalries in recent years adds another chapter to its book when Ola Afolabi faces WBO cruiserweight beltholder Marco Huck in Berlin, Germany. They have faced each other twice, with Huck winning a close contest in December of 2009 and then last May, they fought to a disputed draw.
 
Last year, Afolabi jumped out to a quick lead in the first half of the fight and was in complete control. But Huck rallied late and came on strong in the second half to salvage his title.
 
When asked to recollect their last meeting, Afolabi told Maxboxing last week, “I remember me being in the ring, thinking I’m in the best shape of my life. I remember me losing focus pretty much halfway through the fight and letting [Huck] come back into the fight and that’s pretty much all I remember. He doesn’t really have one-punch knockout power. I just let him back in the fight by losing focus.”

Losing focus?
 
In a title fight?
 
How is that possible?
 
“It’s easy for me to find reasons but eventually, I come up with the same conclusion: lack of experience,” he explained. “I went in there and a lot of people have years and over a hundred fights to get through the amateurs and get used to going the distance and winning on points and fighting in front of crowds. [The second Huck fight was my] 25th fight and I never had any real experience, so it’s easy for me to lose focus. But I can’t make any excuses; I don’t know why I did. If I had to make one educated guess, I’d have to say lack of experience.”
 
Could it be that things were coming too easy for him in the first six rounds last May? Early on, it did look like a breeze for Afolabi. “I won’t even say, ‘looked easy.’ He’s a tough fighter,” he admitted. “I think I just started off well. I kept doing everything right and I can’t even make any excuses for why I...I dunno; I just can’t lose focus.”
 
Afolabi is at a loss for words as he tried to explain his late-round decline (and believe me; he’s rarely at a loss for words) but he still feels he did enough to take Huck’s belt.
 
“Yes, totally. I thought I won at least five of the first six. I thought I won like three or four rounds in the second half and I thought I did enough,” he said, perhaps forgetting that Germany is Huck’s home territory. Being an American-based cruiserweight means Afolabi is perpetually the road fighter. “I thought I won the fight by at least two rounds and they didn’t score my knockdown in the second round, which kinda affected me big-time also.
 
“But that’s the past; I just gotta focus on what I gotta do now. If I’m ahead, I’m going to stay ahead.”
 
As the draw was announced, Afolabi said, “It’s just a bunch of things going through your head. ‘Did I give this fight away? Did I f**k up? Did I really win?’ - because I felt like I won. I put everything into it but obviously, that wasn’t enough. Another thing was, ‘They did it to me again.’ But at least it’s not a loss.”
 
And he’s correct. Getting a draw certainly beats losing, especially when you’re the top rated contender fighting for a title.
 
Tom Loeffler, managing director of K2 Promotions, which represents Afolabi, stated, “From my side, I thought Ola had clearly won the fight as well. But with the draw, I knew we were guaranteed a rematch. So it wasn’t as bad as if he lost a close decision. They definitely would’ve avoided another fight with Ola.” adding, “I think you’ll see a much different fighter this time around with the experience, plus the sacrifice and the training he’s done for the fight. [Trainer] Fritz [Sdunek] is saying he’s hitting a lot harder than he did last year and his balance is a lot better. So we’re really confident of the third fight right now.”
 
This will be Afolabi’s first fight since the rematch with Huck. A tune-up bout with Jean Marc Mormeck never materialized and this particular fight was delayed as Don King did his customary “Win the purse bid but never stage the fight” shenanigans. So it will be more than a full year since he will have faced live bullets.
 
“That’s the least of my worries,” he says. “You’re talking to a guy who’s had like a three-year layoff and a year off and all that stuff and then come back and fight guys like Eric Fields and Enzo Maccarinelli. It’s no worries to me. It’s not like I took the whole year totally off. I’ve been training since like November getting ready for the Mormeck fight and pretty much instead of training full-time, I’ll train Monday through Friday, go home for the weekend and relax, so I don’t overtrain and I’ll come back and do Monday through Friday again. That got me in great physical condition. My timing is good.”
 
Afolabi has been a consistent presence at Big Bear during the training camps of Gennady Golovkin and at the Wild Card Boxing Club throughout the past 12 months. All this he says, while making significant changes in his diet and lifestyle. When asked if there was any mental fatigue in training for so long without a scheduled fight, he says with a chuckle, “Not really because I was actually training for the first time in my life.”
 
You get the sense that if this duo fought a hundred times, they’d battle tooth and nail a hundred times. Afolabi is the crafty counterpuncher, prone to fighting in spots and Huck has all the subtlety of a sledgehammer but with huge technical flaws that can be exploited.
 
Should we expect anything different this weekend in Germany?

“I’m not going to say too much about my style but my style has changed,” claimed Afolabi. “At the end of the day, if stuff doesn’t go a fighter’s way, they go back to their old style but I don’t see how this won’t go my way. He has that style that keeps coming and I have that counterpuncher’s style.
 
“And those two styles just clash well together.”
 
FRIDAY FLURRIES
 
 
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