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Firat Arslan: “My will is my biggest strength.”

(Photo © Andreas Leber)
(Photo © Andreas Leber)

By Anson Wainwright


The last time we saw Firat Arslan, he was the proverbial sacrificial lamb to the slaughter when he was matched with long-reigning WBO cruiserweight champion Marco Huck in November. Of course, it didn’t play out that way as Arslan fought the fight of his life, going life and death with Huck in the eyes of many and seemingly springing the upset. However, the three people who mattered most in this instance, judges Paul Thomas, Mickey Vann and Giustino Di Giovanni, all voted for Huck by scores of 115-113 (twice) and a very harsh 117-111, respectively. At the advanced age of 42, it seemed like perhaps the last stand of the former WBA titleholder’s career but he’s newly invigorated and still believes he can mix it up with the best. He returns to action this weekend when he meets fellow German-based Turk Varol Vekiloglu, 20-4-1 (12), over 10 rounds at Sporthalle, Hamburg, Germany as chief support to Jurgen Braehmer’s European light heavyweight title defence against Tony Averlant. Currently Arslan is 32-6-2 (21) and ranked number two by the WBO whilst The Ring magazine has him rated at eight.
 
Anson Wainwright - In your last fight, you lost a very close fight to Marco Huck. Many fans believed you won. Looking back, can you give us your thoughts on that fight?

Firat Arslan - Everyone who has seen this fight can form his own opinion about my performance that night. I’m not a person to lament about what has happened. I just look ahead, hoping for another shot at Marco and set the record straight.

AW - You seemed to beat Huck at his own game, pressuring him and pushing him back and being more active than him, could you talk us through the fight and how you were able to maintain such a high work rate?

FA - I was highly motivated for that bout. Before the fight, I said that it’s more about winning another world title than about the purse. I had a perfect training camp for this fight. That’s why I was able to do what I did.

AW - Many people thought they’d seen the last of you after losing to Guillermo Jones in 2008 and then to Steve Herelius nearly two years later. However, you managed to reinvent yourself and put up a strong performance against Alexander Alekseev and then Huck. How were you able to do this?
 
FA - My preparation for the fight against Jones wasn’t that good. I clearly lost that fight and there are no excuses. Still, I regret to never get the chance to have a rematch with him to show that I am better than the first fight. Afterwards, I had a bad break from the sport due to a bicycle accident. I was out for about two years and a lot of experts and fans thought my career was over. But I tried to stay in shape as far as it was possible, then I came back against Herelius. I dominated the fight before my body dehydrated because of extreme heat inside the arena. Again, people called it a career-ender but I didn’t give up and came back stronger than ever, which showed in my performances against Alekseev and Huck. My will is my biggest strength.

AW - You recently signed with Sauerland Event. Can you tell us about that and what the plan is for you?
 
FA - I am extremely happy to have worked out a deal with Sauerland Event. Even in the build-up for the Huck fight, the whole team that is Sauerland Event treated me well. I believe that I will get the chance to fight for a world title in the not too distant future due to this partnership. I will have my premiere under the promotional banner of Sauerland Event on April 27 against Varol Vekiloglu.

AW - You’ll be 43 in September. How much longer do you feel you’re able to box at this level? Also, what goals do you have left at this point?
 
FA - I really don’t know how long I am able to fight at this level. As with any other professional athlete, you have to stay healthy and injury-free. It’s also genetically determined. You may be done overnight - it’s that easy. But Bernard Hopkins showed everyone that it is possible to become a world champion and he is even more than five years older than me. Age isn’t that much of a factor when you are training hard, on the right diet and believe in your success. I’m not saying that I want to fight as long as Bernard Hopkins but as long as I can perform as good as I did in my last bouts, I won’t retire.

AW - What are your thoughts on the cruiserweight division and the champions, Krzysztof Wlodarczyk of the WBC, the WBA’s Denis Lebedev, the IBF’s Yoan Pablo Hernandez and the WBO’s Huck?
 
FA - They are all great and deserving champions; no doubt about it. I’m really interested in Lebedev’s upcoming title defence against Guillermo Jones. If Jones can perform quite as good as he did against me back in 2008, he is the man to beat at cruiserweight. Wlodarczyk is a strong and skilful boxer as well as Yoan Pablo Hernandez, who showed what he is all about in his fights against Steve Cunningham. Last but not least, Marco Huck is a real warrior inside the ring. He has defended his WBO title 10 times, which is impressive enough.

AW - Huck fights Ola Afolabi two weeks after your fight. They’ve fought twice before with both being very close. How do you see the third go-round going?
 
FA - Huck has won the first fight without a doubt. Their rematch was very close and I believe that to score it a draw was the right thing to do. I guess that bout number three will bring a conclusion to this trilogy. If Huck learned something from the fight against me, he has a good shot at defeating Afolabi. Personally, I see this clash dead even.

AW - You’ve fought many of the best fighters over the last decade at cruiserweight. Who, in your opinion, is the best cruiserweight you have known during your time fighting?
 
FA - David Haye because he crowned himself with three belts at this weight class. He has such punching power and athleticism that he even went up to heavyweight and won a title there.
 
AW - Tell us about your life away from boxing?

FA - I read a lot. Playing chess is also a passion of mine as well as watching a lot of different sports. Still, working out in the gym is my main “hobby.”

AW - Do you have a message for the cruiserweight division?
 
FA - I’m not a man of many words and I have respect for everyone. I just have to say that I want to become a world champion again, no matter who I have to face to reach that goal.
 
Questions and or comments can be sent to Anson at elraincoat@live.co.uk and you can follow him at www.twitter.com/AnsonWainwright. Anson is also a contributor and ratings panelist for The Ring magazine.
 
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