Tonight, the eyes of the boxing world will be focused on the Manchester Arena for the super-bantamweight unification between one of Belfast’s favourite sons Carl Frampton MBE and Scott Quigg.
However, not to be ignored, an important bout in the perennially underrated 200lbs Cruiserweight division is taking place at the Gerry Weber Stadion in Germany, with Ola Afolabi and Marco Huck renewing hostilities for a fourth time.
Afolabi v Huck IV is more than a fight; it gives road warrior Afolabi a chance for revenge and closure, sitting somewhat unfortunately on an 0-2-1 record from the trilogy of bouts with Captain Huck.
An interesting analysis point for the bout ties into much of the debate surrounding Frampton and Quigg, how much emphasis should be placed on the prior bout for each of the pair? Before July 18th 2015, the overriding view of the boxing fraternity was that the Jackal would have too much for Quigg, but with Frampton’s nightmare double-knockdown round 1 on his American debut coupled with Quigg’s career best win, knocking out former Frampton victim Kiko Martinez inside two rounds, it’s swung public opinion towards the fight being a 50-50.
Applying this logic to Afolabi and Huck, follows a similar pattern. Huck left his long-standing promoters The Sauerlands and perhaps more importantly with it, lost the use of famed trainer Uli Wegner, forming his own Huck Promotions and pursued his American dream via the PBC banner. Huck’s fan-friendly style was his downfall, sensationally being knocked out in the tenth round of a fight of the year candidate war, whilst leading on all three scorecards, by hard-hitting Pole Krzystof Glowacki.
Meanwhile, Afolabi, ever the road warrior, ventured out to Kazan, and after weathering an early onslaught from Rakhim Chakhkiev (Olympic gold medallist and widely regarded top 10 cruiserweight), produced an excellent fifth round stoppage, breathing new life into a career many thought may have ended at the top-level after a fourth world title loss to Victor Ramirez in Buenos Aires in April 2015.
Much has been made in the British boxing press recently of household names and talented fighters George Groves, Kevin Mitchell and Martin Murray failing to win world titles after multiple occasions and Afolabi definitely falls into this bracket. Having twice held WBO interim titles and his four regular and interim world title shots all coming in competitive decision losses away from home, it would be a well deserved end to a hard career for Afolabi to nab world title glory.
The winner of this fight would place themselves at the forefront of the division and lay claim to being the man outside the trinket holders. With Afolabi and Huck being ranked numbers 4 and 7 in the IBF, the number 1 and 2 spots currently being unoccupied and the recent final eliminator between Murat Gassiev and Isiah Thomas ending in a no contest, the winner of the bout would place themselves in pole position to become mandatory challenger. With the IBF champion Victor Ramirez primed to face WBA kingpin Denis Lebedev in a unification in early spring, Huck or Afolabi could feasibly face off against the winner at the back end of 2016, in a pair of bouts all fighters would be confident of winning.
To conclude, everything seems to be coming up roses for long-standing contender Afolabi. His recent career-best win against Chakhkiev, Huck’s knockout loss in America and change of trainer, should all favour Afolabi. Hopefully, it’s fourth time lucky for Ola.