Ola 'Kryptonite' Afolabi managed to improve slightly on his last meeting with WBO cruiserweight champion 'Cap'n' Marco Huck by scraping a majority draw in Germany last night. The thrilling encounter see-sawed, and a spectacular last round saw both fighters leave it in the ring, trading full on blows with little regard for defence.
After a tasteful rendition of both national anthems by an accomplished string quartet (it may have been more than four fiddlers - they know how to do things like that in Germany), round one saw Afolabi jab and hook to the head and body, while Huck threw very little and sat behind a peekaboo guard for the main, attacking in the last half a minute only for Afolabi to resist stoically.
This pattern continued in the second. Huck's expected burst of ferocity as the round ended again drew a solid response from Afolabi. As they traded, Afolabi delivered a left hook which helped the Croatian to pay a rare visit to the canvas, just as the bell sounded. No knockdown was given.
Afolabi, originally from Stretham, London, skillfully evaded all of Huck's late attacks in the next two rounds and was outboxing the champion with an impressive range of punches to keep him off and give him a bloody nose in the third.
The fight was starting to pan out a bit like Carl Froch's dominant performance over Arthur Abraham. I had Afolabi winning the first four rounds clearly, and he was cruising until the second part of the fifth, when Huck's crude but highly effective methods of attack started to unsettle him.
During the sixth, the fight swung Huck's way. Afolabi was visibly slower and more open to the explosive, close range shots that have become the Cap'n's trademark. Afolabi's boxing skill and workrate was still highly impressive for a cruiserweight, but his accuracy suffered as he looked tired. When Huck landed a crunching right uppercut that shook Afolabi to the boots, it was even more apparent who was in the ascendancy. Things were not looking good for Afolabi.
During the seventh, a cut opened up on Huck's left eye from an accidental clash of heads, but this didn't faze him. He was landing with increasing regularity and drawing Afolabi into his kind of fight. As we have seen before, Huck's style may be less than pretty, but his strength, speed of attack and determination make the Germany based Croatian nigh-on impossible to out-muscle. I actually thought he deserved more from his last fight with Alexander Povetkin, made at heavyweight.
At the end of the eighth, Huck exploded again, and it looked as if he might topple Afolabi, who took some huge shots from a champion now in full-on rucking mode. At this point, I had it dead level. Afolabi took the first four, Huck the next four.
Huck attacks grew in frequency in the championship rounds, but I was expecting Afolabi to fade further, which didn't happen. He made the rounds close, edging the 11th with workrate.
The final session was a full-on slugfest as both fighters put everything into their shots and thoroughly entertained the German crowd. Afolabi's chin proved every bit as durable as Huck's, and despite looking severely wobbled several times in the round, kept answering back and remained upright.
I had Huck winning the fight by one round, but was fully expecting a scorecard that flattered him further. Judge Paul Thomas (UK) scored 114-114 each. Judge Zoltan Enyedi (Hungary) had it 115-113 for Huck, and, suprisingly, judge Ingo Barrabas of Germany also scored it even at 114-114 for a majority draw.
After the fight, Afolabi said: "I give Marco a lot of credit. I thought he was tired around round six, but he just kept coming until round 12."
The champion replied: "I was tired early on, but I'm a fighter and I fought. Thankfully it was just enough in the end."
Huck may well have designs on a permanent move up to heavyweight, but in my opinion, and despite a great performance against Povetkin, he simply isn't big enough.
That won't stop him trying, but I'm sure no-one would complain about a third meeting between this pair, nor another fight with Russian Dennis Lebedev.