By Cliff Rold
For those who think size alone is the reason for Klitschko dominance, Marco Huck is a reply. The long-reigning WBO Cruiserweight titlist showed that when he moved up to Heavyweight for a night in 2012.
Over the course of twelve rounds, he appeared to kick Alexander Povetkin’s ass and earn his version of the WBA Heavyweight crown. The judges disagreed, favoring Povetkin by majority decision. Huck went back to Cruiswerweight. Povetkin went on to be cannon fodder for Wladimir Klitschko.
Imagine the last fifteen years or so without Wladimir, his brother Vitali, or Lennox Lewis.
All of a sudden, the idea of a ‘Super’ Heavyweight era is pretty silly. Huck, giving up some 20 lbs. to Povetkin in 2012, was a reminder that things really haven’t changed that much. Winning at Heavyweight isn’t about being bigger.
It’s about being better.
Over the last fifteen years, we’ve had some smaller Heavyweights with skill (Chris Byrd, Eddie Chambers come to mind). We’ve had some with the right level of speed and power (think David Haye). What has been missing is the sort of warrior who combines both to challenge the giants. There was a time when seeing smaller, quicker Heavyweights against bigger men was part of the allure of the division, part of the unlimited weight potential for drama it held.
Cruiserweight has arguably created an incentive against that and made Heavyweight the worse for it.
Huck might not fit the bill as the guy to make a move.
However, besides the Klitschko’s, Povetkin might well have been the best Heavyweight in the world over the last half decade and Huck, to many eyes, was his better. If not for the Klitschko’s, Huck would have had little reason to stay at Cruiserweight.
The same can probably be said for several Cruiserweights. It’s enough to validate that Huck has been a commendable fighter. As he aims for a division record-tying 13th title defense this weekend, the question is simple.
Will Huck (37-2-1, 26 KO), who proved he could be at least the third best Heavyweight in the world in 2012, ever get the chance to confirm that he’s the very best at Cruiserweight?
A win this Saturday over Mirko Laghetti (21-0, 13 KO) won’t answer that question. What it will do is clear the boards if Huck ever gets the chance to chase the answer with the right fights. Still only 29 years old, it’s past time for Huck to get his shot at unifying the 200 lb. division.
It wasn’t long ago that the best Cruiserweights asked the right question. Men like O’Neill Bell, Jean Marc Mormeck, Wayne Braithwaite, Steve Cunningham, David Haye, and Tomasz Adamek engaged in series of fights that gave weight to their weight class. Huck, whose lone stoppage loss came to Cunningham in 2007, didn’t fully emerge until the back end of those years.
Since wining a belt in 2009, he’s been the most consistent figure in the division. As others have come and gone, Huck has remained (even with a couple iffy decisions over Denis Lebedev and in his first fight with Firat Arslan).
When does that translate into a chance to close the show? The current title picture at Cruiserweight beyond Huck is as follows:
• Yoan Pablo Hernandez (29-1, 14 KO, IBF, 2011-Present, 4 Defenses)
• Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (49-2-1, WBC, 2010-Present, 6 Defenses)
• Denis Lebedev (25-2, 19 KO, WBA, 2012-Present)
As 2014 turns the page to 2015, and assuming Huck wins Saturday, it’s long past time one of those other title holders stood across the ring. Win or lose, at 14 defenses Huck has earned the right to find out if the last five years have been his era at Cruiserweight.
And then maybe he can move back to Heavyweight and see if he can be better than third best if only for a night.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]