By Alexey Sukachev
Messehalle, Erfurt, Thüringen, Germany - After his previously proposed fights with Mikkel Kessler, George Groves and Arthur Abraham had all fallen through in April, WBO super middleweight champion Robert Stieglitz (42-2, 23 KOs) of Germany (originally from Russia under the name of Sergey Stieklitz) was forced to defend his title for the sixth time since capturing it in August 2009 against veteran contender Nader Hamdan (43-10-1, 18 KOs), who was eventually ranked #15 by the WBO after earning a lightly regarded minor WBO belt.
However, Hamdan, who is already 38, came in to fight and the bout was no easy road for the champion. Stieglitz dominated the vast majority of the rounds but, like Henry Weber in his previous defense, the Australian was giving Stieglitz fits. Both fighters stood their ground and connected with big punches. The German's gun was superior to that of the Australian challenger and it resulted in severe facial damage to Hamdan. However, despite eating a solid diet of leather and in spite of the increasing amount of punishment taken in the closing rounds, Nader lasted until the final bell. He was stopped just once in his career - it was his second loss in 38 fights and it came in the twelfth against such a deadly puncher like Arthur Abraham in 2004.
All three judges scored it for Stieglitz: 117-111 (Manuel Javier Palomo and Ingo Barrabas) and 120-108 (Paul Thomas). BoxingScene had it 118-110 - also for the champion.
Marco Huck (34-2-1, 25 KOs) retained his WBO cruiserweight title with a twelve round majority draw against WBO interim champion Ola Afolabi (19-2-4, 9 KOs) of Nigeria. The scores were: 114-114 (Paul Thomas of Great Britain), 115-113 Huck (Zoltan Enyedi of Hungary) and 114-114 (Ingo Barrabas of Germany). The fight was exciting and fireworks filled many of the rounds as both boxers traded bombs to no end. BoxingScene favored Huck with a score of 116-113, and BoxNation had Huck up 116-112.
They first met in December 2009, which Huck won with a close twelve round unanimous decision. Both contestants were holding the same belts exact belts nearly three years later: Huck was the WBO "full" champion, and Afolabi was the WBO "interim" champion.
This time Huck was being outboxed for the better part of the first four rounds. Both fighters battled in spurts but those of Afolabi were harder, longer and coming with shorter breaks in between. Afolabi landed more body punches but the more telling blows and clean bombs were thrown by the German. However, the Nigerian enjoyed some success early on when his style dominated over that of Huck.
Captain Huck started to rally with hard punches in the fifth and Afolabi appeared to be tired in the sixth. Afolabi was brawling with Huck in the seventh, and a cut opened up above Huck's left eye from a clash of heads in the very same round. Afolabi was still landing big but Huck actions were clearly more consistent. And he was getting more and more aggressive with each fought minute of the fight.
In the ninth, Afolabi was in serious trouble in the closing seconds when he got hurt from a right hand. Huck tried to finish him off, but the bell saved the Nigerian who ate a lot of hard punches at the end. The championship rounds were close, but Huck was landing the harder and more telling punches. They were trading very big punches in the final round as the entire arena stood on their feet. Huck was getting the edge and a hurt Afolabi stood his ground and fired back with punches.
The final verdict barely satisfied anyone but Huck managed to retain his position as the top cruiserweight titleholder.
In a very important European heavyweight contest, former amateur star Kubrat Pulev (16-0, 8 KOs) overcame some severe controversy and earned the best victory on his ledger so far. Oppositely, Alexander Dimitrenko (32-2, 21 KOs), a fading veteran at 30 and a year "younger" than Pulev, surrendered under uncomfortable circumstances and badly damaged his credentials, in a eleventh-round TKO loss which came from his inability to summon the will and character when it was very much needed.
The fight started Dmitrenko's way. The WBO #2, WBC #5, IBF #6 and WBA #7 ranked fighter, whose only loss came against a world-class contender Eddie Chambers, was outboxing the shorter Pulev with his jab and he was light and liquid on his feet which prevented him from taking too much punishment from Pulev. The pattern changed in the third round, when IBF #11, WBO #12 and WBA #15 rated Bulgarian started to use better timing and started landing not only counter jabs but also power punches on Dimitrenko. Round four was explicitly in his favour when he rocked Dimitrenko with several crisp combinations.
The former Ukrainian citizen tried to hang on and he did so in the midst of the fight which evolved into a see-saw affair between two big men. However, Pulev's punches were much harder and he marked Dimitrenko's face, specifically near his right eye. On feeling the pain and seeing the blood - Dimitrenko changed his mindset and started to fade. He indeed boxed some and offered some resistance but his power was rapidly draining. He was getting hit much more in rounds eight, nine and ten and he was eating all sorts of punishment time and time again. Pulev, on the other hand, tried hard when he saw his chance against a bigger man.
Alexander's cornermen were trying to get him to fight on but he just wasn't willing to do so very much. He also fell down several times in clinches and wasn't fighting on the inside; clinching and hugging Pulev instead.
At the end of the eleventh, Pulev landed a telling jab and Dimitrenko slowly went down to the canvas, and stayed on his knees, as he was counted out by referee Guido Cavalleri. He wasn't hurt that bad, and the punch he ate wasn't that hard. He simply gave up. It was a bitter loss for a highly ranked fighter, and one which can easily jeopardize his future as a world-class contestant. Pulev, 31, has many more reasons to be proud. He is now the European and the IBF International heavyweight champion.
German heavyweight prospect Edmund Gerber (20-0, 13 KOs) didn't impress a single bit in his fight with IBF #9-ranked heavyweight gatekeeper Maurice Harris (25-16-2, 11 KOs) but at the end of the day it didn't matter much as Harris, once a promising youngster whose career went the other way, was content to dance around and toy with the German rather than to fight him.
It was a sad bout, because Harris was the more experienced battler of the two but clearly didn't want to win the fight, while a younger boxer was eager to get a victory but didn't have enough tools to accomplish the task. The fight was mostly going Gerber's way because he was throwing punches. Harris avoided a vast majority of these shots but he just didn't throw anything in return. Instead he bobbed and weaved and ducked under fire. He put in some heart in a couple of rounds and was easily giving a lesson to the young German, when he really wanted it. Unfortunately, he didn't want it in other rounds. At the end, all three judges awarded a victory to a more willing fighter - Edmund Gerber: 79-73 (twice) and 78-74. It wouldn't be enough for better fighters, however.
In the battle of youth and age, the former notched another impressive win when WBO #12 light heavyweight Dustin Dirks (24-0, 18 KOs), a hard-punching 23-year old local prospect, landed a bonecrushing left hook to the body which put famed German veteran Thomas Ulrich (32-7, 22 KOs) down and out exactly at 2:00 of the fourth round.
Ulrich, a former European champion and a long-time division's fringe contender, started the bout good outboxing relatively slow Dirks with his still potent jab. But when a young fighter landed his first heavy combination with a couple of uppercuts at the end of the second, it marked the beginning of the end for an old warrior. Ulrich's face was rapidly worsening during the next round and a bloody mask on his face was completed to the start of the fourth. The end was within the reach, Dirks felt it, went it and left the veteran no chances whatsoever.
Ulrich, 36, now has 4 losses in his last 5 fights, all by the way of kayo. I can be an end of the road for this brave but badly shot fighter. Dirks, on the other hand, has seemingly a bright future ahead. He looks solid.
Cruiserweight David Graf (7-0, 6 KOs) didn't impress as he did in his previous stoppage wins, but he got the job done against another Hungarian stop-me-fast opponent in Attila Palko (13-3, 11 KOs). Graf dropped Palko immediately after the starting bell with a left hand and then repeated the trick at the end of the stanza with a hard left blow to the mid-section. He took the next round and a couple off to work some things out and then finished the Hungarian off with the same left cracker to the body at 1:16 of the fourth
In a wild brawl of two undefeated fighters, German prospect Robert Woge (9-0, 8 KOs) soundly proved his considerable superiority over Hungarian light heavyweight Ferenc Hafner (12-1, 9 KOs) over three entertaining rounds. Both fighters were glad to trade punches at an impressive rate but Woge was both much sharper and much more agile than his sloppy opponent. Hafner was extremely tired already after the first, and the next two rounds didn't award him with much relevation. The Hungarian was down once in the second and thrice in the third round before the one-sided fight was stopped simultaneously with the bell to end the third stanza. His face was a bloody mask at the time of stoppage.
19-year old rising German hopeful Tyron Zeuge (2-0, 2 KOs), another talent out of Team Sauerland, displayed excellent boxing and punching skills in a easy annihilation of Venezuela-born Italian Santo Drago (4-3, 3 KOs). Zeuge dropped Drago with a classy right hook in the first, floored him with a left hook to the liver in the second and got the job done with another wicked right hand at 0:31 of the third round. He is one to watch.