By Jake Donovan
Not even a career cruiserweight like Marco Huck can avoid the temptation of gaining just a few more pounds in pursuit of heavyweight paydays.
Having never weighed above 200 lb for a single fight in his career, Huck decided to try something new earlier this year and contend for a heavyweight bout. Questionable scoring stood in the way of his becoming just the third ever fighter to officially win championships at cruiserweight and heavyweight when he came up on the short end of a majority decision against Alexander Povetkin earlier this year.
The fight was indicative of the shortage of luck experienced in Huck’s career as of late. A strong case can be made for his serving as the best cruiserweight in the world, yet it’s been more than a year since his last official win. A return to cruiserweight was met with a hard-fought draw in a rematch with Ola Afolabi this past May, his last fight to date.
You’d think the only thing on Huck’s mind at this bout would be a return to the win column. The reigning cruiserweight titlist is a heavy favorite to achieve just that when he faces 42-year old challenger Firat Arslan in his 10th title defense Saturday in Halle, Germany.
Instead, buzz surrounding the fight itself has taken a backseat to his aspirations of returning to the heavyweight division. Huck (34-2-1, 25KO) is well aware of the challenge in front of him tonight, but can’t help but fancy his chances against the best heavyweights in the world.
“I really want to go to heavyweight to fight Wladimir Klitschko,” Huck insisted earlier this week. The statement didn’t generate nearly as much buzz as Friday’s announcement from his camp, offering the lineal heavyweight king a payday in the vicinity of $6.5 million.
The skeptic would insist that the financial offer was made for no other reason than to drum up interest for tonight’s bout. There’s probably a lot of truth to that, considering that the same Sauerland Event release acknowledged that Povetkin (whom the company also promotes) is the mandatory challenger and that Huck would have to wait in line.
Still, Huck has found himself unable to get as excited about his showdown with Arslan as the thought of getting either Klitschko in the ring. Wladimir wasn’t the only heavyweight on whom Huck set his sights in recent days, as he offered his services in the event that Vitali is unable to secure an oft-rumored showdown with David Haye.
What he hasn’t spent very much time talking about is the challenge presently in front of him. Probably because he has even more respect for his opponent as a person than as an actual threat.
“I have to say that I really like Firat,” said Huck. “He got into boxing at a very late age but fought through all the odds. I have a lot of respect for his accomplishments. Added to that, he is a very nice person. This is a completely new situation for me. I didn't like many of my former opponents. But facing someone whom you appreciate for his success and his attitude is an unusual scenario for me.”
Not boasting any sort of winning streak is also a new experience for Huck. Prior to 2012, the lone time he failed to post a win as a pro was in his first title challenge against Steve Cunningham nearly five years ago. Huck was all heart but eventually ran out of gas – and fight – against the visiting titlist at the time.
The loss was a letdown for obvious reasons, though also a momentum killer. Huck entered the fight on the heels of a breakthrough performance against Vadim Tokarev to set up the title shot, but came up short when it came time to cash in that opportunity.
Still, time was on Huck’s side, as he was just completing three years in the pro ranks. Fifteen wins would follow. Included among the lot is his current title reign which began with a 12-round decision over Victor Ramirez in Aug. ’09, in the very venue which hosts tonight’s fight.
“The Gerry Weber Stadium feels like a second home to me,“ said Huck. “This is where I became WBO World Champion and also defended my title for the sixth time (a 12-round win over Ran Nakash in Apr. ’11). But this time around, I have a special goal in sight. If I should be able to defend my title for the tenth time, I will be awarded with the status of the WBO Super Champion.”
Huck’s last win came last October, scoring a 6th round stoppage over Rogelio Omar Rossi. Several notable wins have graced his championship reign, such as a 10th round knockout against Hugo Garay and a disputed split decision over Denis Lebedev in arguably his biggest win (on paper) to date.
Saturday evening will serve as another day in the office for Huck, who weighed 198.85 during Friday’s weigh-in. The weight is close to the norm for Huck, save for his one trip north of cruiserweight earlier this year.
Still, Huck is no longer interested in status-quo. While excited over the prospects of being recognized as a sanctioning body’s “super” champion, the top cruiserweight sees bigger game in the crosshairs. And it’s not just the payday that comes with such a challenge, but the belief that he can excel at the top level.
“I would make Wladimir my girlfriend,” Huck states when asked how he’d fare against the world’s best heavyweight. “Wladimir lost his big fights miserably and then never met these conquerors again. Everyone wants to see me and Wladimir fight. It could be held at the Olympic stadium in Berlin.”
For now, his dollar and a dream is put on the back burner. Even if a fight with either Klitschko has a chance of becoming a reality, none of it happens if he comes up short – or disappoints even in victory – against Arslan tonight.
“I would have preferred to not fight Firat,” Huck admits, though not because he believes the fringe contender to be beneath him. “He is a very nice guy on a personal level. I watched his last fight and I know that he is a really tough opponent.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox