Mayweather vs Cotto isn't the only big boxing card coming on Saturday, as the American afternoon will see a major show live from Erfurt, Germany, headlined by a cruiserweight title rematch and a heavyweight bout that could have major ramifications on the immediate future of the division.
In the main event, Marco Huck will defend his WBO cruiserweight title in a rematch against Ola Afolabi. The two first met in 2009, with Huck winning a close, debated unanimous decision. In the show's main undercard slot, heavyweight prospect Kubrat Pulev steps up in competition against Alexander Dimitrenko, with the vacant European title on the line.
There is also a super middleweight title on the undercard, as well as two other notable prospects in action. The show will start on the UK's BoxNation at 2:30 p.m. EDT, and Bad Left Hook will have live round-by-round coverage of the entire show. It's going to be a day and night filled with fights here on BLH.
Let's take a look at what's coming your way from Germany.
WBO Cruiserweight Title, Rematch, 12 Rounds
Marco Huck (34-2, 25 KO) vs Ola Afolabi (19-2-3, 9 KO)
The 27-year-old Huck is right in the middle of what should be his prime years, and has held the WBO title since August 2009, when he lifted it from Victor Ramirez, who has not fought since. Afolabi, 32, was actually Huck's first challenger, as they met in early December, just over three months after Huck won the belt. The two had a nip-and-tuck fight, with Afolabi showing his slickster skills and Huck brawling his way to an eventual victory on scores of 115-113, 115-113, and 116-112, which some felt was a bit of home cooking.
The English-born Afolabi took 10 months off before fighting again, and his opposition since then hasn't exactly been impressive. He's been most noted over that time for sparring with the Klitschko camps, after which he would feature on their undercards. Since Klitschko undercards are generally the worst big fight undercards in the entire sport, Afolabi wasn't booked against stiff competition.
But he's gone 4-0, and his win on the Klitschko-Mormeck undercard was at least against Valery Brudov, who never did get over the hump but has at least challenged for titles a couple of times. Afolabi got rid of him in five, dominating the fight.
Since his win over Afolabi, Huck has stayed on a steady pace and rattled off a series of decent but totally predictable wins at cruiserweight. He defended against Americans Adam "Swamp Donkey" Richards, Brian Minto, and Matt Godfrey first, all of whom were pretty seriously overmatched. Following those three, he battled tough Russian Denis Lebedev in December 2010. Faced with a legitimate opponent, Huck again had plenty of problems, and there were more than a handful of people who thought Lebedev was shorted by the judges in Germany.
Wins over Ran Nakash, Hugo Garay, and Rogelio Rossi followed, all expected when the fights were made.
In February, Huck took a risk and moved up to heavyweight to face WBA "regular" titleholder Alexander Povetkin. It was a very good fight, and in the end, Huck looked like he may have beaten the odds and won a title in a second weight class, and entered the serious heavyweight discussion. Instead, two of three judges picked Povetkin, with the third scoring a draw, and Huck was denied.
Shortly after, he made the decision to go back to cruiserweight for the time being. A heavyweight future may be in the cards, but at 27 he made the decision that there was no sense in going up right now, not when the Klitschko brothers -- against whom he'd have no real chance -- rule the division. So he's back at cruiserweight, and he's taking a tough challenger who has been looking sharp lately.
It's unlikely this fight doesn't go 12 rounds again. Huck can punch, but he doesn't stop his better opponents, and Afolabi is tough to get in many clean shots on, anyway. Afolabi may be the best boxer in the division today, a tricky and crafty guy whose power has seemed to come along in recent fights, too.
If this fight were not in Germany, I'd be picking Afolabi. I think his style is a pain for anyone in the division, but the charging, wild-brawling Huck is especially vulnerable to a guy like this. If Afolabi has improved since their first fight (which is debatable, but it looks like he's made some strides), he really should win this one via the "styles make fights" cliche. But it's in Germany, and I'm expecting Huck to get a debated split or majority decision. Marco Huck via controversial decision.
Vacant European Heavyweight Title, 12 Rounds
Alexander Dimitrenko (32-1, 21 KO) vs Kubrat Pulev (15-0, 7 KO)
These two are currently pulling up the rear in the BLH rankings, at Nos. 9 and 10, respectively. Pulev, 31, is old for a prospect, but that happens with these amateur stars. As an amateur, the thorn in his side was Italy's Roberto Cammarelle, who generally kept Pulev from winning many major competitions (he did win the 2008 Euros, when Cammarelle didn't compete). As a pro, he's been dominant so far against limited opposition.
Just under 6'5", Bulgaria's "Cobra" has beaten some familiar fringe names, including Michael Sprott, Travis Walker, Matt Skelton, Danny Batchelder, Paolo Vidoz, Derric Rossy, and Dominick Guinn. He's had little to no trouble against any of them.
Dimitrenko may be a tougher proposition, but then again he may not be. Apart from being 6'7", it's hard to figure out why so many consider him any type of real threat to the best in the division. The 29-year-old Ukrainian hasn't done much more than Pulev thus far in his 10-year pro career. They've beaten the same level of opponents, really. Dimitrenko's biggest fight came in July 2009, when he faced American Eddie Chambers, and Chambers quite frankly whipped his ass, though one of the three judges found some way to score it 113-113. (That same judge will be part of the Huck-Afolabi II panel, for what it's worth.)
I'm not entirely sold on Pulev as part of the division's long-term future; if anything, I think he could be a titleholder in the interim between the Klitschkos and whatever comes after them. He's not a great talent, but he's a good one. And I expect him to make somewhat easy work of Dimitrenko tomorrow. It's not that Dimitrenko can't fight, it's that when I think back to the trouble he had with undersized, light-hitting Chambers, I have a hard time seeing him beat fighters I consider to be truly "good." Some think more of him than I do. If he has a competitive showing or wins this one, I'll finally be on board. Kubrat Pulev by decision.
WBO Super Middleweight Title, 12 Rounds
Robert Stieglitz (41-2, 23 KO) vs Nader Hamdan (43-9-1, 18 KO)
Stieglitz, 30, was supposed to be facing British champion George Groves, but since that would have made three interesting fights, and a Frank Warren-promoted fighter was involved, Groves pulled out of his third straight date instead. Too good to be true. Arthur Abraham is Stieglitz's new mandatory, and that fight should be expected by September or so, I'd imagine.
I'm not going to go much into this one. The 38-year-old Hamdan is a short-notice opponent and has no real shot. He's not much of a puncher, and has gone just 2-5-1 since 2007. The only thing I'll note about Hamdan, since it amuses me so, is that after he was shut out over eight rounds by Mads Larsen in 2007, that goon Anthony Mundine gave him a world title shot in his next fight. Ask me again why I have no respect for Mundine's record or boasting.
Stieglitz will win this one and set up the Abraham fight, which he'll probably lose. Hamdan has only been stopped once, and that was by ... (drumroll) ... Abraham, back in 2004, in the 12th round. So don't expect a short night here. Robert Stieglitz by decision.
Heavyweights, 8 Rounds
Edmund Gerber (19-0, 13 KO) vs Maurice Harris (25-15-2, 11 KO)
Let me try to figure out how to put this...
Harris is better than his record, but also not as good as people who say "Harris is better than his record" might lead you to believe. The 36-year-old Jerseyite has twice missed substantial chunks of time in his career, as he sat out from March 2003-January 2006 after KO losses to Henry Akinwande and Fres Oquendo (between which he knocked out Siarhei Liakhovich), and then he was out from November 2007 to January 2010, after losing badly to Tye Fields and misrepresenting himself to get a fight against a guy named Rodney Wallace in North Carolina, which was changed to a no contest.
Last I saw Harris, he looked truly miserable against Tony Thompson on Friday Night Fights in May 2011. He fought like he had no interest in being in the ring. So don't expect much here. Gerber, 23, has never stood out as someone to keep major tabs on to me, but he'll roll in this one if Harris looks like he did against Thompson. But then again it's Maurice Harris, so who the fuck knows what to expect? He's an enigma. Edmund Gerber by knockout.
Middleweights, 8 Rounds
Dustin Dirks (23-0, 17 KO) vs Thomas Ulrich (32-6, 22 KO)
I think I've used this line before: I had an argument with someone about Dirks one. They argued that he's not really any good at all, but I totally disagreed and said maybe if he gets the right bogus title shot, he could win a world title someday. Ulrich is 36, hasn't fought in 13 months, and has trouble taking punches anymore. Dustin Dirks via knockout.