Boxing’s New Hub
By Ted Sares: Meine Damen und Herren, “let’s get ready to rumble…..” --Michael Buffer
Article posted on 23.10.2009
In Germany, free television carries top title fights the way it once did in the United States, in the golden days of the 1970s and 1980s. --Nicholas Kulish
The Past Before the current boom in German boxing (which dates to the fall of the Berlin Wall), Germany’s boxing history stretched back prior to the historic fights between Max Schmeling and Joe Louis However the 50’s and 60’s were a time when many active, albeit unnoticed, German fighters were also running up gaudy records..
Gustav “Bubi” Scholz, a great counter puncher, finished with an incredible 88-2-6 record as he fought from 1948-1964. Willi Besmanoff (51-34-8), a perennial heavyweight contender, fought every one and anyone during the 50s and 60s and pulled off some great upsets. In fact, there was any number of rugged German fighters during these great boxing decades. These included Erich Schoppner (34-1-5), Heinz Reinhardt (30-3-1), Willi Hoepner (49-10-3), and Peter “de Aap” Mueller (132-26-14) who held wins over the great Joey Giardello and the rugged Randy Sandy.
Eckhard Dagge (26-5-1) was Germany's second world champion, after Max Schmeling, holding the WBC light middleweight belt from 1976 to 1977. Dagge also won German National and European titles during his ten-year career. He had only one fight outside of Germany and that was in nearby Austria. However, his opponents reads like a “Whose who in Boxing” and included Rocky Mattioli, Maurice Hope, Emile Griffith, Elisha Obed (against whom he captured the WBC light middleweight championship in 1976), Vito Antuofermo, Jose Manual Duran (55-4-7 coming in), Billy Backus, Denny Moyer (91-31-4), and Manuel Gonzalez (60-32-6).
Then, East German fighters Henry Maske (31-1) and Axel Schulz earned world title shots raising the profile of the sport. The Rocchigiani brothers, Graciano and Ralf, also added to the post-Cold War boxing boom as did Sven Ottke who finished his career undefeated at 34-0.
Hard luck heavyweight Axel Schulz (26-5-1) made an ill-advised comeback in 2006 and was battered by Brian Minto over 6 rounds. However, his best showings may well have come in his two defeats years before to Michael Moorer and George Foreman, respectively. Many thought he had taken the IBF heavyweight crown from “Big George. He did become German heavyweight champion in 1992.
The New Millennium
These days, one is just as likely to hear Michael Buffer’s trademarked catchphrase “let’s get ready to rumble…..” in Hamburg as in Las Vegas
The Klitschko factor
When brothers Vitali and Wlad Klitschko chose Germany as their base of operations, the boxing profile of that country was turbo-charged. While Oleg Maskaev and Sultan Ibragimov fight out of the U.S., the road to heavyweight glory and riches now runs directly through Munich, Hamburg, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Berlin, and other such locales these days.
The advent of the brothers encouraged many, many others from the former Soviet Union to cash in on their great amateur training and skills. Armenians Arthur Abraham, Khoren Gevor, and Roman Aramian, have become German citizens. Even defectors from Cuba are making Germany their new port of call. After defecting from Cuba, Odlanier Solis signed a professional promotional contract with German-based Arena Box-Promotions as did other Cuban amateur stars.
Alexander Alexeev (18-1) is a talented and iron fisted cruiserweight. Like many of his Russian countrymen, he fights out of Germany. Born in Uzbekistan, a Russian by nationality, and living in Germany, he arguably is the poster child for the profle of the new Eastern Euro fighter. Indeed, it is no longer unusual to witness Germany’s immigrant community waving Russian flags--or flags from a great many other countries..
Moreover, the boxers all seem quite comfortable fighting under the auspices of Hamburg-based Universum Box-Promotion and/or Sauerland Promotions.
Of course, there are several high profile German fighters such as Markus “Boom Boom” Beyer (35-3-1), a former super middleweight world title holder, who is nearing the end of a fine career in which he won the WBC super middleweight title in 2003. Super Middleweight Robert Stieglitz was born in Russia but is as German as Dortmunder Beer. At 36-2, he has now won, lost and won several titles and currently holds the WBO super middleweight title after a shocking stoppage of undefeated Hungarian Karoly Balzay in August 2009. He won his first 27. Cruiserweight, Firat Arslan (29-4-1)and Marco “Käpt'n” Huck (26-1) are both more than noteworthy.
Sebastian “Hurrikan” Sylvester (32-3) is the current IBF middleweight title holder having won over Giovanni Lorenzo (27-1 coming in) on September 19, 2009. He has fought a high level of competition and promises to do much damage in the German boxing landscape. Another Sebastian with the last name Zbik is at 27-0 won the interim WBC middleweight crown on July 11, 2009 by defusing Domenico “Volcano” Spada (29-1) over 12 cantos. However, unlike Sylvester, his level of opposition leaves much to be desired.
Maher (Lion) Oral (26-2-2) recently lost to Arthur Abraham but won over fans with his gutsy performance. Karo Murat is at 20-0, and with wins over Sergey Demchenko, Gabriel Campillo, and Christian Sanavia (twice), this light heavyweight is starting to get noticed. He is very active and fights very well inside for a stand up fighter. More importantly, he is currently trained by Ulli Wegner who is fast becoming Germany’s answer to Manny Steward, though Manny trains Wlad and is quite visible in his own right.
Heavyweight Rene Dettweiler is streaking at 25-2 and warrants attention as does Cengiz “Khan” Koc at 24-3, but Timo Hoffman (38-6-10 recently lost to come-backing and aging Francois Botha and is beginning the big slide.
Germany has a great boxing legacy, particularly in the bigger weight divisions, and unless the U.S. gets more creative and competitive in the way in which it offers the next generation of fighters on network television, look for Germany to become not only the new Euro Hub, but perhaps the global hub of boxing as well--if it’s not already.
Postscript: Anyone who witnessed Arthur Abraham’s ring entrance in the Jermain Taylor fight in Berlin knows what German fans think about boxing these days.
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