Revanche Henry Maske – Most boxing comebacks are categorized as “ill-advised.” Alexis Arguello, Danny “Little Red” Lopez, Razor Ruddock, Eric Lucas, Stephane Ouellet, Paul Briggs, Axel Schultz, Boone Pultz, Mads Larsen, and Sugar Ray Leonard had little left at the time they came back (though Ray manifestly made an amazing comeback against Marvelous Marvin Hagler). Jerry Quarry and Tommy Morrison had nothing left (but for different reasons). Even legends like Sugar Ray Robinson, Joe Louis, and Muhammad Ali were a shell of what they once were. Smokin’ Joe Frazier was given a gift draw six years after he came back, and Gerrie Coetzee was slaughtered by Frank Bruno and embarrassed by Iran Barkley. The list is a long one. Relatively few make successful returns to the ring. Notable exceptions that quickly come to mind are Edwin Rosario (who died of a drug overdose while in the midst of a successful comeback), Eder Jofre, Jeff Fenech, Vitali Klitschko, George Foreman, and Carlos Palomino.
In some ways, political comebacks can be like boxing comebacks. If Bill Clinton was “The Comeback Kid,” Dick Nixon laid the blueprint. But in boxing the incentive is usually not restoring disproportionate ego needs and recapturing power and influence; the incentive in boxing is almost always financial. An exception was Henry Maske’s single comeback fight after an eleven year layoff. Henry simply had something to prove about losing for the first time in his career, and against all odds and advice he set out to do just that — to recapture his lost territory– to gain revanche (revenge).
Henry “Gentleman” Maske (2007)
“In the early 1900s, James J. Jeffries looked good physically when he got into the ring against Jack Johnson after six years’ inactivity but could offer only gameness in a mismatch. Joe Louis, after a two-year absence, moved like an old man at the age of 35 when Ezzard Charles outboxed him….Now it is Maske’s turn. He says he wants to avenge the only loss he ever suffered.”—Graham Houston
“This is not good for the sport…If things go normally, Henry doesn’t have a ghost of a chance. He can’t have any reflexes left.”—Sven Ottke
“Either he’s bored and has earned too much money and doesn’t know what he should do now. Or he needs money. I can’t imagine that he’ll beat Hill.”—Dariusz Michalczewski
Maske, a 1988 Olympic middleweight gold medalist for East Germany, won his first 30 professional fights, many against top-tier opposition. He beat the likes of “Prince” Charles Williams (against whom he won the IBF World light heavyweight title), undefeated Ernesto Magdaleno, Iran Barkley, Graciano Rocchigiani (twice), and John Scully. In fact, in just his sixth professional fight, he beat a seasoned Sean Mannion (38-11-1), and only his first two opponents had losing records. During his career he became the IBF world title holder in the light heavyweight category, winning the belt on March 20,1993 and he successfully defended the title ten times before suffering his first career loss, losing a split decision vs. a prime Virgil “Quicksilver” Hill (42-1).
Though he was only 33 years old at the time, Maske, rather than seek a rematch, called it a career with a 30-1 record.
Called “the gentleman boxer” because of his classic style and extraordinary manners both inside and outside the ring, Henry Maske stayed retired for 11 years but kept fit as a fiddle. In late 2006 he announced that he would go into training for another go at Hill. Many Maske fans feared at the time that the Gentleman with his handsome Teutonic features and blue eyes would ruin his status as a German sports idol by risking a thrashing at the hands of Hill (then 50-5), a future Hall of Famer who had owned multiple titles including the WBA cruiserweight title.
The Fight: Shock and Awe
The cruiserweight fight was held on March 31, 2007 at the Olympiahalle in Munich, Germany, the very same venue in which Maske lost his title to Hill. However, this time Henry shocked the boxing world by doing the improbable, if not the impossible, winning a solid 12-round unanimous decision. This amazing achievement cemented Henry’s standing as one of Germany’s most adored sports figures. But make no mistake; what Maske did was far from the norm. Here is the fight:
To the shouts of “Henry, Henry, Henry,” Maske showed tremendous conditioning and stamina as he was able to outwork Hill. He used pinpoint counters, an effective right jab, and beat Virgil to the punch to reverse his only defeat by scores of 117-110, 116-113, and 117-110. A point controversially deducted from Maske in round eight after an accidental head clash floored Hill and left him with a deep cut over his left eye, but didn’t play a role in the scoring. The crowd was on its feet at the end and even close friend Vladimir Klitschko and announcer Michael Buffer got caught up in the euphoria of what had just occurred.
After the fight, Maske revealed he had promised his wife that he would never box again, thus precluding the possibility of a trilogy.
Here is what Graham Houston had to say in an article for ESPN:
“… in a supremely satisfying victory, Maske gained revenge for his only loss by defeating Virgil Hill in a 12-round cruiserweight “special attraction” in Munich, Germany. Maske had prepared meticulously, including having taken part in two unofficial fights in private. He negotiated the advantageous (for him) weight of 190 pounds, instead of the cruiserweight limit of 200 pounds, for the Hill bout. Maske boxed a careful, tactically perfect fight to outpoint Hill, who although a reigning champion, was the same age as Maske.”
Somehow some way, Teddy Atlas got involved, training Maske in the early stages. But like many of Teddy’s charges, Maske left and went back to Germany. It’s safe to assume that Coach Manfred Wolke was far more important than Atlas.
Today, Maske is a successful businessman and a celebrity of sorts in Germany. He is adored by his fandom. He also is a member of Germany’s Sports Hall of Fame. Hopefully, Canastota will be in his future one of these days.
Ted Sares is one of the world’s oldest active power lifters and holds several records. A member of Ring 4’s Boxing Hall of Fame, he enjoys writing about boxing.
Revanche Henry Maske / Check out more boxing news and videos at The Boxing Channel.