DORTMUND, GERMANY – It wasn’t pretty by any means, but for dozens of raucous Latvian fans who made the trip, Mairis Briedis did a beautiful job dominating Marco Huck to earn the vacant WBC cruiserweight belt along with a lucrative spot in the division’s intriguing unification scenarios.
Did some chump suggest taking the “under” proposition regarding the length of this contest? If so, he must not have understood Huck’s durability.
After an even first round, Huck (now 40-4-1, 27 KOs) was completely out-muscled and looked confused. Although he got stung a few times he was never in danger of being dropped, let alone stopped.
Official scoring was 118-109, 117-110, and 116-111. The Sweet Science had it 120 – 110, giving Huck a couple of even rounds, but nothing more.
Huck’s best chance seemed to be his overhand right, but he never let it fly. He pushed Breidis to the ropes a few times but that was about it.
After a few frames, the relative silence of the German crowd said it all. Meanwhile, the constantly screaming visitors from Latvia were having a party.
An unmarked Briedis, now 22-0, 18 KOs, admitted some frustration, saying, “Of course I was trying for a knockout. But Marco is a very tough opponent so I was forced to go 12 rounds.”
Briedis ended up getting more medical attention, heading to a hospital to check on a painful rib said to be from an awkward twist, not any punch. It figures that any damage would have come from holding, since there was so much more of that than anything like combinations.
For Huck, the pain came from putting on a sub-par performance before around 7,000 spectators and a TV audience of 3.17 million viewers.
“I was very well prepared and I tried as hard as I could but he deserved the victory,” said the bruised but unbowed Huck. “Maybe all the (promotional) pressure got to me. That’s how things go in sports. There will be other title opportunities. I might even move up to heavyweight. I’m a warrior and I’m still too young to quit.”
It was an entertaining scrum due to the scene and personalities involved, but much more of a sloppy, wrestling waltz than a high-quality slugfest. Referee Jay Nady had to bark “stop!” so many times over minor infractions it sounded like he might deduct points from each man for a lack of artistry.
There was a lot of intensity in the ring, but quality boxing was scarce throughout a repetitive pattern of Huck marching forward into clutches ineffectively while Briedis scuffed him up with wide, glancing shots. Huck should have tried his desperate, final round charge about six rounds earlier.
Both men wound up with big punches, but you could count the clean, solid shots that landed with one hand. If they gave points for headlocks, Briedis would have won by an even wider margin.
The purest moment of the fight may have come afterward, when neither man raised his arms to proclaim superiority. Instead, mutually understanding the outcome, they went immediately to each other’s corners in a show of sportsmanship before embracing. It looked like Huck acknowledged the win into Breidis’s ear.
It turned out that Huck’s IBO laurels were not on the line, since Briedis refused to pay related sanctioning fees. Reportedly, when he was offered that belt after the fight, Briedis refused it.
Thus, Huck may still find himself with an insignificant title, though considering the severe, post-fight criticism he received from both German media and fans it would be a PR mistake to accept Breidis’s discarded trinket.
Huck didn’t appear too much the worse for wear after yet another grueling night’s work, but hopefully his team understands that he’s had a good run and that retirement is near. His namesake promotional company, honored by the WBC, appears to be a decent option.
Huck’s latest trainer, Oktay Urkal, may have ended up more confused than anyone else in the arena. “I can’t understand why Marco fought in such a reserved manner,” wondered Urkal, visibly upset.
Fellow undefeated titlists Oleksandr Usyk or Murat Gassiev probably didn’t lose any sleep if they observed this fight. Briedis is a solid fighter, but he’s got a bit more development necessary before he’s fully ready for a unification match.
Still, Huck deserves credit for going the distance with a very tough customer. Briedis remains a work in progress, but he is obviously very powerful. He may have a lesser, celebratory defense back in Latvia before looking at bigger game, perhaps even a US appearance.
If so, it will likely be quite a scene in his homeland. From the look of things Saturday night, Riga is a pretty solid boxing town.
Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel.