Hucked Up: A Case Against an Unjust Verdict

By Adam Berlin on February 27, 2012
Hucked Up: A Case Against an Unjust Verdict
Forget about his pound of flesh in Stuttgart, Marco Huck wasn’t even allowed a few ounces

Two days later, I’m still seething at the decision and the more I think about this fight, the more I wonder if the fix was in…

Where’s the rage?

After seeing Marco Huck beat Alexander Povetkin around the ring, leaving him dazed and ready to fall at the end of the 12th, I was convinced the cruiserweight from Germany had wrested the heavyweight belt. Two days later, I’m still seething at the decision and the more I think about this fight, the more I wonder if the fix was in. 

Exhibit 1: The Referee

Ideally, the third man in the ring should remain invisible, but Luis Pabon seems to have his own theories about officiating. He managed to grab as much TV face-time as the two combatants by constantly separating them when they didn’t need separating. Boxing is about flow—boxers move in and boxers move out, moments of pause morph into explosions of intense action, and the best explosions don’t fizzle quickly but detonate further explosions, the stuff of great fights. Luis Pabon not only damaged the rhythms and potential thrill of this championship bout, but his constant interruptions kept Marco Huck from doing his work. Pabon halted the action when the fighters weren’t tangled. And he halted the action every time Povetkin bent over and Huck threw a punch. Rabbit punches are illegal as they should be—hitting a man in the softest part of his head can cause serious damage. But if a professional fighter insists on bending at the waist to look at his shoelaces instead of his opponent’s face, it’s inevitable that the opponent will search for any opening he can. That’s what Marco Huck did. He didn’t hit Povetkin on the back of the head. He didn’t do what referee Pabon thought he was doing or going to do. Instead, Huck zeroed in on Povetkin’s legally exposed areas—a flash of temple, an inch of jaw, a piece of cheek— and punched. Forget about his pound of flesh, Huck wasn’t even allowed a few ounces (and in Germany, no less!). Every time Povetkin bent over and got hit, Pabon stopped the action, badgering Huck with warnings while Povetkin reset. Had Pabon allowed the fight to progress naturally, had Povetkin been forced to stand up from his genuflecting defense and face his challenger, Huck would have hurt the champion even more than he did. There were moments during the bout when Huck clearly checked his punches, afraid a point might be deducted. Luis Pabon never took that step, but he did everything he could to break Huck’s effective aggression, one of the keys to scoring a round. When it came to the referee, Povetkin looked protected.

Exhibit 2: The Judges

I scored the bout 8 rounds to 4 for Huck. If ring generalship is indeed a factor in scoring, Huck wore the stars. Who would you rather be? The big man breathing heavy, throwing a few shots, then folding over, or the man who threw the crisper jabs and, when the champ bent low, strafed him with powerful rights? Forget the punch stats, which showed a close fight. The problem with punch stats is that power punches are defined as every punch that’s not a jab, but in real boxing, not statistical boxing, all power shots are not equal. Huck’s power shots were exponentially more powerful than Povetkin’s and his jabs were stiff enough to stop Povetkin in his tracks. The rounds Huck won, he won big; Huck dominated Povetkin during seven of the twelve frames. Povetkin had two dominant rounds, Rounds 2 and 3. That leaves three rounds up for grabs. Even if you gave all three of these close rounds to Povetkin, Huck would have emerged the victor by two points. The judges saw things very differently. Scoring the fight 114 to 114 was unfair. Scoring the fight 116 to 113 (Stanley Christodoulou) and 116 to 112 (John Coyle) for Povetkin was derelict. It’s hard to accept these calculations as anything but corrupt.

Sadly, the three men covering the fight for EPIX (and unofficially scoring the fight in favor of Marco Huck), seemed untroubled when the verdict went the other way. Dan Rafael had Huck ahead, but after the decision was announced he backtracked, extolling Povetkin’s early work and thereby making amends for poor judging. Freddie Roach had Huck winning by an even wider margin than Rafael did, yet he too extolled Povetkin for his early work and seemed to passively accept the decision. And blow-by-blow announcer Bruce Beck just kept the patter going, never pausing to suggest injustice. Obviously, Teddy Atlas’ absence was the story in Saturday’s fight, but pretend for a moment that Atlas had never been involved with Povetkin and that he had simply been hired by EPIX to do color commentary for this fight. You can be sure that as soon as the decision was announced, Atlas would have looked straight at the camera and said his piece—that the scoring was incompetent at best, criminal at worst. And had Teddy Atlas been ringside, instead of saying that the referee’s work was “annoying,” Atlas would have shown some genuine emotion. Luis Pabon’s work should have inspired outrage. The judges’ scorecards should have inspired outrage. Instead, the officials were let off the hook thanks to tepid reactions from the broadcast booth.

Exhibit Three: The Sauerlands

Before the decision was announced, I was sure Marco Huck would be the WBA’s new heavyweight champion. In fact, I figured Huck would win by a wide margin—he was the German citizen, fighting in Germany, and he’s a seemingly loyal member of the Sauerland camp, having just renewed his contract with Team Sauerland last November. But then the scores were announced, Povetkin’s hand was raised, his belt re-secured around his waist. Something had to be amiss. Alexander Povetkin is also a member of Team Sauerland. It’s known that Povetkin and Huck are not the best of friends even if they do belong to the same German stable. Perhaps the Sauerlands figured they’d have an easier time controlling Alexander Povetkin than Marco Huck. When Team Sauerland, together with Povetkin’s manager Vladimir Khrunov, foolishly made the command decision to leave Teddy Atlas—the trainer who worked so closely with Alexander for two years, led him to six victories, improved his technique, and treated him like a son in the gym—Alexander Povetkin didn’t lift a finger of his heavyweight hand, didn’t sound a peep. That’s the kind of malleable personality promoters dream about. Move him. Exploit him. Milk him for all he’s worth and he’ll probably never protest. If a choice was indeed made, then Sauerland decided to choose the meeker Povetkin over the more volatile Huck. This is speculation, but the bout’s final scoring was so rotten that speculation is natural. Marco Huck’s post-fight comments more than hint at Team Sauerland’s vested interests: “Povetkin couldn’t even stand on his feet. Why is he declared the champion then? Tonight Sauerland was the winner.” Further proof of corruption was the close-up of Wilfried Sauerland’s face during the fight—in the court of law, body language counts. His was not the face of an unbiased, let-the-best-fighter-win spectator. His was the face of an intensely worried old man. Perhaps the fix was in. 

Alexander Povetkin against Marco Huck. This was an exciting fight because the smaller man, the underdog, threw the more daring blows, connected with the more powerful blows, and had the champion sucking for air from the middle rounds on. But this was a disappointing fight on too many levels: the referee ensured the excitement never boiled over, which would have favored Huck, and the judges made sure the status quo was preserved, ensuring the champ remained champ. Marco Huck got it right—in the ring and after the fight when he looked like and sounded like the winner. The commentators got it right—even though they passively backtracked. And the crowd got it really right—furious at the official decision. But in the books, where it counts, Alexander Povetkin gets an MD, a Majority Decision, over Marco Huck. That’s wrong.

Ask yourself, what’s the last image you have of this fight? The answer is easy. It’s the image of an exhausted Povetkin, standing in the middle of the ring, mouth open, eyes unfocused, tripping backward before he rights himself and stumbles to his corner to sit down. The heavyweight was too beat-up to even raise his arms in a mock gesture of victory. Alexander Povetkin, officially undefeated, knew he lost. Teddy Atlas was not there to show him the way between rounds. And Marco Huck was not there to get out of his way during rounds. The Russian’s body language spoke loudly and clearly and definitively—louder than the too-quiet announcers, clearer than the muddied referee and more definitively than the unconscionable scoring. Quite simply, the champ didn’t look like the champ.

This was a disappointing night that will go away, that is already going away, too gently. There should be a lot more rage.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Marco Huck vs Alexander Povetkin - Part 1 of 4

Marco Huck vs Alexander Povetkin - Part 2 of 4

Marco Huck vs Alexander Povetkin - Part 3 of 4

Marco Huck vs Alexander Povetkin - Part 4 of 4

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  1. the thresher 10:44am, 03/03/2012

    Well, I took another look at it and this time I must say that I do think Huck won. The referee was dreadful—simply dreadful. Moreover, Pov look totally dead at the finish. He reminded me of Toney when he fought Tiberi.

  2. KingBrian 03:31pm, 03/01/2012

    I can’t express an opinion, I haven’t seen the fight. My comment is THANKS for putting the whole fight here for us to watch and decide, that was a very nice surprise at the end of the article. I think you guys rock, thanks for putting out the newsletter!!

  3. Robert Ecksel 06:29am, 02/29/2012

    The complete fight can be seen here:

  4. Guy 06:06am, 02/29/2012

    I only watched the last round so I can’t comment on the decision. However, it was clear that Povetkin was out on his feet at the end of the fight. Had there been a 13th round he definitely would have been kayoed. If a 209 pound man can damage Povetkin so badly the Russian clearly doesn’t have a chance against either of the Klitschkos.

    What a pity Huck doesn’t have a bigger frame. If he did he could smash both Klitschkos. He’s a beast of note but at cruiserweight, not heavyweight.

  5. NowPitching 12:30pm, 02/28/2012

    Good analysis. It was hard to really think of this as being a “championship” fight. I generally pay little mind to natural CWs who move up to HW but . . . I saw Huck fight in Germany last fall and he is for real at HW. He is very heavy-handed. he actually reminded me a bit of . . . Joe Louis. Huck does not have flashy footwork but he snaps off heavy combos, like Louis.

  6. mikecasey 05:56am, 02/28/2012

    As was Duane Bobick, who won umpteen fights and got butchered when he moved to the top level.

  7. the thresher 06:14pm, 02/27/2012

    Pov is just not that good. He is badly flawed.

  8. bdon 04:34pm, 02/27/2012

    I don’t see how Pov won this fight. I mean, I certainly didn’t think it was one sided but I’ve got a very difficult time giving Pov 6ds, forgot about 7 or 8. He obviously wasn’t properly trained for this fight in regards to his stamina, which is a damn shame, b/c that has nothing to do with Teddy Atlas. Pov looked like he suffered from asthma or something, as hard as he was breathing. I completely forgot that the godawful WBA is forcing Rahman on Pov.

  9. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo 02:36pm, 02/27/2012

    Adam- Can you state for a certainty that you didn’t have your “bias glasses” on last Saturday?....Just kidding! I agree with you re: Povetkin’s condition at the end….one more good right hand from Huck and he more than likely would have gone down and probably have been too exhausted to get back up. Your analysis of the whole situation is probably spot on…..yet it appeared (sounded) very much like a Huck crowd and in my opinion the scoring could very easily have fallen somewhere in between the commentator’s and the judges’ scores i.e. a Draw. In that case two of the judges could very well have had their “bias glasses” on.

  10. the thresher 12:42pm, 02/27/2012

    Not so. Many had Pov Winning including me. It was a terrifc fight that could well have been a draw.

  11. bk don 12:26pm, 02/27/2012

    Good piece. I’ve yet to see the fight, another epix blunder, and i was content to go on w/o seeing it until i read this. Every writer who penned a piece on the fight had huck winning. I wondered about why there wasn’t more outrage but I assumed it was b/c it was a fairly even fight, despite Povetkin apparently taking the majority of the punishment. I wonder if there’s any chance that there will be a rematch.

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