WBO Cruiserweight Champion Marco “Captain” Huck (31-1, 23 KOs) made a fifth successful title defense in Berlin on Saturday night when he clinched a split decision victory over mandatory challenger Denis Lebedev (21-1, 16 KOs). After 12 brutal and bruising rounds, Huck was ahead 115-113 on two cards, while the third judge ruled it 116-112 in favor of the previously unbeaten Russian. “It was a tough fight, Lebedev was a very, very strong opponent,” Huck said. “I cracked my rib in the fourth round and whenever I threw a punch in the following it hurt like being stuck with a knife. But I hung in there and showed my big heart. I did not give up and kept fighting. That is what being a champion is all about.”
The sell-out crowd of 5,000 fans at Berlin´s Max-Schmeling-Halle saw an exciting encounter, with Lebedev showing superior boxing skills and throwing more punches, but Huck landing the harder shots, including several big right hands. At the end of the fifth, Lebedev went down, but it was ruled a slip. Lebedev seemed to gain the upper hand in the sixth and seventh but Huck fought back later in the fight and kept connecting with his straight right, which battered the challenger´s face. “I am pleased with Marco´s performance,” Ulli Wegner said. “He showed his fighting spirit against a very, very strong opponent. Lebedev has incredible skills and came here to fight. But Marco found a way to wear him down.” Lebedev accepted the judges´ decision. Asked about the verdict, he said: “My coach Valery Belov always says that the winner is the fighter whose arm is raised afterwards. I have to accept that. It was a tough fight.”
In the co-featured main event, Yoan Pablo Hernandez (23-1, 12 KOs) clinched a spectacular first-round KO victory over Ali Ismailov (18-4, 13 KOs) in their WBA Cruiserweight Eliminator. A huge southpaw left to the head saw Ismailov stumbling backwards out of the ring. He never recovered and was counted out by the referee after just 143 seconds. “I am very happy,” Hernandez said. “Fighting for the world title is like a dream coming true. I did not expect this fight to end that quickly, but I hit him clean with a big left and he did not get back up.” Added manager Wilfried Sauerland: “Pablo has a lot of potential and I am sure he will be champion next year.”
On the undercard, Alexander Povetkin (21-0, 15 KOs) clinched a clear points victory over Nicolas Firtha (19-8-1, 8 KOs). The scores were 98-92, 100-90 and 99-91. Povetkin, who injured his right hand, did most of the damage with his huge left as he cruised to an uncontested victory, his 21st in as many encounters. Kubrat Pulev (10-0, 5 KOs) saw off former European Heavyweight Champion Paolo Vidoz (26-10, 15 KOs) in eight rounds, while Francesco Pianeta (21-0, 13 KOs) knocked out Mike Middleton (13-20-1, 5 KOs) in the first round.