Talking Boxing

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On the Road... with Andy Clarke: Potsdam


Last weekend took me back to Germany. Potsdam this time, and another Sauerland show. This one headlined by the WBA super middleweight regular world title clash between the champion Giovanni De Carolis and challenger Tyron Zeuge.
The two had met 16 weeks previously in nearby Berlin with the fight resulting in a draw that left many feeling, myself included, that De Carolis had done enough to win. Zeuge though, to his credit, had battled through the second half of the fight with a shoulder injury which, when you saw the extent of the bruising that came out in the days following, would have seriously hampered him. So it was difficult to predict the outcome, which is always a good thing.

The part of Potsdam I was staying in was pretty bleak but it’s not all like that by any means and as a place it does possess serious gravitas. It was in Potsdam that Stalin, Churchill and Truman, the Big Three as they were known and political heavyweights all, met to negotiate terms for the end of the second world war and with Armistice Day just around the corner the significance of what went on there 71 years ago wasn’t lost.

It wasn’t the first time I’d been to the MBS Arena and I was typically early which gave me a chance to seek out German commentator Tobias Drews. He’s on the mic for all RAN Boxen’s main events, and it’s always useful to get his perspective. I needed to thank him too as he’d recently recommended me to RTL to provide English commentary on [Marco] Huck v [Dmytro] Kucher in a couple of weeks.

I’ve no idea how it looks from the outside but the commentary world, for the most part, is populated by people who are always happy to help you out if they can with advice, contacts and referrals. I always try and pass on jobs that I can’t do to colleagues I know and like, and it’s not a case of expecting anything in return; I don’t keep a black book of who I feel is in my debt. My mindset is that if you throw enough good karma around then in the long term you’ll reap the rewards. Inevitably there are some sharks out there, but I’ve been doing this long enough now to be able to spot the fin in the water (I’m not talking about the boxing world by the way, football’s the worst, probably because it’s the most saturated and most competitive market). And sharks don’t prosper, I’m glad to say. Being a good bloke, or at least trying to be, matters, as it should.

The first couple of fights were over in a total of three rounds so there were some early, unscheduled intermissions, which German crowds never seem to mind. On the whole the undercard was pretty decent and the chief support, a ten rounder at 168lbs between Stefan Haertel (12-0) and Adasat Rodriguez (14-6-2, 10 KOs), was a really good fight. Haertel, a former Olympian, won 96-94 on two cards, which was how I scored it, and 97-93 on the other. It was a tough, close encounter but that’s nothing new for Haertel. Sauerland have high hopes for him, matching the Berliner hard from the start and he is good though maybe lacks a little power as no stoppage wins in his 12 contests would suggest.

There were plenty of off-duty boxers in attendance with Arthur Abraham, Kubrat Pulev, who fights Samuel Peter in Bulgaria on December 3 (I’d love to go over and cover that one) and Jack Culcay all ringside. Culcay wasn’t supposed to have the night off, he was scheduled to be defending his WBA regular super welterweight title against Demetrius Andrade, but documents weren’t signed in time and it all fell through. I did hear that new purse bids had been called so it looks like the whole process will have to start again which will sap a few people’s will to live I’m sure.

The build up to the main event was good, as it always is in Germany, with the crowd able to watch on the big screen what’s going out on TV. It was interesting to hear Zeuge’s trainer Jurgen Braehmer praise his fighter for gritting his teeth and continuing despite the injury in the first fight against De Carolis, given that that’s exactly what Braehmer didn’t do himself against Nathan Cleverly five weeks previously.

I’d seen De Carolis in the hotel lobby earlier in the afternoon killing time, and when he got in the ring it was obvious he’d worked as hard as ever in camp. You can’t have favourites as a commentator, when the bell goes all you see are two differently coloured pairs of shorts, but De Carolis is the kind of fighter I have a soft spot for. He’s not the most naturally gifted but he gives it everything in the gym and on fight night, and you just can’t ask for more than that. And he’s had to do it all away from home too which is never easy. I’d been ringside for both of the Italian’s fights against Vincent Feigenbutz, and felt he was robbed in the first one (he lost 115-113 on all three cards), a sentiment shared by most observers, before seeing him turn in an electric performance to stop his opponent and take the title in the rematch.

But it was Zeuge’s night, and one of those nights when you felt you’d seen a fighter come of age. I’d watched him before from ringside a few times and had never been convinced, because I’d never really seen him extended (I wasn’t in Berlin in July for the first fight) but he showed a lot of skill and courage. De Carolis is rough and rugged and likes it up close, but rather than just try and keep it on the outside Zeuge chose to trade inside in quick bursts before moving in to smother his opponent’s punches. It was brave and it worked and after a big eighth round, I felt he took control. Heading into the final three minutes two judges had it 105-104 and the other 106-103 (same as me) to the German. But the judges’ cards weren’t needed as the home fighter produced a terrific finale to get the stoppage with just 19 seconds remaining.

It was bedlam in the ring and as always a study in stark contrasts. At the end of a big fight, particularly a close one, it’s almost as if the ring has been divided into two separate rooms by an invisible partition. In one the electricity and energy the joy of victory generates is such that it could light the whole arena, whilst in the other all hope and life seems to have been sucked out by defeat, leaving it a cold and lonely place.

For Tyron Zeuge the world will seem wonderful this week and he should enjoy the feeling before embracing his next challenge. De Carolis will be back, I’m sure of that, and I hope we see him in the UK, he’d be a welcome addition to any card.

Follow Andy Clarke on Twitter @AndrewClarke19



November 9, 2016