Although Marco Huck has had his cruiserweight title since 2009 and made nine title defenses, he recently has fallen on some hard times.
In his most recent fight, Huck fought to a debatable draw with mandatory challenger (and interim titlist) Ola Afolabi in a May rematch that came three years after Huck outpointed him in clear fashion in his first defense.
In a February bout, Huck moved up to heavyweight for a shot at second-tier titleholder Alexander Povetkin. Although many believed Huck clearly deserved the nod, Povetkin was awarded a majority decision victory.
So a look at Huck's record shows that even though he remains a cruiserweight titleholder (and one of the most entertaining fighters in boxing), he is officially 0-1-1 in his past two bouts.
That is the likely reason that Huck (34-2-1, 25 KOs) has slowed down his aggressive schedule this year.
After making four title defenses in 2010 and three in 2011, he will fight three times this year, with his third assignment coming in his 10th title defense, against former titleholder Firat Arslan (32-5-2, 21 KOs) on Saturday night at Gerry Weber Stadium in Halle/Westphalia, Germany.
However, this is the first time since 2007 that Huck has been off for at least six months between fights. The busy schedule, combined with very tough fights on a regular basis, has taken its toll. Huck said the right move for him was to take a little more time between fights this year.
"I didn't really have a lot of time off ahead of the May 5 fight [against Afolabi in Erfurt, Germany], which showed during the bout," said Huck, 27, who was born in Serbia but lives in Germany. "Now my batteries are fully charged and I cannot wait to get back into the ring. I can feel the itch in my fists. The fight against Afolabi wasn't easy for me. In my opinion, that was due to the fact that I fought for the heavyweight championship just a few months earlier, which also was a tough fight.
"But at the end, I got through it and kept my cruiserweight title. Now my whole focus is on the 10th defense."
Huck is aiming for a more dominant performance against Arslan, of Germany, than he delivered in his recent fights with Afolabi and Povetkin.
"I am sure it will turn out to be a convincing victory for me," Huck said. "But I have to put on display what I have worked on during the preparations. That is why I am looking forward to fighting Firat Arslan. The fans will be able to see for themselves if I have developed."
Huck and Arslan are both aggressive fighters, so the bout could provide fans with good action. Arslan is the obvious underdog, but he said he will leave everything he has in the ring.
"Marco Huck is one of the biggest punchers in this weight class and he is 15 years younger than me. Nevertheless, I am going for the win," Arslan said. "I promise to fight my heart out, which is my mentality.
"I think that I have a big advantage over him, as my team's focus is completely on me. When you are with a big boxing promotion [as Huck is], there is often only one coach who looks after a handful of athletes. Moreover, I do not think that there is a more professional surrounding than where I train. I want to win. Everything else, I will show inside the ring."
Said Huck: "The fans will witness one helluva fight. Many people might have written off Firat Arslan, but I certainly have not. Just the way he is preparing himself for the fight against me is proof enough that he is going to be one tough cookie."
Arslan (32-5-2, 21 KOs), who turned 42 in September, held a version of the cruiserweight title from 2007 to 2008, winning a belt via unanimous decision against Virgil Hill and making one defense, a unanimous decision against Darnell Wilson.
Then Arslan lost two fights in a row by knockout. Guillermo Jones stopped him in the 10th round to take his belt in September 2008. Then, after a long layoff, Arslan returned and was stopped in the 11th round of an interim title bout by Steve Herelius in July 2010.
Arslan then won three fights in a row, but he is coming off a draw for the European title in May against Alexander Alekseev.
Huck said he respects Arslan for what he has done so late in his career and even admitted that he likes the guy.
"I have to say that I really like Firat," Huck said. "He got into boxing at a very late age but fought through all the odds. I have a lot of respect for his accomplishments. Added to that, he is a very nice person. This is a completely new situation for me. I didn't like many of my former opponents. But facing someone whom you appreciate for his success and his attitude is an unusual scenario for me.
"I am not underestimating him at all. I know for a fact that he would be a dangerous opponent for all the cruiserweights out there. I actually believe that he would win against every single world champion in this division -- except me. I will make sure that he won't. I'm not surprised that no one apart from me wanted to fight him in a championship bout."
The respect is mutual.
"Marco Huck is a big name on the boxing scene, so this fight makes sense for me," Arslan said. "I have a lot of respect for him -- respect I don't have for the other champions in the cruiserweight division, as they do not want to face me. Maybe Marco does not come across as a good guy, but in reality he is."
Arslan is aware that because of his age and the losses that he has suffered, some don't give him much of a chance against Huck. That's fine with him.
"I am honest. I am already 42 years of age, and some people think I only took this fight because of the money, but that is definitely not the case," Arslan said. "I did not try to make a big profit out of it. It is just about the sport. I believe in becoming a world champion again, and I know that I am on top of my game. That is why I wanted this fight. I want to fight the best, and Marco Huck certainly is one of the best. I am looking forward to this bout."