Johnny Nelson reigned over the 200-pound division for six years and 13 title defenses from 1999 to 2005. Marco Huck had matched him on both counts, with 13 defenses of his own and a six-year run from 2009-15. But he was looking to take those records all for himself August 14 with a win over Polish southpaw Krzysztof Glowacki.
The fight in Newark, New Jersey, was Huck's first in America in his 11-year career. All but two of his other bouts came in Germany, where he lorded over the championship he took from Victor Emilio Ramirez.
Since winning his 200-pound title, Huck's only hiccups were a majority-decision loss to Alexander Povetkin in February 2012, when he stepped up to heavyweight and fought at a 20-pound disadvantage, and a draw in May 2012 with Ola Afolabi, who he defeated a year later.
Like Huck, Glowacki had never fought outside of Europe. Two years Huck’s junior, the 29-year-old Glowacki had built up a 24-0 record in his native Poland. When he came to Newark to fight for Huck's title in the co-main event to Antonio Tarver vs Steve Cunningham on Spike TV, he was largely unknown to the American audience.
Glowacki had every reason to be wary of the longtime champ, who had more rounds in title fights than Glowacki had in his seven-year pro career. But the challenger jumped out as the aggressor, landing a right hook that staggered Huck late in Round 1. The next round, he connected with a left that showed the power he had in both hands.
Huck respected it. He was tentative, and it cost him early on: Glowacki swept the first three rounds on two of the three judges' scorecards and two of three rounds on the other.
The champ stepped it up and took over in the fourth, landing a series of nasty counter rights. In the sixth, he floored Glowacki with a winging, overhand left. Glowacki’s legs knew it before his head did, as he first wobbled, then slowly sat, then fell flat on his back—the first time he'd hit the canvas in his career.
For a guy who didn’t get to his feet until the count of nine, though, what came next was stunning.
“I thought the way he went down he was hurt bad enough that the fight could be over, but kudos to Glowacki,” former two-division champ and TV analyst Paulie Malignaggi said. “That comes down to the mental aspect of it as well as being hungry—that this is not going to be the night you get beat.
"Sometimes a wounded animal is a dangerous animal, and he showed that.”
As soon as the action resumed, Glowacki—despite admitting later he had no idea where he was—unloaded on Huck in a wild attack. The champ had to be wondering if it was going to take a tranquilizer dart to stop his Polish foe.
Huck held Glowacki off through the end of that round, and then for the next four. But the 11th would tell a different story.
Whether he realized it or not, Glowacki was behind in the fight, too far behind at that point to win a decision. The cards through 10 were 95-94 on one, but an insurmountable 96-93 on the other two. Huck's knockdown in the sixth was the difference-maker, and from there he continued picking Glowacki apart with counter rights.
There was some encouragement at the end of Round 10, when Glowacki forced a brawl to break out. Still, he needed an opening. Huck gave it to him in the 11th.
With a minute left in the round, Huck shoots a five-punch flurry to Glowacki’s head. He follows with a double jab and a big right. Glowacki ducks it but doesn’t return fire. Huck throws a left hook and follows it with a straight right, but he doesn’t bring his hands back. This is the window Glowacki is looking for.
He spins a left of his own over Huck’s right arm and opens the door for a straight right that lands flush. Huck goes down. He beats the count and is barely back on his feet when Glowacki pounces.
He fires a left to the body and a left hook to the head. Huck drops his hands, and Glowacki shoots a slashing right. Huck slumps into the corner. Glowacki hammers away with three heavy lefts, the last one to the side of the neck, and pounds Huck through the ropes.
The final flurry was so vicious that referee David Fields had to hold up Huck until the ring doctor could get through the ropes.
“The bottom line was it was Huck’s American debut and his reputation preceded him,” Malignaggi said. “He was coming here to establish himself on American shores as he had in Germany, but of course Glowacki had other intentions in mind.
"When things like that happen it shows you how amazing the sport is. The amount of determination sometimes, digging down a little deeper—I thought Glowacki was willing to dig down a little more than Huck was in the end.”
In a year with several other brawls all deserving of the title—such as Leo Santa Cruz vs Abner Mares, Andrzej Fonfara vs Nathan Cleverly, Edwin Rodriguez vs Michael Seals—it’s the dramatic slugfest between two Europeans that earns the PremierBoxingChampions.com editors' pick as Fight of the Year. (The PBC broadcast teams also selected Huck vs Glowacki.)
For a complete look back at Huck vs Glowacki, visit our fight page.
Coming Friday: the PBC Fighter of the Year. For all of our editors' picks, follow our Best of PBC 2015 entries.