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Sven Ottke: Gettin’ Out While the Gettin’s Good?
(March 30, 2004) 
Sven Ottke
Lost among all the other boxing news of the day, including Jermain Taylor’s explosive performance on HBO, Monte Barrett’s ten round drubbing of Dominick Guinn, and Vinny Paz’ supposed swansong fiftieth win, a far more newsworthy story arose. Sven Ottke, long reigning IBF and WBA Super Middleweight Titlist, won a wide twelve round decision victory over Armand Krajnc to run his record to 34-0 with 6 knockouts, and then immediately announced his retirement from the ring after an incredible run of 21 successful defenses of the IBF crown. It could be argued that Ottke, who will soon be 37 years old, had good reason to call it quits when he did, given the demand for bouts against the likes of Joe Calzaghe and Anthony Mundine, a fighter Ottke has already stopped. Who is to say, however, that Ottke couldn’t have continued on his merry way in Germany, making title defenses until he turned forty and breaking Joe Louis’ heretofore unbreakable record of 25 successful defenses?

Ottke, a native of Karlsruhe, Germany, won the IBF Super Middleweight Title by split decision over Charles Brewer in 1998, in a fight that many questioned whether he won or not. The fight was held in Germany, however, and as the old saying goes, when fighting in your opponent’s hometown you have to knock him out just to get a draw. As Ottke’s career would progress, it became clear that not only would one have to knock him out to get a draw, they would probably have to knock him into the cheap seats to turn the trick. A champion after only his 13th professional bout and at the advanced age of 31, Ottke would make up for lost time, becoming one of, if not the most active champion in the sport of boxing.

After an easy first defense against Giovanni Nardiello, which ended in a very rare knockout for Ottke, he would defend regularly against fighters like Thomas Tate and Glencoffe Johnson, who would go on to become a champion himself. After beating Tocker Pudwill (incidentally, the man Vinny Paz collected his fiftieth win against), Ottke would take another split decision over Brewer in a fight that left spectators scratching their heads just as the first bout between the two had done. It was a difficult fight to score, and there was a wide variance in opinion over who had won the fight. The fight was fought, where else, in Germany. In fact, Ottke would fight only one time in his career outside his home country, traveling all the way (tongue planted firmly in cheek) to Austria for his seventh pro fight.

Ottke defeated another future champion in Silvio Branco in late 2000, and after two more defenses took on Anthony Mundine of Australia. The fight took place in December 2001, and at the time the events of September 11, 2001 were still fresh in the minds of everyone around the world. Mundine, a converted Muslim, made himself infamous with his assessment that the United States had brought the attacks upon themselves. Ottke would never be confused as a knockout puncher, so it was with much satisfaction that many observers witnessed the German score a tenth round knockout over Mundine, who was fighting in only his eleventh fight.
A few more defenses, a knockout over Joe Gatti, brother of Arturo, and a more convincing win over Thomas Tate would come next. In addition, Ottke defeated Byron Mitchell by split decision to annex the WBA version of the super middleweight title. Ottke faced full time model and part time fighter slash former champion Robin Reid in December 2003, and again was lucky to get the decision. Very lucky if you ask anyone who was actually there. Then came the win over Krajnc on Saturday, and the retirement announcement following.

When boxing historians look back, forty years from now, at the record of Sven Ottke, two things will jump out at them. One, this is a fighter who retired undefeated, and two, he made twenty one successful defenses, many of them disputed, of his title. Even with big money fights against Joe Calzaghe and others dangled in front of him, Ottke chose the comfort and guaranteed wins that Germany could provide for him. Although history may not look kindly upon this fact, Ottke still deserves the respect that an undefeated record and a tremendous number of defenses warrant. Ottke may have gotten out at the right time, but with the standards of the International Boxing Hall of Fame being what they are, this much is a given: Sven Ottke, we’ll see you five years from now in Canastota.

Insert Boxing Cliché Here

The search for the “Great American Hope” continues after Dominick Guinn’s surprisingly one-sided loss to Monte Barrett. I, for one, am not ready to write off Guinn just yet. Barrett, who looked nothing like a contender against Joe Mesi, looked like a man on a mission against Guinn, and fought like never before in his life. On the other hand, Guinn just seemed a little too passive, even when he should have known the fight was slipping away…….Not sure if Jermain Taylor is ready for Bernard Hopkins, but he sure looked impressive against Alex Bunema. Everyone keeps waiting and waiting for Hopkins to suddenly start acting his age, but it doesn’t look like that is going to happen anytime soon. Taylor should fight a top ten type fighter and then challenge Hopkins. At that point, it would become a true superfight and a perfect opportunity for Hopkins to step out, win or lose.
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