Maske ending 10-year retirement against Hill
BERLIN -- Former IBF champion Henry Maske will end a 10-year retirement Saturday against Virgil Hill, the only fighter ever to beat the German.
Hill's WBA cruiserweight title won't be on the line, and why he took the fight in Germany is clear enough. He reportedly will earn more than $1.33 million for a bout in what may be the world's most lucrative boxing market.
But Maske's decision to climb back into the ring a decade after a 1996 split-decision loss to Hill ended his career has triggered controversy. Germany's boxing establishment has derided it as a "show fight," taking place only because up to 20 million Germans will watch it on TV.
"I want to fight for the win just like the first time and change the outcome this time," Maske said.
Many in the country believe Maske risks ruining his status as a German idol with a one-sided beating by Hill, a future Hall of Famer who has owned five titles.
Both Hill (50-5, 23 knockouts) and Maske (30-1, 11 knockouts) are 43, but while Hill has fought 11 times in 10 years -- including top fighters like Roy Jones Jr. and Dariusz Michalczewski -- the German has been busy running the McDonald's franchises he owns.
"This is not good for the sport. If things go normally, Henry doesn't have a ghost of a chance. He can't have any reflexes left," said Sven Ottke, the retired German who owned the WBA and IBF super middleweight titles.
Hill's biggest fear is the judging. His camp was turned down when it tried to change the judges, worried they could be biased.
"I can only lose this fight through sabotage," Hill said. "Some think we can only win with a knockout. That would be bitter."
Hill has enjoyed the attention the bout has generated in Germany and is surprised by the warm reception from German fans for the fight, which will be held in front of 12,000 at Munich's Olympia Halle.
"I don't speak any German, but a smile is a smile in any language," Hill said. "I think I'll have some supporters at the fight that are German. But when push comes to shove, they'll probably still want one of their boys to get it done."
Hill's camp was reportedly upset that Maske fought some private fights in New York trying to shake off his ring rust. Rumors have also surfaced that the American could tank the bout to set up a rubber match and another lucrative German payday.
"That's stupid," Hill said. "I would damage my reputation and thereby reduce my earnings potential. Whoever says that doesn't know me."
Maske had a near perfect career from Olympic champion to undefeated IBF champion until he ran into Hill, who proved to have equally polished skills and more power than the light-hitting German. His career triggered the current boxing boom in Germany.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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