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Firat Arslan-Euphrates Lion


BoztheMadman
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Firat is the Turkish name for the river Euphrates (that also runs thru Iraq) and "Arslan" or "Aslan" is the Turkish word for lion-hence the title. Firat Arslan is so far the only boxer of Turkish ancestry to win a pro world title in boxing. Standing just below 6 feet, Arslan is also one of the shortest cruisers to win a world title. Only guys that are shorter that spring to mind are Dwight M. Qawi and Robert Daniels. And Bobby Czyz. But that was long ago, Arslan fought in a different era, where most cruisers were guys between 6'1 and 6'4 tall. Arslan was and is blessed with good stamina, pretty good punching power and above all-longevity. Aged 50 today, he is still fighting! He was always a counterpuncher who had a rather good defense, with a high guard but always moving forward instead of backwards. He has won a number of smaller titles, alongside the WBA title and has been fighting, on and off, professionally since 1997. Here is the story of "Euphrates Lion".

 

Born 28 September 1970 in Friedberg, Bavaria, Germany, to Turkish immigrant parents, Arslan started boxing rather late, at 18. In 1994 he got a German citizenship and in 1997 he made his pro debut at the age of 26, 25 January, beating Zsolt Janko on points. From the start, he fought as a cruiserweight, one of distinct few with such long careers to never leave that division. He had a good reach for his height, 77 inches or 195 cm. Early on, he suffered two losses on points, last one to German champion Ruediger May. After that, he stopped Mark Hobson (who later challenged Enzo Maccarinelli for WBO belt) by a TKO7. He won the German title on points against Bruce Oezbek in 2003 and that same year he fought the undefeated Vadim Tokarev and drew against him, after getting his jaw broken, in a fight for the IBF Inter-Continental title. At the end of the year, he suffered what many have called a controversial decision loss to Czech Lubos Suda, fighting away in Czech Republic.In July next year, he won the European Union title by UD10 against Lee Manuel Ossie of Liberia. Next year in January, he took on the promising Alexander Petkovich of Bosnia and Herzegovina and after 6 rounds, Petkovich had to quit due to a shoulder injury. Arslan was behind on two of the scorecards while the third was even, but he won by technica knockout. With that, he won the WBO Inter-Continental title. After defending it twice, he then took on the young and unbeaten Russian strongman, Grigory Drozd, in a WBA-eliminator. Arslan would produce one of his best victories when they faced off in October 2006; after losing the first three rounds to the more aggressive Drozd, in the fourth he turned up the heat and hurt Drozd with several hard and accurate punches. In the fifth, he again hurt Drozd and then drove him to the ropes where he punished him for about 30 seconds before the referee jumped in and waved it off. It would remain the only loss for Drozd. After that, he went to Budapest, curiously, to fight another Russian, Valery Brudov, for the interim WBA title. Brudov was considerably taller at almost 6'3 and had a record of 33-1, but Arslan won by a split decision on that night of 16 June 2007.

 

He then faced the full champion, none other than legend Virgil "Quicksilver" Hill, who was 43 back then. They fought in Dresden, Germany this time, 24 November same year. The 37-yearold Arslan became the legitimate world champion when he outworked Hill to win by wide scores. It would be Hill's last big fight, as he was caught using steroids after the fight and only came back for one more small fight much later. He then defended against Darnell Wilson, a rugged and tough brawler, on 3 May next year in Stuttgart. It was a back and forth war where Arslan dominated most of the fight and in the end won by 117-111 on all scorecards. For his second defense, he faced his biggest and best opponent yet-Guillermo Jones of Panama. Jones was 6'4 , very strong physically and could box and fight well on the inside and outside. The fight happened 27 September 2008 at Color Line Arena in Altona, Hamburg. Early on, Arslan had a good showing, but as the fight progresssed, he started to take more and more punishment and by round 7, he was rather seriously cut. In round 10, with Jones landing at will more or less, the referee stepped in and stopped the fight. So it was farewell to world title for Arslan. After suffering an accident on his bike in June 2009, he had to take a year off from the ring. In his return fight on 3 July 2010, he faced Steve Herelius of France for the interim WBA title. Herelius won the first 5 rounds with his jab and then Arslan won the next 5 by pressuring Herelius and scoring with his right jab. He even staggered Herelius and sent him across the ring in round 7, but failed to finish him off. In round 11, with about a minute to go, Herelius seriously staggered Arslan with a big left uppercut and he finished the round on wobbly legs-the ref had to help him back to his corner. It was then that his corner stopped the fight. Next year he avenged his loss to Lubos Suda by stopping him by a TKO5. In May 2012, he fought Aleksander Alekseev for the vacant WBO Inter-Continental and European cruiser titles. The fight ended a majority draw. He then took on Marco Huck on 3 November same year, for Huck's WBO title. It was a much tougher and closer fight than most predicted, as Arslan used his tactics effectively and hit Huck with many clean shots, while Huck on the other side had trouble landing clean on Arslan. In the end, it looked like a draw or maybe even an Arslan win by a point, but, to the dismay of many, Huck retained the title with a unanimous decision, one judge even giving him 9 rounds.

 

After having one easier fight in 2013, he rematched Huck 25 January 2014. This time, Huck had learned his lesson and after a close first 4 rounds, he went all out in the 5th and hurt Arslan, before dropping him twice and stopping him against the ropes with a barrage in the 6th. Many believed this was the end of Firat Arslan, but he was chosen as the opponent of the IBF champion, Yoan Pablo Hernandez, on 16 August that very year. Once again, Arslan defied expectations and gave the much taller and younger man big problems, but in the end lost by a split decision. That would be Hernandez's last fight in a long time and the last at cruiserweight. Arslan would continue fighting and winning some small titles, but in his last serious fight against Kevin Lerena, 8 February 2020, he was stopped by a TKO6. His last fight was only a month ago, 24 July, and he won the vacant WBA International title by KO4 over faded Ruben Eduardo Acosta, a former super middleweight. It is clear Arslan is now only fighting for the fun of it and can't hope to have a last shot at glory, soon to be 51. His record currently stands at 49 wins, 34 by ko, 9 losses (4 by ko), and 3 draws. Arslan is a very popular fighter in Germany, especially among its Turkish population and is considered a hero to the Turks, since he is still the only one of them to hold a world title. He was always a true warrior, a tough guy who always came in good shape and was willing to slug it out. He always had to fight bigger guys than himself and that goes to his credit. One might also say he was unlucky in few of his biggest fights. That was all, thank you.

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