Adler Meets Hermans On The Comeback Trail
By Phil Woolever
When super-middleweight Nikki Adler faces Femke Hermans at the Curt Frenzel Stadium in Augsburg, Germany on Saturday night it will be more than simply a meeting for the vacant WBO title.
Personally, it’s also a meaningful homecoming appearance for Adler, who relocated from Croatia to the Bavarian city outside Munich, and has only fought there once before, in 2012.
Professionally, the bout includes a chance at fistic redemption for Adler, 16-1 (9), after being harshly stopped in five rounds by Claressa Shields last August.
“Knowing that your fans are waiting, that your hometown prepared a stadium for you, this is so special,” said Adler. “I want to give the magic back with a great victory.”
Prior to the Shields debacle, Adler enjoyed frequent success in the ring and became a German amateur champion, eventually adding two major pro titles to an unblemished record.
Adler won the vacant WBC belt in Russia versus Zane Brige, who she’d previously beaten twice, then added IBF recognition when she topped Mery Rancier with a near shutout in March of last year.
Then came the fight against Shields, who has continued to develop into one of the game’s most formidable forces.
Adler’s undefeated record came crashing down, but the personable 31-year old kept her chin up and didn’t abandon further championship aspirations as she returned to the drawing board.
“What I learned was aim to win, but never be afraid to fail,” reflects Adler. “One loss is nothing compared to sixteen wins, if you stand up again and learn from your mistakes. After five years of being a world champion it was a very good lesson, and I have learned as much in the last month as I had in the past years.”
Saturday night is her first step back.
Adler gave up her day job with the postal service to focus entirely on boxing. We asked if it made a difference.
“Oh yes. I feel so much more power since I quit my job,” Adler said. “Look, boxing is my life. It takes of so much of my time, my heart and my mind. Since I lost my very first fight I am getting so much support from people and sponsors who want to help me come back stronger.”
“I am very thankful that I get the opportunity to give 100% of my energy to boxing now, and in my next fight I will give even more to win again.”
Adler set up camp in Spain, and began working with Roman Anuchin, who trained top cruiserweight Mairis Briedis.
“This training camp was one of the hardest I have ever had, but I believe it was worth it,” said Adler. “He is very strict and very knowledgeable. I love working with him, but only the fight itself will show if I can put the lessons into practice.”
The underdog opponent is 28-year old Hermans, 6-1 (3), from Belgium. Optimistic Hermans already has two future matches penciled in before the end of the year, but it’s hard to imagine that Adler is not a solid favorite to win big.
Remarkably, Hermans has only met one opponent with a winning record. That led to a unanimous decision loss in her last fight, versus Alicia Napoleon, then 8-1, for a vacant WBA super-middleweight belt at Barclays Center in Brooklyn in March 2017.
That doesn’t mean Saturday’s contest won’t be interesting or worthwhile. Adler has proven to be a very respectable boxer. Now she has to prove it again.
Despite a modest pro record, Hermans has a reputation as someone who always comes to fight.
“I met her for the first time at the press conference,” observed Adler. “Femke is very professional, well prepared, and polite. I know she is fast and strong. I need to give my very best to get the WBO belt and I am expecting a tough, ten round fight.”
The matchup may not compare with Cecelia Braekhus against Kali Reis (few do), but it is another step in establishing women’s boxing for a bigger market.
It’s quite a positive factor that Adler-Hermans is the main event of a bout that will probably be viewed by a larger broadcast audience than will watch many boxing telecasts in the US.
“We have some great women’s boxing many places,” said Adler. “The higher the quality the more attractive it is for the fans. We still have a long way to go, especially in Europe, but I am sure that on May 12th we can make another mark for women’s boxing.”
If Adler wins, there’s a strong possibility her next fight will be a higher profile event.
“I was fighting all over the world,” mused Adler. “I was never afraid of taking a challenge, from Russia to America, but coming home is one of the best feelings in the world. This will surely be one of the most emotional walk-ins and bouts of my life.”
(Photo by Ulrich Wagner)