Ulli Wegner is also struggling as an 80-year-old
The cult coach is now torturing himself
Ulli Wegner says of himself: “I am a determinant!” But since his femoral neck fracture, the cult boxing coach has been the one who has been put under pressure. Also from former protégés who still follow him today. On his 80th birthday, however, they must do without him.
The very thought terrifies Ulli Wegner. “Are you singing together? Me and Frank Schöbel?”, Calls the former boxing coach with the creaking voice and struggles to stay calm. “For God’s sake. Not with me.” The duet would have been possible. The world champion and the former GDR hitbard, whose records were also sold in the West, have been together for the past few weeks at a rehabilitation clinic on the outskirts of Berlin. Wegner due to a femoral neck fracture, Schöbel after a knee operation. “But I had the better suite,” Wegner says proudly, adding so reassuringly, “Frank and I know each other well. We told each other stories and laughed a lot. We were not bored.”
Schöbel turns 80 in December, Wegner on Tuesday. But there is no party. “How? I can only walk on crutches,” complains Szczecin native, who celebrated his 70th birthday with 600 people. Maybe he’s traveling to Usedom on the Baltic Sea. Wegner: “Let’s see what happens.”
The accident happened on New Year’s Eve. Since then, he has had to fight. “I should learn to walk again,” says the cult coach, describing the consequences of the complicated fracture in his right leg. It had happened to his left leg two years earlier. “As you get older, you have to take it easy,” he sighs. “But I’m in good shape. The rehabilitation did me good. I lost a little bit.”
“He needs pressure”
Wegner’s former protégé Sven Ottke worries about his coach. “I call him regularly. Everyone needs encouragement,” said the former world champion. The 54-year-old also reaches into Wegner’s bag of tricks. “I want to do what he did to us back then. He needs pressure,” reveals the former IBF and WBA super-middleweight champion and is eerily happy.
Wegner, who really wanted to be a football player, is an institution in German boxing. In addition to Ottke, he has made Markus Beyer, Arthur Abraham, Marco Huck and Yoan Pablo Hernandez world champions. The qualified GDR sports teacher was Germany’s excellent boxing coach along with Fritz Sdunek, who died in 2014 and who looked after Dariusz Michalczewski and the Klitschko brothers. First national coach for the amateurs, then head coach for Sauerland’s professionals. His rewards are World Championship titles, the Federal Cross of Merit, Goldene Henne, Gera’s honorary citizenship and his name in the Usedom sports hall.
As a coach, Wegner was a scoundrel and the undisputed boss. He did not tolerate contradiction. “I know what’s good for the boys,” is his maxim. “No one is fooling me.” If you wanted to be a world champion, you had to shut up. “There is no room for democracy in competitive sports. It is me who decides,” emphasizes the trained tractor and agricultural machine mechanic. Dictator and general, therefore Wegner was called. “Maybe I’m very uncomfortable,” he says. “But I do not feel that way.”
Abraham fights, criminal charges against Wegner
Neither did his boxers. “He knew everyone inside and out. Sometimes it was a carrot, sometimes a stick. Ulli is a psychologist,” says Ottke. Wegner did not see through him completely himself. Because when Ottke ended his career in the ring in March 2004 after his 22nd World Cup victory, Wegner was shocked. When Ottke gave him a BMW convertible Z4 as a thank you, tears ran down his face. “And everyone always said that Svenni was stingy. You think so!”
With Arthur Abraham, technically limited but equipped with tremendous power, the coach had fought many a bouquet. “I can handle tough guys, too,” Wegner says. Abraham never wanted to torment himself in battle, he let himself be hung from time to time.
Then Wegner, the western flag, was in top form. “Man Arthur, you are an Indian! A warrior! You come from a proud people. What should your countrymen think?”, He snapped at the native Armenians during the break in the ring. Stingen pulled. Abraham felt the grip of the honor and began to kill. He even managed to defend his world title with a broken jaw. Wegner filed charges of assault. “Today, Arthur is a millionaire and has three hotels,” says the former coach. “I do not think everything I did was wrong.” After a pause, he quietly adds, “I’m happy with my life.”