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Legendary trainer guru is dead

German boxing mourns the death of Manfred Wolke. The former coach of Henry Maske and Axel Schulz died last week

Germany as a boxing nation mourns the loss of one of its greatest legends: Olympic champion Manfred Wolke, coach of former German boxing stars Henry Maske and Axel Schulz, is dead.

Wolke died last Wednesday at the age of 81 after a long, serious illness. Maske confirmed corresponding media reports to the news agency DPA. Wolke is survived by his wife, three children and four grandchildren

Wolke: Successful boxer and trainer in the GDR

Manfred Wolke was born in Potsdam on January 14, 1943, the youngest of ten children and without his father, who was killed in action during the Second World War. The trained locomotive fitter was himself a top boxer, winning gold for the GDR in the welterweight division at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico and also finishing as European runner-up in 1967 and 1971. In 1972 he was the GDR’s flag bearer at the Munich Olympics

Manfred Wolke as an active boxer in the seventies
Manfred Wolke as an active boxer in the seventies

During the division of Germany, Wolke was already a successful coach and produced several Olympic champions, including Maske (gold in Seoul in 1988) and Rudi Fink, featherweight champion in Moscow in 1980.

After reunification, Wolke switched to the professional ranks together with Maske and signed on with Wilfried Sauerland’s boxing team, whose fame he helped to establish to a decisive extent.

The “philosopher” behind Henry Maske and Axel Schulz

Under Wolke, Maske became IBF World Light Heavyweight Champion in 1993 and triggered a boxing boom in Germany – Maske’s fights regularly attracted an audience of tens of millions to the television. His two East-West duels against Graciano Rocchigiani, who tragically died in 2018, were particularly legendary

Wolke was also Axel Schulz’s trainer when Schulz almost sensationally became world heavyweight champion against George Foreman in 1995. Wolke was also on board for Maskes’ comeback in 2007, when he took revenge for his defeat against Virgil Hill. His later protégés included former European super-middleweight champion Danilo Häußler, Timo Hoffmann, Kai Kurzawa, Enad Licina and Artur Hein.

Manfred Wolke with his protégés Henry Maske and Axel Schulz in London in 1990
Manfred Wolke with his protégés Henry Maske and Axel Schulz in London in 1990

“Without Manfred Wolke, I wouldn’t have achieved any of this,” Maske, now 60, once said: “He was able to show his boxers what they should and shouldn’t do with a great deal of expertise.” It was not only his motivational talent, his example of discipline and toughness, but also his intelligence that set him apart. Wolke was “the philosopher among coaches, the subtle mind”, said Maske.

Wolke was part of a generation of successful German coaches that also included Klitschko coach Fritz Sdunek, who died in 2014, and Ulli Wegner. Wegner is now also mourning the loss of Wolke and categorized his legacy in an interview with DPA: “He was certainly one of the world’s best coaches. There are rarely athletes who are so successful and at the same time work so successfully as a coach. “

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