Boxing in Germany must wait for ‘Super Fight’
Our man on the ground in Germany details why Germany will need to wait a bit longer for a boxing mega match.
“Thanks for the support! It was a great evening. Unfortunately I had the wrong tactics and boxed badly!” Felix Sturm (39-5-3, 18 KO’s) may not have been victorious in the ring, but if boxing were to hand out prizes for brutally honest assessments of one’s own performances on Twitter, he would have the belt welded to his waist. The German super-middleweight lost a split decision to Fedor Chudinov (13-0, 10 KO’s) for the vacant WBA ‘regular’ super middleweight title earlier this month, and will now take some time away from the sport to decide his future.
The 36 year-old came into this fight hoping to win the fifth world title of his career and his first at super-middleweight in his debut bout at 168lbs, yet struggled from the beginning against the Russian. The record books will state that this was a split decision loss for the Cologne fighter, the three judges at ringside scored the fight 118-110, 116-112 and 112-116, yet there was no controversy here, Sturm was beaten by the better man and Chudinov fully deserved his win.
This was Sturm’s third consecutive fight without victory, following a unanimous decision loss to Sam Soliman and a split decision draw against domestic rival Robert Stieglitz in 2014, and the 36 year-old was non-committal on his future in the post-fight press conference. A practicing Muslim, he intends to travel to Mecca in September on a pilgrimage and has since stated to German broadcaster Sport1 that he will use this time away from the sport to contemplate his future.
If this was indeed the last we have seen in the ring of the former four-time world champion, then it will be a disappointing end to a fine career. However there are some lucrative options available to Sturm should he return, and one fight in particular against a long-time rival could provide him with a fitting swansong.
The Long Awaited Abraham Fight
Felix Strum against Arthur Abraham is a fight that has been talked about in Germany for much of the past seven years. It is often hard to explain the magnitude of this fight to people outside of the country, yet to claim this fight would be Germany’s equivalent of Mayweather vs Pacquiao is not a gross exaggeration. That this fight is yet to happen is no-one’s sole responsibility and neither fighter could be accused of ‘ducking’ the other, though only with hindsight could it be suggested that all parties involved should have perhaps struck whilst the iron was a little hotter.
At the back end of 2008 Felix Sturm and Arthur Abraham were two of the dominant forces of the middleweight division. Sturm had been the WBA champion since April 2007, having won the belt back from Javier Castillejo after losing out to the Spaniard nine months previously. Abraham meanwhile was the undefeated IBF belt-holder and had successfully defended his title 8 times since beating Kinglsey Ikeke in 2005.
By early 2009 German fight fans were increasingly excited about a domestic unification match-up between the country’s two most prominent boxers.
Offers had certainly been made for that fight from Abraham’s promotional team at Sauerland to Sturm, yet exclusivity contracts with opposing German television stations and a legal dispute between Sturm and his former promotional company, Universum Promotions, brought complications and the fight was never agreed, something Sturm’s camp took the majority of the blame for in the eyes of the public. Following Sturm’s seventh successful defence of his WBA title against Armenian Khoren Gevor in July of 2009, it would be another 14 months before Sturm would fight again.
This was partly due to the birth of his first child and partly due to legal issues with his former promoter Klaus-Peter Kohl of Universum. Sturm ultimately paid out a settlement agreement to his former promoter in order to release himself from his contract, though by the time he was ready to fight again, now under his own promotional banner of Sturm BoxPromotions, the landscape of the middleweight division had somewhat changed.
Taking On The Big Names
Having failed to secure fights against either Sturm or ‘The Ring’, WBC and WBO champion Kelly Pavlik, Abraham had decided to move up in weight in order to compete in the Super Six World Boxing Classic tournament alongside Andre Ward, Carl Froch, Mikkel Kessler, Andre Dirrell and Jermain Taylor. The tournament would last for the best part of two years and Abraham lost three of his four tournament fights.
Having initially beaten Jermain Taylor in Berlin, he was disqualified in his loss to Andre Dirrell before dropping a unanimous points decision to Carl Froch in Helsinki, Finland. Abraham’s last involvement in the Super Six came at the semi-final stage when he again lost another unanimous decision to Andre Ward in Carson, California.
After initially announcing his intention to return to middleweight for 2012, Abraham remained at 168lbs and embarked on the first of a series of fights against fellow countryman Robert Stieglitz, a rivalry that continues later this year in their fourth fight on July 18th.
The onus was now on Sturm to move up in weight if the German ‘super-fight’ was to happen, though to be fair to the 36 year-old there was never any real need to do so. The fight with Abraham was always an option, both fighters addressed the topic frequently, but there were also plenty of big fights available to him still at middleweight.
Between 2011 and 2014 Sturm fought in seven world title fights against quality opposition, including the likes of Matthew Macklin, Martin Murray, Sebastian Zbik, Daniel Geale, Darren Barker and Sam Soliman.
Finally though, towards the end of 2014, things seemed to be progressing. In November last year Sturm fought Robert Stieglitz to a draw at a catch weight of 166.45lbs, seemingly in preparation for a move to super-middleweight. Owing to Abraham’s rematch with British fighter Paul Smith, and his upcoming mandatory defence of his WBO title, again against Stieglitz, Sturm’s first fight at super-middleweight was scheduled for earlier this month against Fedor Chudinov for the WBA ‘interim’ title.
All seemed to be running according to plan. Sturm would break for Ramadan in the summer whilst Abraham fought his mandatory challenger, and the two would meet in the ring at the back end of the year. When the WBA decided to strip Carl Froch of his ‘regular’ title during fight week, Sturm v Chudinov was upgraded to a genuine world title fight.
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Had Sturm won, then the much anticipated match-up between Germany’s two biggest boxing names would be a unification fight at super-middleweight (provided Abraham also came through).
Unfortunately no-one remembered to tell Chudinov, the Russian very much derailed those plans with his tremendous performance.
During a post-fight interview between Kalle Sauerland, promoter of Abraham and someone who now works closely with Sturm, and Seconds Out, Sauerland reflected on what this latest loss would mean for any future Abraham-Sturm bout. “That fight is always interesting, though terms would be a little different now. Normally a fight between Sturm-Abraham would be a 50/50, that wouldn’t be the case anymore”, said Sauerland.
There is an acceptance within Germany that perhaps these two are past their prime, yet this hasn’t done much to detract from what remains a very big fight.
Even with reduced terms this bout would be financially very rewarding for Sturm, should he wish to continue his career, and there has been talk in the past of this fight being a pay per view event, something very rare in Germany. Should Felix Sturm decide to carry on then this is one challenge that may still motivate him, though for now he remains a man who has much reflecting to do.
Whatever he decides a final thought from a German fight fan’s perspective will remain, what if the fight had happened sooner?
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