Should De La Hoya Beware of Felix Sturm?

30.05.04 - By Jason Peck: What is Felix Sturm to Oscar De La Hoya? He's a number on his win-loss record and a means to an end for him to break Tommy Hearns' record of most championships in the most weight classes (De La Hoya will have 6 in 6 weight classes). He is merely the fight he has to fight before he can formally challenge Hopkins for his undisputed throne. But what is Oscar De la Hoya to Felix Sturm? Now that's a different story.

Felix Sturm is a young, unproven boxer with nothing to lose. If he loses this fight against De La Hoya, his undefeated record will be history and his promising career will be sidetracked, perhaps never to return. He will go down in history as the man who lost to De La Hoya. And if he wins?

If he wins then he could get de la Hoya's September 18th title shot against Hopkins. And in a boxing-crazy country like his homeland of Germany he gets instant celebrity. He gets history. In boxing there are few things more dangerous than a fighter with nothing to lose who is underestimated by his competitor.

And De La Hoya is underestimating this man. Immediately after the Mayweather-Corley fight the attention turned to an interview of De La Hoya and Hopkins as they discussed their upcoming fights. If nothing else, their reactions to their "warm-up" fights demonstrates why De La Hoya could never be the champion at 39.

"Just preparing for Hopkins," was De La Hoya's response. Sturm never came up, and when he did, the German champion was a mere afterthought. Hopkins is all that De La Hoya can see in the horizon.

And this isn't an isolated response. When interviewed by, De La Hoya said the following:

"I'll be fighting at 160 and I don't know what to expect. I don't know what kind of power I'll be facing or how he'll handle me inside the ring. So, it's going to be a tough test. But, I'm very confident that I can handle the middleweight division."

So he doesn't know what he's getting into and acknowledges Sturm as a tough fight. But then he was quoted in the LA Daily News:

"I'm not saying that for this Felix Sturm fight I am going to be 100 percent where I want to be strength-wise," De La Hoya said. "But for the Hopkins fight, I will definitely be where I want to be in order to sometimes push around Hopkins."

So from what we can gather, De La Hoya recognizes that Sturm is a challenge, but believes he can defeat him at less than 100% anyway. And Oscar also believes that in training for Hopkins he can train for Sturm, and kill two birds with one stone. But this is far from the truth.

Hopkins promises a tactical battle; although he has considerable power, he does not make a fighting style of it. Sturm, on the other hand, promises power. But at the same time, Sturm can deliver a tactical fight if he needs to.

Consider Sturm's track record, which shows nine of his 20 victories coming by way of knockout, although he has gone the distance as well. Even Sturm's acquisition of the WBO title is troubling; he was introduced as a last-minute replacement when, Bert Schenk, the number 1 ranked WBO challenger withdrew with an injury. The situation was much like Vitiali Klitschko against Lennox Lewis, but unlike Lennox Lewis Sturm won. The resulting record shows an extremely adaptable fighter with quick hand speed and serious knockout power. It shows serious room for concern on de la Hoya's part, and demonstrates that de la Hoya must be prepared to fight a different fight than the one he plans on fighting against Hopkins.

And there is the fact that this is Sturm's only chance. When asked of the fight where he won the WBO title, Sturm remarked: "I was very comfortable in this fight because I didn't have anything to lose."

If there is any notion that Sturm is supposed to lose in order for a better fight to occur, it is lost on him. "Oscar De La Hoya is my idol," Sturm told HBO. "I have seen so many of his fights on tape, but I will definitely show no respect in the ring. That's what I promise." So such attitude exists on De La Hoya's part.

A precedent for this fight was established in the first fight between Vernon Forest and Ricardo Mayorga. Vernon Forest, an excellent tactical fighter with a history of injuries faced off against Ricardo Mayorga, an uncertain Nicaraguan welterweight challenger with his key attributes being explosive knockout power and a lack of concern for any damage Forest could inflict. Boxing experts will forever wonder how the fight could have gone if Forest had been wiser to his challenge, but as Fate would have it, Vernon Forest needed to prove himself, and determined the best way to do so would be a knockout victory over this no-name Nicaraguan. His trainer cautioned him against a direct assault, but Forest ignored their warnings, and was on the canvas by the 3rd.

By comparison, Oscar has a lot to prove to convince fight fans he can step to Hopkins. His last fight was a disappointing loss to Sugar Shane Mosley, who in turn suffered a disappointing loss to Winky Wright. Oscar will more than likely take the risks to give Sturm a decisive knockout loss, for not only is Oscar not the champion, but the man who beat him isnt the champion either.

Anyone who disagrees with me, anyone who thinks that De La Hoya should take Sturm lightly should let their minds wonder back to Forest-Mayorga. Forest was the 5-to-1 favorite. And they should remember too that boxing is the sport where underestimating your enemy is lethal.

Bert Sugar noticed this and wrote his own column as well, urging both De La Hoya and Hopkins to be careful. In short, Sugar thinks that both Hopkins and De La Hoya are in danger. On this I respectfully disagree. Hopkins isnt going anywhere.

Robert Allen is Hopkins' equivalent of Felix Sturm. But when Hopkins speaks of his opponent the tone is far different. In the HBO interview Hopkins gave credit to Robert Allen, and admired him for returning from the brink after his last defeat to Hopkins. But at the same time Hopkins acknowledged the danger. Robert Allen, he said, has nothing to lose. And on June 7th Robert Allen is fighting a man who will undoubtedly send him to retirement. And so Hopkins will not ignore the challenge. He will continue to train one fight at a time, giving each their proper due, no matter how

"After I execute Robert Allen," Hopkins said, "I will move on to messing up De La Hoya's pretty face."

And there's no doubt Hopkins will.

Article posted on 30.05.2004

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