Felix Sturm: Raise the white flag?

05.06.04 - By Nat Kerr - - Tonight German middleweight Felix Sturm faces the daunting task of defending his WBO title against one of boxingís best pound-for-pound fighters -- Oscar De La Hoya. For the heavy underdog, the fight is a chance to showcase his skills in front of an American audience for the first time.

A native of Hamburg, Sturm, known at the time as Adnan Catic, was the 2000 European amateur champion at 156, and the German national champion in 1999 and 1998, also at 156. He competed at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, losing in the quarterfinals 19-14 in a close fight to highly touted American Jermain Taylor. Catic ended up compiling an excellent amateur record of 113 victories and 9 losses. After turning professional, Catic -- the son of Bosnian immigrants, changed his name to the more German sounding Felix Sturm.

As a professional fighter, Sturm is unbeaten, sporting a 20-0 (9 KOís) record. His biggest wins -- over Spaniard Ruben Varon and Argentinean Hťctor Javier Velazco, are also his most recent.

Against Varon, Sturm looked impressive, dominating the fight throughout. In the middle rounds he bloodied Varonís nose and cut him over the right eye. Sturm ended up winning a unanimous 12-round decision with two judges awarding him every round.

The bout with Velazco September 13-th, 2003, was a different story. Sturm was scheduled to fight on the undercard of the event in Berlin, when he replaced injured WBO #1 contender Bert Schenk with less than four days notice. Sturm started quickly against Velazco, compiling a big lead. Velazco rallied making it a close fight. Sturm won the fight on a split decision. After the fight, Sturm was quoted as saying that he hadnít planned to fight for the title so soon, but the opportunity had presented itself and he wasnít going to walk away.

The fight with Velazco was in fitting with Sturmís character as a pugilist. Earlier in the year, in May, Sturm won the IBF Youth Middleweight title defeating South African Tshepo Mashego, despite fighting with a broken left hand.

Sturm has great hand speed, footwork and excellent reflexes. He fights a mostly European style, never really exposing himself. The light heavyweights he has sparred with as far back as his days as a top amateur -- like Stipe Drews, rave at how solid his chin is.

Sturm does lack the big punch. He only has nine knockouts against soft opposition, but seven of his twenty victories were decisions in fights of eight rounds or less. Sturmís low knockout percentage is more a result of his hit and run style, rather than a gauge of his power.

There is also the element of mystery with Sturm. No one truly knows how good the career middleweight is. Every time Sturm has been challenged, he has responded unequivocally.

Sturmís opponent -- De La Hoya, is consistent if anything. Nothing should change with his step up from 154 pounds to 160.

In the weeks heading up to fight night, De La Hoya has looked a little more round in the face than usual. This suggests that his focus, to some extent, is divided between the fight with Sturm and his duel in September with Bernard Hopkins.

The bout with Sturm represents for De La Hoya the opportunity to erase any self-doubt that he can fight as a middleweight. A less than spectacular fight, and De La Hoya will have little confidence going into the clash of the titans in the fall.

A victory over Sturm will give De La Hoya titles in five different weight classes. No small feat, and one that should insure him an illustrious place in the laurels of boxing.

The fight should be a lot closer than expected. The likely result -- a unanimous decision in favour of De La Hoya, with Sturm winning three, perhaps, four rounds on the judgeís scorecards.

Article posted on 05.06.2004

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