Felix Sturm Plays It Safe (Again) - Sturm-Sato On Saturday

felix sturm22.04.09 - by Nino Celic - This Saturday at 10pm CET Felix Sturm is going to make his sixth straight defense of the WBA middleweight title since recapturing it from Javier Castillejo in 2007. In choosing the very inexperienced Japanese Koji Sato, Sturm continues his walk on the “safe way”: fighting relatively unknown opposition in sold out arenas, the recognition will maybe come afterwards - if not, at least the paydays were decent. This approach follows the footsteps of other German long-term champs, like Sven Ottke or Markus Beyer, who never had real international recognition.

Although the middleweight division is pretty poor at the moment (with the exception of Pavlik, Abraham and Sturm), Universum could probably have picked a more deserving challenger than Koji Sato. He is ranked #14 in the WBA, in his only 14 pro fights he has fought opposition with a combined record of 138-60-5 (all fights but one have taken place in Japan). These stats alone don’t suggest that this fight will be remotely competitive..

Sturm, as always, is well prepared for Saturday: although the fight is still four days away, he is only two pounds over the weight limit, thanks to his healthy diet he keeps during his whole training camp. He has also done 90 rounds of sparring and comprehensive interval sprint training. Sturm seems pretty confident in his victory, in an interview on the German channel ZDF he jokingly said: “I hope Sato makes it out of the first round”. Then he got a little more serious: “Although he is inexperienced, he is an immensely dangerous fighter. The fact that he got off the canvas and knocked an opponent out in the same round proofs this.” Asked about his plans for the future he answered: “Defend my title, and then go on vacation”. This statement alone tells enough about Sturm’s attitude – why take a risk in fighting dangerous opponents, when you can sell out arenas anyway and earn seven-digit purses with little or no risk. Asked about future possible unification fights Sturm quickly stalled: “That’s not up to me, that’s exclusively the business of the promoters and TV-networks.” He still expressed the desire to regain the WBO title, which he felt was stolen from him by the judges in 2003.

So what kind of fight will we see on Saturday? I think Sato will get utterly outclassed, having no international experience at all and only being in his 15th pro fight. Sturm will land his jab at will and go to the body, possibly resulting in a late stoppage. One further indication that this fight won’t be competitive is Sato’s attitude revealed in the pre-fight interviews: having predicted a KO victory over Sturm previously, he later apologized to the champ: “I hope he doesn’t get mad.”

So what’s up next for Sturm after his victory on Saturday? Hopefully he will rediscover his desire for international recognition (which he had in his early career), or Sauerland will make him such a high offer to fight Abraham, that not even Team Sturm can ignore it.   

Article posted on 23.04.2009

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