In an Interview with the German TV magazine format ‘Sport Inside’ (WDR) on Monday, the Turkish born former promoter Ahmet Öner claims to have bought Felix Sturm’s WBA Superchampion title two and a half years ago in an effort to salvage Sturm’s career.
Öner told Sport Inside WDR: “With this belt Sturm wasn’t obligated to make mandatory defenses. Sturm was able to fight whoever he wanted to, hand-picked opponents. That’s how he managed to pocket big paydays with his TV partner SAT1, he collected 7-figure Euro sums for each event. And that’s how Felix, over the course of five or six fights, made a nice little fortune. I assume the total sum is closer to 8-digits than not. All this was possible just because he had the “Superchampion” title; a paper title he bought. He paid a couple hundred thousand Euros, and the return on investment was huge. Without this Superchampion title he wouldn’t have had this degree of freedom to pick his opponents. And Sturm didn’t think the belt had any importance then he would never have paid so much for it in the first place.”
At that time of Sturms career, ZDF, a German TV station, did not want to broadcast his fights anymore and Sturm left the now bankrupt promotion outfit Universum Box Promotion in order to market and promote himself. That’s why he was close to being stripped of his WBA belt unless he fought one the best fighter in his division at that time, Kazakhstan-born Gennady Golovkin. The risk of losing to Golovkin, one of the most dangerous fighters of the division, also meant the risk of a setback for Sturms career. As the Superchampion, Sturm coould avoid Golovkin and wouldn’t have to face any mandatory challenger for 18 months…
Öner’s own credibility is somewhat questionable: He has a criminal record and was sentenced to 22 months of probation in 2010 for blackmail and aggravated battery. After the end of his probation period Öner now, so he says, wants to get the facts on the table because Sturm allegedly withheld payments that were guaranteed to him. As proof for his allegations Öner provided “sport inside” with a bank statement of an account of his former promotion company “Arena Promotion”. It details a transfer of 250,000 Euro made by Ufa sports, showing ‘Loan Felix Sturm’ in the payment details.
Öner alleges: “At the end of the day Sturm bought his Superchampion title, the money was wired to my account by a company called Ufa sports, which is a production company for SAT1, Sturm’s TV station. There were a number of cash payments as well but I cannot prove those; the wire transfer however is an easily verifiable fact.“
Aprox. 200,000 Euro, according to Öner, was paid to Antonio Gonzalez in March of 2010 in Panama. Based on research conducted by “Sport Inside” Gonzalez is working for the WBA and is a personal friend of WBA vice-president Gilberto Mendoza.
Attorney Raffael Villena from Hamburg, Germany, claims to have been the courier who performed the transaction in Panama. Villena: “We have met with Mr. Gonzalez, an American lawyer, in the lobby of a hotel. We went up to a hotel suite that they have previously arranged in order to perform the transaction. The money, approx. 200,000 Euro, was given to Mr. Gonzalez who signed a receipt certifying he received the full amount.”
Three weeks after the money transfer allegedly took place the Superchampion belt was given to Sturm during a boxing event organized by Öner and Gonzalez. After that, Sturm’s TV station SAT1 broadcast a total of six fight nights while Ufa sports marketed the worldwide TV rights. Among boxing analysts Sturm’s WBA Superchampionship has been heavily criticized from the start, because the WBA rules always required a title unification in order to issue the Superchampion belt. Sturm never was a unified champion, he always only had the WBA belt. UFA sports, Antonio Gonzalez and the WBA did not return phone calls from “sport Inside” to comment on Öner’s allegations.
In a reply to “Sport Inside”, Felix Sturm’s lawyer claims the transfer of 250,000 Euro made by Ufa sports to Öner was supposed to be a loan for Öner in order to kickstart his new boxing promotion company Sturm Promotion. However, no contract for this supposed loan exists. Felix Sturm is not aware of any money transfer in Panama. Quoting from the letter sent by Sturm’s lawyer: “Mr. Sturm is familiar with Mr. Gonzalez, who is an attourney (…), who (…) initiated the request to elevate Mr. Sturm to the status of a Superchampion with the WBA. For his counseling in this matter and the preparation of documents Mr. Sturm paid a lump sum of 5,000 Euro to Mr. Gonzalez, who signed a receipt for this amount.”
A copy of the receipt was not provided to “Sport Inside”. However, sport inside was provided with a written memo by WBA vice-president Mendoza addressed to Felix Sturm:
“I, Gilberto Jesus Mendoza, (…) declare, that the WBA declared Felix Sturm Superchampion exclusively based upon his extraordinary boxing career . (…) That is why I personally declare, that neither the WBA nor I personally received any monetary or material compensation in connection with Mr. Sturm’s Superchampion title.”
The entire interview with Ahmet Öner can be seen here: http://www.wdr.de/tv/sport_inside/sendungsbeitraege/2012/1203/sturm_oener.jsp