Felix Sturm, the Germany-based WBA middleweight beltholder best known to American fans for giving Oscar De La Hoya fits in a controversial decision loss, believes an impressive title defense against Matthew Macklin on Saturday will lead to a high-profile showdown against RING champ Sergio Martinez in the U.S.
Macklin, The European middleweight champ from Birmingham, England, believes that Sturm will bring out his best.
Mark Greenburg, the president of Epix, a new U.S. premium cable channel, is just happy his network will broadcast what should be a competitive fight between world-class boxers.
Sturm-Macklin, which takes place in Cologne, Germany, on Saturday, will air live on Epix and stream live on EpixHD.com at 2 p.m. PT / 5 p.m. ET.
The middleweight showdown will be the third boxing match broadcast by the almost-2-year-old network. Epix aired Vitali Klitschko’s WBC heavyweight title defense against undefeated contender Odlanier Solis in March.
Last month, the network, which is available in about 30 million U.S. homes with a subscriber base of about 4 million, broadcast undefeated light heavyweight contender Nathan Cleverly’s WBO title-winning effort against late-sub Aleksy Kuziemski along with a grudge match between British super middleweight prospects George Groves and James DeGale.
Greenberg was asked why Epix has only aired major fights that take place in Europe during a media conference call on Tuesday. Klitschko-Solis took place in Germany. Cleverly-Kuziemski took place in England.
“Boxing is a global sport,” said Greenberg. “American fighters were the best 15 years ago, but you can’t say that now. The sport needs to find competitive fights wherever they are, no matter if the fighters involved have two or three losses. If the boxers are quality fighters and they make for a competitive match, that’s all that matters to fans.
“Almost 100,000 fans signed up to watch Kltischko-Solis [on EpixHD.com]. They didn’t care that one was Cuban (Solis) or that one was from Germany (Klitschko). They knew it was a competitive fight. We’ll show Americans when we find a competitive matchup between good American fighters.”
Saturday’s middleweight matchup looks like a competitive fight between a 32-year-old German beltholder and a 29-year-old British contender.
Sturm (35-2-1, 15 knockouts), who lost the WBO title to De La Hoya in 2004 in Las Vegas, Nev., has gone 15-1-1, during which time he won, lost and regained the WBA belt, since his only fight in the U.S.
The one loss was a 12th-round TKO to Javier Castillejo in 2006, which was avenged via unanimous decision in ’07. Since regaining the WBA title (in the Castillejo rematch), Sturm has registered nine defenses, including unanimous decisions over top-rated American Randy Griffin (who held him to a draw in their first encounter) and fellow German standout Sebastian Sylvester, who now holds a major belt.
Macklin (28-2, 19 KOs) has won 11 in a row since suffering a 10th-round knockout to Jaime Moore in a savage fight-of-the-year candidate waged at junior middleweight in 2006. He won the European middleweight title with an impressive first-round stoppage of highly rated Amin Asikainen in 2009.
Macklin, THE RING’s No. 5-rated middleweight, isn’t ruling out a first-round KO victory against Sturm.
“I punch hard enough that if I catch Felix on the chin in the first round (the fight) could end,” he said during the conference call. “Of course, Felix has a good chin and great defense, so it could go 12 rounds.”
Both Sturm and Macklin expect a good fight if goes the distance.
“I’m going to use pressure in this fight,” said Sturm, who is coming off a seventh-round stoppage of Ronald Hearns, the son of Thomas Hearns, in February. “My jab, my hooks, my body shots are my best weapons and I’ll use them with my pressure in this fight. I’m ready to fight hard from the first round on.”
Macklin said facing a fighter as accomplished as Sturm, THE RING’s No. 1-rated middleweight, gets his adrenaline pumping, which brings out his best.
“Nerves make me fight harder and react faster,” he said. “It effects everything, makes me stronger and even punch harder. Sometimes the nerves help you rise to the top of your game for the big fight.”
If Macklin wins, he will have achieved his ultimate goal of winning a major title. If Sturm wins, he’ll be one step closer to returning to the U.S., where he says he would like to challenge Martinez for universal recognition as the middleweight champion of the world.
Sturm has been criticized in some circles for staying in the comfy confines of his home country since losing to De La Hoya and failing to put his title on the line in other countries, an allegation he addressed during the conference call.
“I was always ready to fight the best, be it Jermain Taylor, Bernard Hopkins, or Winky Wright, but German TV wanted my fights to be here in Germany, where they were big events and filled arenas,” he said. “When I beat Macklin, I’ll come back (to the U.S.) and fight Sergio Martinez.”
Sturm says it more sense for him to fight in the U.S. next year because he’s a more respected now than he was in the years following his loss to De La Hoya.
“I’m a bigger name and I’m a better fighter now,” he said.
Thanks to Epix, American fans will get to see how much he’s improved and maybe a good middleweight fight.