Longtime middleweight titleholder Felix Sturm defended his WBA belt with a hard-fought split decision over Matthew Macklin in Cologne, Germany, on Saturday.
Sturm (36-2-1, 15 knockouts), who won by scores of 116-112, 116-112 and 113-115, made the 10th defense of his WBA title in front of 18,000 hometown fans at the sold-out Lanxess Arena.
The bout, which was aired live on the Epix network in the U.S., was hotly contested from start to finish. Macklin (28-3, 19 KOs), THE RING's No. 5-rated middleweight, started fast, applying his customary pressure and concentrated body attack in the early rounds.
Sturm, THE RING's No. 1-rated middleweight, battled back during the middle rounds, matching Macklin's aggression with accurate inside combinations.
The two 160-pound standouts spent much of the late rounds battling forehead to forehead, exchanging hard punches out of a high guard, in exciting phone-booth warfare.
However, Sturm, who says he wants to challenge RING champ Sergio Martinez in the near future, occasionally stepped back to give himself enough distance to land clean jabs and single power shots (mainly hooks and uppercuts) down the stretch of the bout.