Harry Pratt

Sturm retains WBA middleweight title with controversial draw

THE RING’s No. 1-rated middleweight Felix Sturm held onto his “super” WBA title in Mannheim, Germany, on Friday, but only after his latest defense, against Englishman Martin Murray, ended in a draw.

Controversy is often near when a German champion fights on home soil and so it proved again — with some believing the still-undefeated Murray (23-0-1, 10 knockouts) had done enough over 12 cracking rounds to end the long-running reign of 32-year-old Sturm (36-2-2, 15 KOS).

It was mighty close and, the fact it finished with honours even at the SAP Arena was, arguably, a reasonable conclusion. Yet how one judge, Jean-Francois Toupin managed to score the fight 116-112 in Sturm’s favour is tough to understand. Toupin’s colleagues saw it very differently. Ted Gimza gave it to Murray 115-113, while

Pasquale Procopio had it 114-114 apiece.

Afterwards Murray, who now flies off to the Caribbean to get married to long-time partner Gemma, was in a proud, defiant mood – even if he felt he should have been celebrating his 23rd victory on the spin.

“We thought we won. But we’re in Germany and did we do enough to rip the title away from him in his own backyard? We‘ll have to go back through the tape and watch the fight to see,” said the 29-year-old from St Helens, Merseyside. “We’re happy with the performance but gutted we didn’t win. But there you go, it was expected in Germany.

“We always knew I was world class, I just needed that chance to show it. We have shown it today. You talk about a big jump in class but we’ve shown I deserve to be at this level.

“It took me a couple of rounds to get into it. It’s just one of those things, you never know how you are going to feel on the day. But I went 12 rounds with a world-class fighter and a good world champion. At the end I could feel him going. A couple of more rounds and I’d have had him. I was completely okay out there.“

Those sentiments were echoed by Murray’s manager and promoter, Ricky Hatton, who was delighted with the display and disappointed with the result.

“I’m very proud of him,” said the former two-weight titleholder from Manchester. “We always said from day one that he was world class. It’s a fantastic achievement fighting for the world title when you think of the speed Martin has done it. It’s a credit to him and a credit to his trainer Oliver Harrison.

“Personally, I thought he’d won it by one round. But we are in Germany. But we will be back . The Martin Murray story is not finished here. We won’t stop until we get one of those belts.”

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