An intriguing middleweight title fight will take place on Saturday night in Atlantic City when the incumbent Daniel Geale faces former title challenger Darren Barker on HBO.
There’s one observer who is particularly interested in the result, that being former middleweight titlist Felix Sturm, of Germany. Sturm lost his alphabet trinket to Geale in a unification fight and then lost a decision to Sam Soliman, which was later ruled a no-contest when Soliman tested positive for PEDs.
RingTV contributing writer Mark E. Ortega caught up with Sturm prior to this weekend’s showdown to discuss his recent victory and future plans, as well as his thoughts on Geale-Barker and Gennady Golovkin. (Translated by Wolfgang Schiffbauer.)
RingTV: First of all, congratulations on your win against Predrag Radosevic. You turned in a very credible performance, demolishing a previously unbeaten fighter. Was your training camp for this fight in any way superior to previous ones? Were you motivated to prove that you still have something left to give?
Felix Sturm: Thanks a lot. I really wanted, and needed, to convince the critics against Radosevic. I wasn’t the fighter I want to be against Daniel Geale and Sam Soliman. I was disappointed by my performances, especially against Soliman. Therefore, I changed a lot before the Radosevic fight. I was in the gym every day even before my training camp began and we were able to focus on boxing and movement again. I know what I can do inside the squared circle and I’m confident in my abilities. I knew I had to change my preparation and I did. It paid off and I will only get better from now on.
RingTV: At one point in time, you were the WBA champion while Gennady Golovkin was the regular WBA beltholder. A lot of people like to say you ducked the challenge from Gennady because it was a risky fight. What was the reasoning for that fight never happening, and are you open to the possibility of fighting him at this stage?
Sturm: If I had gotten the decision against Geale, I would have fought Golovkin last year. No doubt about it. In boxing, it is important that certain fights happen at all, no matter when. Sometimes, money is the only reason for a fight to happen, but I want to do fights that are interesting as well. Golovkin has progressed a lot recently and that makes this an interesting fight. But there won’t be a 50/50 split; I’m bringing much more to the table than he does. I don’t necessarily need this fight. But if the conditions are right – why not? But there are many tempting options out there for me. My main target, right now, is the rematch against Daniel Geale, though.
RingTV: Obviously, your fight puts you in the position to fight the winner of Geale-Barker, which takes place on Aug. 17. Who are you tabbing to win, and are you looking forward to getting that winner, is that your first priority?
Sturm: Like I said, Geale is my first priority and I’m picking him to win on Saturday. Barker is a strong fighter and did well against Sergio Martinez. But Geale is the better package, as long as he is not looking past Barker. But this could be a close one. And if Barker wins, I’d be more than happy to challenge him for the IBF title. Nevertheless, Geale, due to our past, would be my first choice and I’ll be rooting for him on Saturday.
RingTV: With Golovkin, was the reason for not fighting him because he was a case of high risk, low reward? If you had beaten him at that point, he would have been written off as a hype job and you would have gotten little credit for beating him. Now, as it stands, Golovkin is boxing’s new favorite riser, and if you fought him now and beat him, it would rank as one of the better wins of your career. Does that make a fight with Golovkin more appealing, particularly because HBO would likely televise?
Sturm: As I said earlier, my team and I took fights that made sense from a boxing standpoint and financially. There was a big market for my fights against the British guys like Macklin and Murray, an all-German showdown against Sebastian Zbik and – definitely – the unification bout against Geale. You should never forget that Golovkin only busted onto the scene fairly recently. He wasn’t an option beforehand because the fight was just not attractive enough. In any regard. It is a fact that many fighters would love to step into the ring with me. It has been like that in the past and it is like that right now. They hope to get the attention of the public. Also, the fans expect a lot from me when I step into the ring. This makes any fight a risk, because I have to fulfill those expectations. Nevertheless, if the fight against Golovkin should materialize and HBO would televise it in the USA – it certainly would be an honor. I had an amazing experience in 2004 when I fought Oscar De La Hoya in Vegas. The HBO team, the whole team, did a great job back then. I’m looking forward to staging fights in the future that are interesting for both HBO and Showtime.
RingTV: You made a statement back in 2004 when you soundly beat up Oscar De La Hoya, though the decision didn’t go your way. To date, that is your lone fight in America. Is there a reluctance to fight in America because you were treated unfairly by the judges? Or is it just because you are so big in Germany that you make a ton of money fighting less difficult fights in front of massive crowds?
Sturm: I always said that I want to go back to the United States sometime in my career. Sadly, the De La Hoya fight was my only one in the USA so far. But that’s not my fault. I have a huge fan base in Germany and we stage big shows with our TV partner, SAT1, over here. I fought at the Lanxess arena in Cologne numerous times. That’s the biggest indoor arena in Europe. And the market for boxing is not bad at all here. Still, I hope and I believe that I will have at least one or two more fights in the States before I call it a day.
With the De La Hoya fight, sure, I was disappointed by the outcome. I beat him and I believe he knows that. But I know that boxing is a business as well as a sport. I was virtually unknown at the time and Oscar the biggest name in boxing. He was the draw back then and the big-money fight against Bernard Hopkins was already scheduled. I knew beforehand that it would be immensely difficult to get a decision in Vegas. But this doesn’t lessen the experience. I had a great, great time. I learned a lot from fighting a boxing legend in De La Hoya. And to this day, he is still the best fighter I ever stood toe-to-toe with.
RingTV: I’ve honestly been a huge fan of yours ever since the De La Hoya fight. You’ve suffered tough losses like to Castillejo and bounced back, reinventing yourself. In recent years, you’ve become a more exciting fighter than when you first grabbed the title and I think you make for TV-friendly fights. It has been my hope to see you on American television again for many years. Is this a possibility?
Sturm: Thank you. If I remember it correctly, some of my recent fights, for example the Macklin fight, were broadcasted in the States. I believe Epix televised that fight. It is always possible that my next couple of fights will be seen live in the States. Like I told you earlier, I’m looking to make fights that are interesting to the American TV stations like HBO and Showtime.
RingTV: Arthur Abraham has recently extended his contract with Sauerland Promotions. At one point in time, a fight between you and Abraham was considered perhaps the biggest fight that could be made in Europe. Is there still any interest in exploring this option?
Sturm: I am and I was always willing to face Arthur Abraham. But it’s the same old story. Abraham’s promoter is looking to get the best out of their relationship. We have two different TV partners and unfortunately, there is no pay-per-view market in Germany. If there were, the fight would have happened a long time ago. But who knows what will happen in the future? I have a lot ahead of me and there is still a lot of time left to eventually stage this fight.
Photos: Friedemann Vogel-Bongarts/Gettyimages; Joern Pollex-Bongarts/Gettyimages; Dennis Grombkowski-Gettyimages; Carlo Allegri-Gettyimages