By Wolfgang Schiffbauer
Photos by Team Sturm
WBA Middleweight Super World Champion Felix Sturm is just one week away from the biggest challenge of his career. Next Saturday night, on September 1 at the Koenig- Pilsener-Arena in Oberhausen, Germany, the three-time beltholder will try to add another title to his collection when he collides with Australian IBF kingpin Daniel Geale. FightNews caught up with Sturm yesterday in his gym in Cologne to discuss his preparation, his thoughts on the fight and the middleweight picture in an exclusive interview.
FightNews: Hi Felix, thanks for taking the time today. How was training camp?
Sturm: I feel great and I’m in tip-top shape. I felt very good when I fought Sebastian Zbik a couple months back but I believe I’m much better and stronger right now. I feel like I have improved even more. Training camp went perfect and I’m excited to enter the ring on September 1.
FightNews: You completed your sparring sessions recently, right?
Sturm: Yes. We sparred more than ever before for this fight. I had up to four different sparring partners in a session and they pushed me to a high and intense pace. Also, we only took short brakes between rounds. We changed a lot of things in training before the Zbik fight and we tweaked a couple more things this time as well. That paid off. I feel so good and my weight is so great, that I had to take the food of the gas pedal a bit in the last couple days. I’m calm, relaxed and I can’t wait for the fight.
FightNews: What can you tell us about the changes for this camp?
Sturm: We work in four or five minute rounds with 30-second brakes, for example. Naturally, I can’t go into that much detail about the tactics we developed. Besides Fritz Sdunek, who was in camp for a while, I worked a lot with Magomed Schaburow and that really helped me. I’ve known him for fifteen or sixteen years and I consider him to be an amazing coach. He has a different boxing philosophy than Fritz and my goal is to connect the things that can help me from both guys and add them to the stuff I know I can do. I picked up lots of things I did earlier in my career as well. All this, I’m sure, will make me a better fighter. But the time for talk is over and my goal is to show the world what I can do on September 1.
FightNews: Will both Sdunek and Schaburow be in your corner next week?
Sturm: Right now it looks like it will only be Fritz.
FightNews: What is your take on your opponent, the IBF champion Daniel Geale?
Sturm: Daniel is an exceptional fighter. He can move, he can box and he can put pressure on you. I’m sure he will have a great gameplan as well. But we will see if he will be able to follow this plan with me opposite him. The first couple rounds will be crucial because we will see who can impose his tactics on the other one. And I’m sure he is very confident in himself. I believe the pace will be a key factor in the fight and we have to see how he can handle it. I’m ready for twelve, even fifteen, rounds. I expect a great fight.
FightNews: This is your first title unification. What does it mean to you to have the opportunity to add a second belt to your WBA strap?
Sturm: This has been a dream, a wish, for me since a long, long time. I’m really happy that we found someone in Daniel Geale who did not hesitate to take this fight. This is the biggest fight of my career so far. There is nothing bigger in boxing than a unification. It’s amazing to win a world title, but it’s even better to unify it with another one.
FightNews: September will be an exciting month for the middleweight division. On the first, a couple hours after your fight with Daniel Geale, WBA regular champion Gennady Golovkin will face Grzegorz Proksa and two weeks later, Sergio Martinez will battle WBC beltholder Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. How do you see those fights?
Sturm: Those fights are difficult to predict. Proksa will be the first real test for Golovkin. He is a southpaw, young, hungry and motivated. He is difficult to fight, for sure. Golovkin has the advantage in experience, especially in the amateur ranks. He wants to establish himself at the top of the boxing world and this will be his first fight on HBO. It’s just too close to call.
FightNews: And what about Martinez against Chavez?
Sturm: Most experts believe that Martinez is the favorite in this fight. Honestly, I don’t see it that way. Chavez has improved over that last couple years. He is becoming better and better. Martinez is 37 years old and Chavez can build a lot of pressure over the course of the fight. I’m not sure that Martinez will be able to overcome the aggression of Chavez for twelve rounds. But than again, this will be very close and I’m eagerly awaiting both fights.
FightNews: Tomorrow evening, Arthur Abraham will try to recapture his former glory in defeating WBO super middleweight champion Robert Stieglitz in Berlin. A couple days ago, the BILD newspaper wrote that you would be interested in fighting the winner if you can overcome Geale on September 1.
Sturm: I was asked if I would fight the winner and yes, sure, I would. I’m open for that. But I’m completely focused on my bout against Geale next week. What happens next can be discussed after the fight. If I win, I could also imagine fighting in the United States again or participating in another unification. We’ll just have to wait and see.
FightNews: Who will win between Abraham and Stieglitz?
Sturm: If it goes the distance, I believe Stieglitz will win because he is the better boxer. But right now, I’m leaning a bit towards Abraham by late knockout.
FightNews: This will be your third fight in Oberhausen. You recaptured the WBA title in a rematch with Javier Castillejo and you defeated Sebastian Sylvester in an all-German grudge match. How does it feel to be back at the Koenig-Pilsener- Arena for another important fight in your career?
Sturm: It’s a great arena with a capacity of close to 10.000 people. The atmosphere was electric when I fought there before and I believe it will be again this time. This is the most important fight of my career and it feels good to do it in Oberhausen. We fought in Cologne often and in other towns as well, my last fight in Oberhausen was four years ago. I’m excited to be back.
FightNews: Let’s talk about your role as the promoter in Sturm Box-Promotion. What are your plans for the future?
Sturm: After my fight we will present new signings and we will stage our first event in November or December. We are also planning on doing six or seven shows next year. Ruslan Chagaev, the former heavyweight champion, will fight on the September 1 undercard; he will be working with us in the future. We are looking to build a stable of twelve to fifteen fighters before the end of the year. A mixture of young guns and established fighters, like Chagaev, whom we want to get back on top and into world title consideration quickly. We also have a lot of young talent and obviously, we don’t know how they will handle the big stage yet. But we are optimistic and looking forward to big things in the future.
FightNews: Do you want to say anything in closing?
Sturm: I want to thank my fans for their support and I hope to be back in the United States in the future.