By Wolfgang Schiffbauer
Fightnews.com caught up with WBA middleweight champion Felix Sturm last week after a hard training session in Cologne, Germany. The champ is currently preparing for his July 11 title defense against European champion and stablemate Khoren Gevor. The 30-year-old Sturm spoke about his preparation, boxing critics, why his upcoming fight can’t be compared to Gevor’s knockout loss against Sturm rival Arthur Abraham, and the possibility of big fights against universally recognized middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik or Australian boxing-star Anthony Mundine.
Hello Felix, how is your training camp going so far?
It is good, very intense. We’ve training for six months and I’m really excited about having a vacation after the Khoren Gevor fight. I worked 14 hard weeks to get ready for Koji Sato, had a three-and-a-half week break afterwards and now we have seven-and-a-half weeks to train for Gevor. Usually, we take 10-12 weeks to prepare for a fight but this time, after just a short vacation, I immediately got back into training. It worked well from the first day on therefore we have enough time to adjust to Khoren.
Gevor is regarded as a better opponent than your last foe Koji Sato. Did you raise the intensity of training or did you change something else in your routine to accommodate for that?
Not really. The intensity might be a little bit higher but we are generally working as hard as possible. We changed some boxing-related stuff because Gevor is a southpaw. Naturally, we are trying to get ready for that but besides, it is business as usual.
Anyway, Sato was not a bad fighter. He was in there to win and definitely had a good punch. However, in boxing, there is this saying: “One fighter can only be as good as another fighter lets him be.” Fortunately, I did not let Sato do a whole lot when we fought. But as I stood inside the ring with Koji, I believe I can judge his skills better than some outside experts.
There is no way I want to compare myself to boxing legends like Roy Jones Jr. but they always said he wouldn’t fight real opposition. And when he was scheduled to face James Toney, they weren’t sure if Jones could live up to the hype. He did and beat a world-class fighter like Toney easily. Currently, a good example would be Manny Pacquiao. He destroyed Ricky Hatton in two rounds. Does that make Hatton a bad fighter? I don’t think so, Pacquiao just made him look bad.
Before my second fight against Randy Griffin or the battle against Sebastian Sylvester, there was a lot of talk about me losing to them. I believe I answered the critics inside the ring, beating both clearly. I’m satisfied with my effort. That is what counts. Sadly, everybody likes to talk a lot in boxing.
So you do not really understand the harsh critic when you face someone like Sato or Arthur Abraham facing, for example, Lajuan Simon?
No, like I said, it’s hard to judge from the outside on the real strength of a boxer. You also have to understand that there can’t be fights against world class opposition like Abraham or Kelly Pavlik any given day. If that would be possible, I’d gladly take those fights. Besides, I fought Sylvester before Sato and now, shortly afterwards, I’m facing Gevor. Both are very strong middleweights.
Do you believe that a victory over Gevor – in consideration of his knock out loss to Abraham – will help you to move your career forward?
Yes, for sure. Khoren is a very strong and talented fighter. He did a great job against Arthur; I even had him ahead going into the eleventh. But then he got caught and went down, something that can happen to any boxer anytime. He’s still one of the five best middleweights in the world. Therefore, this fight will help me a lot. It won’t make sense to compare my fight against Khoren to Abraham’s anyway. That kind of comparison does not work in the boxing world.
Gevor is your stablemate. Does this affect you anyhow?
It’s not great, yeah. But we offered Khoren the fight and he took it. It’s his dream to become a world champion and he’s the current European. In the independent world rankings he is just one spot behind me. He is one of the very best at our weight-division. That’s why this fight had to happen because I really want to fight the best available opponents out there.
You recently visited the Formula One in Monaco. The bout against Gevor will take place on July 11 inside the ring°frei-arena at the Nürburgring race track – one day before the Formula One race. What kind of experience did you take home from Monaco?
It was certainly a big event. Monaco is the highlight of every Formula One season. The atmosphere is electric but I was mainly there to promote my upcoming fight. I often sat down and stayed in the shadow to avoid the heat in order to stay fit because I had to train on Friday and Saturday. Therefore, I did not really see so much of the racing. When the actual race started on Sunday, we were already on a plane back to Cologne.
Still, it is huge for me to step into the ring just one day before the race. I believe there will be a lot of talking before and even on the day after the fight. I believe it’s a great opportunity for me and the Formula One to excite the sports world.
You are in training camp for six months – with just one short break. What do you plan to do after the Gevor fight? Do you want to keep your rhythm and return to the ring after a quick vacation or do you want to take a longer break from the sport?
After the fight I’d love to take two months off to relax. If I should beat Khoren, I hope to be back in the ring at the end of the year, maybe October or November. First, I have to beat Gevor though.
It looks like some big stars of the sport want to share the ring with you in the future. Anthony Mundine – coming off a controversial win against Daniel Geale – wants to challenge you. Bob Arum, promoter of Kelly Pavlik, had already said that there are first negotiations about a super-fight in October. Are there any concrete plans regarding those two, is there really some negotiating going on between the Pavlik camp and you?
I don’t really know if they are already negotiating. That belongs to my promoter Klaus-Peter Kohl. I do know that there is interest in a battle between Pavlik and me, from HBO too. Mundine likes to talk a lot, but we all saw what he is currently worth against Geale. A fight he lost in my opinion. However, he is a very good boxer, a former super middleweight world champion. Still, a fight against Pavlik would be much bigger than one against him.
But right now, all that matters to me is Khoren Gevor. The rest has to wait. In boxing, everything can happen. I could lose to Khoren. Therefore, we have to wait until July 11. I can start thinking about Pavlik or Mundine if I beat Gevor. Should everything work out well, we will see if we can make a fight against either of those two.