By Mark Vaz
In Colon, Germany, three-time world champ Felix Sturm returns to the ring today after a 14-month layoff to defend his WBA World Middleweight Title for the 8th time against tough Dominican Giovani Lorenzo, 29-2 (21). After a long career under the promotional banner of Universum, Sturm will now endeavor to follow in the footsteps of the Klitschko’s by working as his own promoter, joining forces with Arena-Box, Ahmet Ohner’s highly respected promotional company based in Hamburg. Sturm plans to conclude his career as captain of his own destiny, after a drawn-out lawsuit with his former promoters.
With an outstanding record of 33-2-1 (14), the former German Olympian has held the WBO Middleweight Title, defending it once before losing in Las Vegas in a highly controversial decision to Oscar De La Hoya back in 2001, as well as twice owning the WBA championship, losing and regaining it from Javier Castillo. After defeating Castillo in the rematch, he has defended the title 7 times, making him one of the longest-reigning champs in boxing today.
Fightnews.com had the opportunity to speak with Sturm and his new partners at Arena Box in Germany.
What is your current promotional arrangement?
I will be promoting myself, basically, but working with Arena-Box as co-promoter. Ahmet (Oener) is one of my most important advisors and Arena will do the undercard bouts, but at this point, I have no promotional contract with him. I intend to remain my own boss, following the example of the Klitschko brothers who also split with Universum to do their own shows. They now have the highest paid TV deal in Germany, and I’m looking for something similar.
What was the dispute with Universum?
The main problem was that I was not happy with the way they did the marketing and organization of their shows. They focus on the sport, which if fine but old-fashioned. They don’t invite VIP’s and have no show-acts and such things. The Klitschkos have always had weak undercard fights, and don’t care so much about the boxing aspect of their shows, but they get the best TV ratings because international music acts are playing live before their walk-ins and a lot of German celebrities are in attendance to their shows. It’s a different approach and I prefer that. Officially, we stated irreconcilable differences, but we reached a settlement and have parted company amicably.
What brought you together with Arena-Box?
Ahmet and I have known each other for a long time, and I’ve been impressed the way he’s been doing business, building a new company from start and turning it into an international business in only a few years. In addition, most people who know about boxing in Germany know that there is no better advisor than Ahmet when it comes to representing someone to the sanctioning bodies and finding proper opponents to make big fights happen. If you recall, I was awarded the WBA “Super Champion” belt at Arena’s show in March. It was an honor to receive it there.
Is there any change in the Sturm team?
I’m working with Fritz Sdunek now who has left Universum and is only training Vitali Klitschko. Fritz is without a doubt the best trainer in Germany. He was the head coach for Universum, training most of their world champs. When Fritz had a hip replacement, he decided to leave the company and work on his own with fewer fighters. He recently said that now that he’s healthy, he’s getting bored sitting home and is glad to be working again. I’ve had discussions with other trainers including Freddie Roach, but with the time he has to focus on me, as well as his unparalleled credentials, I think Fritz is the best trainer for me.
Not to look past Lorenzo, but what else does the future hold for Felix Sturm?
There is still a lot of talk about fighting Arthur Abraham which would be the biggest possible fight in Germany at the moment. Of course, it would have to wait until the end of the Super Six tournament, but we’ve both said publicly we want the fight. I sincerely believe I am the best middleweight in boxing today. I beat Sylvester, who now holds a title, and would certainly beat Sebastian Zbik (a fellow German, holding an interim title). I would love either Sergio Martiniz or (Kelly) Pavlik, but I doubt either would come to Germany to fight me. That was one of the main problems in putting together this fight for myself and Ahmet- finding a suitable opponent. World-class fighters don’t like to travel, especially when they have options to fight on major networks in the US. We negotiated with Ricardo Mayorga, Kermit Cintron, Marco Antonio Rubio, Winky Wright, and Peter Manfredo, Jr. before finally reaching an agreement with Lorenzo. I am willing to fight the best out there, the only question is, which of them is willing to fight me?
Will you remain at middleweight?
I’m comfortable at middleweight, so for the time being, there’s no need to change. Maybe when I’m finished collecting belts at middleweight, I’ll move up and get some there…
What do you think of the super six tourney, since you’re so close in weight to them?
I feel the same as most boxing fans, I should think It is a very good idea, but its terribly annoying that it takes so long for the fights to be made. Of course, they are all excellent fighters in tough bouts so they need their time to rest and prepare for the next fight, but the long time between fights does make it less exciting. You may recall, I competed in a tournament before- when I fought De La Hoya, it was a semi-final to find the best middleweight in the world. De La Hoya advanced to the finals with Hopkins, which was the fight everyone wanted to see. I would love to fight in another similar tournament to unify the championship again.
At 31, what other things do you want to accomplish in your career?
I think right now, it’s the big fights I’m after, which I will need to make the real money. As I said, I’m following the example of the Klitschko brothers and want to establish myself as a high-quality brand in German sports just like they have done. Although they are Ukrainian, they’ve become two of the most popular German sports celebrities in history. That’s what my ambition is.
Will you conclude you career with Arena-Box?
We have an agreement that they will be my partners for all shows in Germany, and we see no reason why that should change.
Do you intend to return to the US to showcase your talents to the American fans, especially on HBO or Showtime?
At the moment, I plan to stay in Germany and build my popularity here, but I’m sure Ahmet will work on a big HBO or Showtime fight next year. I would love them to come here and see what kind of a show we will put on in front of the great German audiences, but I have shown I’m not afraid to travel, either. In spite of getting a bad decision with De La Hoya, I would return to the US to fight if it was the right circumstances.
Fightnews would like to thank Felix Sturm and Arena-Box’s Malte Mueller for his assistance with translations.