By Wolfgang Schiffbauer at ringside
Felix Sturm is back! The WBA middleweight champion returned to the ring on Saturday night for the first time in 14 months to defend his belt against hard-hitting challenger Giovanni Lorenzo in front of 18,712 fans at the LANXESS arena in Cologne, Germany. It was Sturm’s first bout after leaving his former promoter Universum and founding his own promotional company – Sturm Box-Promotion – earlier this year. There was a lot at stake and enormous pressure on Sturm before entering the ring in Cologne. “I was more nervous than usual,” the 31-year-old fighter admitted. Nevertheless, Sturm needed only two rounds to get back into his boxing rhythm and outbox his game challenger.
Lorenzo, 29 years of age, was most effective in the opening stanza – although he didn’t cleanly connect with any damaging punches. He tried to work the body of the champion but most of his shots were blocked by Sturm’s arms and elbows. The challenger was highly motivated in his second world title bid in Germany and opted to make an early statement by hurting Sturm. But his punches lacked precision and could not get through the guard of the hometown hero.
In the second round, Sturm started to be more effective with his sharp and quick left jab. His work rate increased and he begun fighting more aggressively, moving forward and taking the fight to Lorenzo. The WBA kingpin took control of the action in the following rounds and outboxed his foe. Sturm showed great hand speed and was able to catch Lorenzo with flush body-head combinations numerous times.
By the seventh stanza, Lorenzo looked gassed and started moving backwards while getting hit by the champion’s shots. Sturm was in full control of the bout by then and piling up points en route to a decision win.
The challenger went for the knockout once again in the twelfth and final round but hardly managed to hit the quicker and fresher Sturm. The judges scored the bout 117-111 twice and 118-111 for the defending champion, who kept his WBA belt. The fight was shown live by German television giant Sat.1 and attracted 5.27 million viewers.
After his long break from boxing, Sturm produced a good performance and gave a boxing lesson to Lorenzo. But there is still room for improvement. “I can do a lot more”, Sturm told the press after the bout’s conclusion. “I was just at 75 percent. There was a lot of pressure on me but I will get better from fight to fight.” The champion thanked his team and especially his new trainer Fritz Sdunek and his conditioning coach Clive Salz. “He could have used his right hand more often,” Sdunek commented, “but sometimes you can’t force things to happen.”
Team Lorenzo was not happy with the official verdict. “They scored like in amateur boxing”, said the challenger. “Did they even count my body punches? I was more active. He is a great champion and I thank him for this opportunity but I believe I won the fight and should be in possession of the WBA belt.”
Lorenzo’s co-manager Kurt Emhoff announced that Team Lorenzo will file a protest to the WBA in regard of the decision. Sturm’s response: “He should take a quick look in the mirror (at the bruises on his face) and re-watch the fight. But everyone is entitled to their opinion.”
The punch stats also favored the WBA champion, landing 249 out of 478 shots (52 percent). Lorenzo was in fact more active but landed less – 105 out of 639 (16 percent).
This was neither a bad nor a controversial decision, but a clear cut win for Sturm, who is already planning his next title defense for early or mid December. There was no mention of a possible opponent. “It’s tough to find a great opponent,” said Sturm. “Not too many of them want to step into the ring with me. But we promised to take on big challenges and we will deliver.”