By Graham Houston
Tonight’s WealthTV “Fight Night” (10PM ET/7PM PT) will present for the first time on U.S. television the IBF eliminator between longtime former middleweight champion Felix Sturm and perennial contender Sam Soliman that took place February 1 in Düsseldorf, Germany. The big surprise was Soliman defeating Sturm by unanimous decision. I tabbed Soliman for the upset in a preview for subscribers.
In a “pick who wins” contest I would have gone for Sturm, but wagering isn’t the same thing as pick-the-winner competitions and I thought that at +550 (and +650 at one sportsbook) Soliman represented such good value that a person of the sporting persuasion was almost compelled to make a small investment in the Aussie veteran.
Soliman’s performance was a boost for those of the “age is but a number” belief. Although Soliman is 39 he has always been a superfit type, and he maintained his usual impressively high workrate for round after round after picking himself up from a heavy knockdown in round two.
Frankly, it looked in the second round as if Soliman might be on his way out. Sturm has never been considered a very hard hitter, but he caught Soliman with a perfectly timed right hand and there was the Aussie on the canvas. The way that Soliman fought his way back bordered on the heroic. By the third round he was throwing punches in his helter-skelter manner and getting right back in the fight, and by the middle rounds Sturm was struggling.
In the seventh round one had the definite sense that the fight was starting to turn in Soliman’s favour. “You can do this — believe in yourself,” trainer Dave Hedgecock implored his fighter. Sturm’s punches were the more precise but Soliman was throwing so many more, including some hurtful-looking body shots. At the end of the hard-fought 10th round Soliman raised his arms to let the crowd know that he felt he was in command of the contest, and I thought that he completely outfought Sturm in the last two rounds. It was close, but Soliman’s punch-volume got him home.
I have become weary of hearing how difficult it is to get a decision in Germany. Trust me, many visiting boxers have left Germany as winners on points. I’ve written about this in a column and also a feature story in Boxing Monthly. The trouble is, a perceived wisdom is established and everyone just runs with it.
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