KOLN - It was definitely Felix Sturms hometown, but there was no hometown decision about it.
Sturm, 159,took some good shots but adjusted to a bruising challenge from Giovanni Lorenzo, 158 1/4,and defended the WBA middleweight belt for the seventh time, with a widespread unanimous decision that few outside Lorenzos entourage disagreed with.
Sturm showed some rust in the early going, but shook it off after a few frames and scored well with short jabs and double lefts that scuffed up Lorenzo, who had some moments of his own but never established enoughmauling momentum.
A vocal,decked-outswarm announced at 18,712 partiedinthe gleaming Lanxess Arena and made Sturms initial self-promotional exercisea good cause for optimism about the local boxing landscape. Dozens of locals hung out at various venues outside the main site just to be part of the scene.
Koln, Lanxess, everybody; thank you. Im content. The first fight here is the toughest,said a slightly marked-up Sturm, now 34-2-1 (14)after the bout. I had to be cautious because I had not fought in so long. I want to have fights here once or twice every year. This arena is my living room.
Sturm says hehopes to lure top US performers like Kelly Pavlik to Germany, but statements like that may put further travel doubts in many potential opponentsplans. According to Sturm,manyhighly rankedcontendersdeclined the opportunity before Lorenzo, 29-3 (21)stepped up.
I am ready to fight anybody, and Im ready to fight in the United States again, claimed Sturm.The question is, does anybody want to fight me?
Lorenzo did, and he stood strong in the face of consistent pressure. Many rounds were close, but Sturm did earnmost of them. Even if each three minute margin only came down to a few jabs, a fair point total supported the scores of117-111 twice and 118-111 by judges David Singh, Stanley Christodoulou and Stefano Carozzain tallies that were undesignated at post time.Referee Luis Pabon let them rock.
Team Lorenzo voiced complaints over their overall promotionaltreatment before and after the fight. Still the Dominican transplant working out of NYC showed up not only ready to fight, but ready to take the title if Sturm showed any slippage in his return from a 14 month layoff.
Lorenzo complained about the verdict, and said they would gather punch stat evidence and protest.
Sturm is a great champion but its a shame champs here dont leave their homes, huffed Lorenzo.It was a good fight but this isnt amateur boxing. I appreciate the German fans (but) apparently they dont score body punches here.
Truth is that tonight in the rollicking riversideregion knownfor an 18th century fragrance Eau deCologne,there was not the slightest stench of injustice.
Quite the contrary. Aromas around Lanxess were the type ofperfume potions that made it even harder not togawk at some of the modelsin crowded Sturm Promotions andArenaBox VIP areas. There was also Robusto sniffing pleasure from clouds around a hand rolled Bentley stogie stand, which stood among sofa stationsteeming with flowersnext to a champagne oasis with ice coveredmetallic bottles that looked like platinum bowling pins.
Sturm and Lorenzo each tried fora ten pin knockdown but neither man was ever seriously wobbled during their high stakes game of twelve round tag. There was no real drama, but there were also no real lapses in the action. The fighters threw good punches in every round as they drove each other to a high standard that resulted in a good battle overall.
Sturm admitted the hardest part for him might have been nerves.
I was very nervous today. It was brutal, admitted Sturm. I had to stay focused. Many people called at the last minute wanting tickets. We will have 20,000 people at the next fight.
Sturms new partnership since mid-summer with trainer Fritz Sdunek got off to a good start despite the qualms.
Felix was totally motivated for this fight, I worried he was too motivated, added Sdunek, He showed he was under pressure, but he performed very well.
Sturmdidnt look as strong as he had a couple years back when dominating future titlist Sebastian Sylvester, butSturm certainly didnt look shabby.
There was no warm-up period. Lorenzo was busier at the beginning, looping hooks behind a stiff jab and thumping in some solid body work. Sturm absorbed the torso taps andlooked very buff from a weight training regime some pugilistic purists criticized as a hindrance toflexibility. Sturm showed no ill effects, and some bigbangs to the belly
showed no effect on him either.
Lorenzo always hung tough, but he slowed a bit by the fourth frame and from then on a constantlyadvancing Sturm almost always looked quicker and stronger. It was not easy by any means, but by the middle rounds it looked like Sturm had broken Lorenzo down with damaging double lefts. When Lorenzos right eye looked tenderized, he fought back harder and Sturm had to eat strong counters while pressing the assault.
A busier, more forceful Sturm controlled most of the scoring action but Lorenzo never seemed so far behind a victory was out of reach. They traded huge gut shots in the ninth, proof of eachs excellent conditioning. Lorenzo never gave up and forced some wild exchanges down the stretch. He outworked Sturm and reached around the champions modified peek-a-boo defense and took the final frame, but it was the ol too little.
Lorenzo was the perfect opponent for this return, reflected Sturm. I had some problems but I felt good. I wanted a KO but Im happy with the result. There are a lot of good opponents out there for me. I want a unification fight, but there are always worthy German challengers.I keep hearing about Arthur Abraham after the Super Six, or Id even be will to fight Bernard Hopkins at a fair weight.
From the looks of things leading up to and through fight night, Sturms promotional debut was a success. If corporate sponsors covered high-roller hoopla, it looks liketheres a lot of profitable potential, especially if Sturm can hook a name fish like Pavlik or Sergio Martinez.
Still, if Sturm and Arena Boxgot stuck with the kickoff tab, he might need an accountant more than a cut man. There was plentyof first class catering for the beautiful people who turned out in designer droves to party in rare air where ultra wheels and pinups ride the evening.
Knockout of the night camein leather platforms without any gloves, via Janine Habeck, German Playmate of the Year in 2005 and Miss September 06 in the USA.Combos indeed.Habeck helped picka half dozen 7 foot tall round card babes that added to glamorous ringside regalia. When youve got sponsors like Rolls Royce, Calvin Klein, luxuryresorts, and fine dining, it adds newmeaning to club fights.
Sturm says he wants to follow theKlitschkos K2 promotional model, which focuses on entertainment outside boxing as a major part of the fight card.
The Klitschkos arent German but they have becomesome of the most popular and successful athletes in German history because they have a connection with more than just typical boxing fans, observed Sturm. K2 undercards are known for being weak but everybody comes early because they know there will also be world famous music or other acts. I want people to see more than just my fight if they spend so much on a ticket.
We promised a lot and we delivered, said Sturm. Money was no motivation, it is important to be my own boss. It gives us a lot of hope for the future. I want to fight again in December. I had to get back my comfort level. Next time I should box much better.
Sturm got past more than justone legitimate challenge tonight.
A convincing win over Lorenzo was impressive enough.
The promotional scene itself took things up to another level.