KREFELD, GERMANY – Sam Soliman gained a measure of revenge for an initial victory over Felix Sturm In February 2013 that was overturned due to a failed drug test. Soliman employed an awkward, hard to solve style and stance to win a unanimous decision and recapture Sturm’s IBF middleweight title.
Soliman, 159 ½, was effective with a darting, ducking attack. He stayed inside most of Sturm’s punches, while landing from angles that seemed to confuse Sturm, 159. Soliman surged to a big, early lead by staying much busier and connecting much more.
Sturm managed to mount a rally around the 7th session. It almost appeared he might salvage victory with a stirring stretch run, but Soliman remained more active and more accurate.
Many media outlets billed the fight as a grudge match, but there was little animosity demonstrated during most of the promotion, and definitely no hard feelings on display at any point tonight.
Sturm said he had gotten past worrying about issues from the first fight like the drug test, and he seemed to be handling the defeat without trauma. That might change once he looks in the mirror tomorrow.
“I’m not going to make any excuses,” said Sturm, 39-4-2 (18) from behind multiple welts and bruises. “I felt good in training camp and I had great sparring partners. Fritz is a great trainer and a friend. I just couldn’t do enough. I thought it was a good fight tonight, and I congratulate Sam. I’m not sure what comes next, but I’m not thinking about retirement.”
After Soliman silenced the heavily partisan audience of around 3,700 for much of the bout, tension grew as Sturm closed the gap behind straight right hands. He seemed to have Soliman on unsteady legs a couple times during the 8th and 9th, but couldn’t put enough together to close the show.
The possibly crucial, final frame told a lot of the story. Soliman punched and punched, whether he landed or not. Sturm waited and waited.
Official scoring seemed considerably off, leaning way too wide for Soliman, now 44-11 (18).
Almost every ringsider polled thought the fight was very close, though everyone we spoke to favored Soliman.
Don Trella and John Poturaj scored it way too wide at 118-110, Miroslaw Brozio saw it 117-111. We saw it 115-113 Soliman. Referee Eddie Cotton did a fine job in a sometimes sloppy waltz that was introduced as Cotton’s final appearance.
“I’m just happy I could come back here and fight my best, I knew I was clean the first time but I had to prove it,” said Soliman, who looked unmarked except for a bruised right eye. “I would have still been working on the docks sixteen hours a day if my team didn’t support me so I could focus on this job. There’s a lot of people to thank for that.
“Felix didn’t have to fight me again so soon, but he’s that kind of champion. He made it a tough fight and he’ll still be a force, but now it’s time for me to move on to other things.
“I’m going after Gennady Golovkin. I’m going to follow him and show up to challenge him wherever I can, until he has to fight me. Nobody else will fight him, we’ll see if he’ll fight me. Unification is everything for me now. Maybe somebody will offer me a lot of money to fight somebody else but I doubt it. I want Golovkin.”
Soliman looks to be a man of his word, so that fight could happen this winter in New York.
Another case of needing to be careful of what one wishes for? Watching Soliman tonight, you’d have to say he’d be a considerable underdog versus Golovkin, but you also have to say it will be impossible to make Soliman believe that.