STUTTGART – It may have been the Fight of the Year, and many people who focused only on Atlantic City missed it.
Felix Sturm and Robert Stieglitz clashed dramatically, if inconclusively, to create a classic contest in this major manufacturing city that boasts both Mercedes Benz and Porsche factories. Stieglitz and Sturm manufactured one of 2014’s major mauling masterpieces, during a wonderful, twelve round whapathon that could have gone either way.
Most boxing fans worldwide were focused on the underwhelming Kovalev – Hopkins unification battle in the US. Many global fans hardly noticed the best fight I’ve seen in Germany in six years.
Judge Egidiu Piseddu saw it 115-113 for Sturm, while Frank Maas favored Stieglitz by the same margin. Holger Wiemann voted even at 114-114. The Sweet Science saw it 116-114 Sturm (two rounds even, more could have been). Every official verdict was correct.
Each man accepted the split-decision draw with typical grace, and agreed that a rematch was merited. Neither looked too disappointed by the decision.
“I think I was ahead, but it was a great fight from every perspective for Germany and I respect Robert very much. We both fought at our best. Of course I think a rematch should happen,” Sturm said.
“Both of us think we won, and both of us have good reasons,” concluded Stieglitz. “Both of us want a rematch so I think it will happen.”
Amidst automobile museums touting high performance machines, the bout was no Formula 1 type race through some fancy suburb. It was a demolition derby on a gritty trail of lumps and leather. Head on crashes of the noggin variety troubled both boxers, but for the most part it was twelve frantic frames of two excellent fighters plying their punishing trade.
And trade they did, with good shots non-stop, from the end of the first round on. Stieglitz was the aggressor and threw far more punches, looking bigger and stronger. Sturm demonstrated superior technique and landed the more precise combinations, including some wicked uppercuts.
Sturm found a relative comfort zone, bending at the knees beneath Stieglitz’s many mortars. Stieglitz growled with every shot he fired, while Sturm looked bemused even as his face bruised.
Stieglitz’s constant pressure and Sturm’s remarkable rallies had the crowd screaming for most of the match. Referee Juergen Langos did a good job letting them fight through the numerous infractions that are bound to occur during such a hurricane.
After numerous cabeza collisions and ten times as many punches, Sturm suffered a cut over his right eye that opened up in the 9th round. By the 10th he was a bloody mess, and it looked like Stieglitz had finally ground him down. Anyone who had recently questioned Sturm’s fighting spirit or current ability looked pretty foolish tonight.
There were still many back and forth fireworks to follow. Before the final rounds you could definitely feel a resounding, communal crowd energy and anticipation. There was nobody in the place that could be certain of the outcome. That was true even after the fight.
Arthur Abraham, on hand to take strategic notes and generate interest in a fight against the winner, offered what seemed to be the prevailing post fight assessment. “It was very close, and very good. For me, Sturm was a little bit better tonight.”
Surprise guest Gennady Golovkin, smiling all the while, may have been scouting future opponents and wouldn’t pick a victor. “I can’t say who won, it was so close. What a great fight. They should both be winners. I want to see the second one, too!”
“This was a really great fight,” echoed announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr as he sipped a nice German Pils afterward. “It was almost like a Scorcese movie, with so many twists. I think a draw was fair.”
Sturm, now 39-4-3, was an overwhelming crowd favorite before and after the fight demonstrating why, despite criticism, he has remained very popular over the years. Stieglitz, 47-4-1, strongly helped put emerging SES promotional company on the international map. Both men saw their stock rise.
Something everybody in the arena could agree on was that Sturm- Stieglitz was an exceptionally exciting fight. After hours of subdued preliminaries and pauses, people streamed into the brisk early morning with excited grins and a sweet science buzz that would last far beyond the dawn. Boxing at it’s near best.
Don’t miss the rematch, even if more aliens are coming back to Earth. Sturm – Stieglitz was already, indeed, out of this world.