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Sturm-Chudinov 2 – OBERHAUSEN – Those who agreed with Felix Sturm’s majority decision over Fedor Chudinov, around ringside at least, were in the minority. Most people did agree that it was an exciting, hard fought contest.

The controversial rematch for Chudinov’s WBA Super-middleweight title was worthy of championship designation, though not a true slugfest.

“We can talk about this or we can talk about that, a decision is still a decision,” reflected a bruised Sturm. “I know he’s disappointed but what can I say, let us go to the after party, drink something together, then we can talk about the fight. I respect Fedor, he’s a strong, tough guy. He’s young and he will be champion again. I’m 37 years old, one or two fights more, maybe, maybe not. It was very hard to prepare for this fight, so I have to let everything sink in before I decide about the future. If I retire, this was a nice way to say goodbye.”

Anybody who works as hard and is as classy as Sturm doesn’t deserve any criticism, still it’s hard to say that he clearly deserved the decision. Chudinov appeared in control during most of the middle sessions. As early as the fourth frame there were times it looked like Sturm was in trouble, hanging in there by superb conditioning and courage alone.

My scoring read 117-113 Chudinov (2 rounds even). Many rounds were very close, and fondness for Sturm could have created a “reverse bias” since I scored for Chudinov in a couple of coin-flips, just to make sure I wasn’t favoring Sturm.

Remember, there’s a big difference between stealing a fight and a robbery. Sturm’s strong opening and inspired finish may have bookended the victory in what became a classic clash of experience against youth. However you scored it, the aging warrior Sturm was very impressive while boxing on even terms against an emerging talent with the similar traits of a young Gennady Golovkin.

Something about Sturm’s style makes for very close fights. Fair or not, he is now the current poster boy for controversial decisions in Germany, not to mention the debatable Vegas loss to Oscar de la Hoya that introduced Sturm to a global audience. I had Sturm ahead in his split-decision loss against Daniel Geale in the same building, but that was also very close. Both Sturm’s longevity at the top and his margins of victory or defeat are somewhat unique.

There was much less of a noticeable Russian presence than in Frankfurt last May. Tonight was a rare situation where a losing fighter got top billing over the defending champion in a rematch, but Sturm was the promoter and his name does sell the tickets and the TV rights. Perhaps for conking karma though, if there’s an episode 3 it should be called Chudinov – Sturm.

Sturm came out busy and scored early with the jab while Chudinov threw compact shots from each side with cross-hooks that looked like a hug but landed with a thud. Sturm stayed aggressive, making sure he countered every Chudinov lead. Sturm wasn’t so successful with that during some bruising trades but he was consistent, and that might have earned him the nod.

I’ve sat by plenty of TV monitors, but during tonight’s undercard I noted that from my sightline perspective something about the blue lighted background and large screen uniquely highlighted differences between seeing a fight live or by image. I can’t say what it looked like via webcast or on the reportedly 2.8 million TV sets that  tuned in, but nine adjacent feet from Chudinov’s corner, the tangible energy that emits from a boxing ring indicated he was in control.

Sturm complained about head butts, then repeatedly turned and stepped away without much reaction from ref Luis Pabon, who otherwise handled the action well. When Sturm was cut over the right eye from an accidental butt in round ten, it looked like he needed something dramatic to win.

Sturm definitely made things dramatic for the screaming audience of around 9,080 with some stinging combinations. Whether he rallied enough during some wild final exchanges remained a question.

I asked Chudinov in private what he thought when he heard the 114-114 score and why he didn’t go after Sturm during those “protect yourself at all times” when Sturm turned away, with his defense down.

“I didn’t want to kill him, and that’s what I would probably have to do to win,” grinned Chudinov like a proud schoolboy, seeming much less upset about the verdict than his colleagues. “I like Felix, he is a great fighter who was stronger than before. When I heard the draw announced I knew they gave it to him. Even during the fight I thought I would have to knock him down, but I couldn’t do it because he kept punching so much. But I did not deserve to lose this fight and I would meet him again, even in Germany.”

Team Chudinov was fuming and pressed for a May rematch. Chudinov’s ensemble included some fashionable Russian beauties, scowling and prowling the backstage post fight in the arena’s grey brick corridors as if they were ready to morph into some X-men type character and melt the place down. One woman chided Sturm from about five feet away with scolding questions while he bit his tongue with a stage smile, licked his fat lip, and answered politely.

Beaming like a subtle winner, Chudinov had a grape sized welt over his left eye and some lesser swelling over his right, but at times under the bright camera lights he appeared almost unmarked. Sturm looked like he had been in a car accident, but discounted any comparisons to who looked more like the winner.

“My face looks like this because of all the head butts,” claimed Sturm.

“There were butts,” said Chudinov. “Some because of me, some because of him.”

“We have fought Sturm two times, both in Germany. You saw what happened,” said a gentleman introduced simply as Chudinov’s manager. “If Sturm is all they say he is, he will come to Russia.”

“No problem, no problem,” Sturm replied immediately, sounding sincere. Almost everyone on Chudinov’s side of the dais jumped over to Sturm to shake his bandaged hand, and then for a confirming picture of the handshake. Chudinov was still grinning as he placed his mitt on top of the finger scrum, like the captain of a warmup exercise shout.

“No problem,” repeated Sturm, looking less subdued. “I love Moscow. As long as they can pay me, we come.”

Almost everyone in the cramped makeshift conference room laughed, even Chudinov’s entourage, angry Russian girls and all.

Check out The Boxing Channel‘s video with results and highlights.

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