A ROYAL RETURN - Robert Stieglitz and Arthur Abraham collided for their tiebreaker at a super-middleweight crossroads Saturday night in defending champion Stieglitz's hometown, Magdeburg, Germany.
When it was over after 12 rounds of mauling mayhem, both men were validated. It was "King" Abraham who captured a grueling split decision.
It was a punishing, often ugly bout, and quite entertaining. It may well have been the best fight of a very fine fight weekend.
Scoring went 115-110 and 114-111 for Abraham, both realistic tallies, and 113-112 for Stieglitz, which seemed like a stretch. Hard to imagine giving Stieglitz the nod. He fought hard, but came up short in round after hard fought round.
Abraham took plenty of shots, but he never really wobbled. Stieglitz was out on his feet after being dropped with 30 seconds left in the final frame, and was probably saved by the bell.
Each man lost a point for infractions that seemed less deliberate than a result of a wild battle.
The trilogy featured two of Germany's most popular punching performers, who seemed to end up in a winner take all type situation as far as future marketability. In their initial encounter, Abraham put his career back on the top track with a close unanimous decision win. In the rematch, Stieglitz made Abraham look like a fighter at the end of his better days.
Each man had his moments tonight. Nobody would object to a fourth fight.
Abraham looked like he was in fine physical condition as he and Stieglitz both weighed in at the 168 limit. Abraham seemed a bit uptight and didn't look like he was tuned in properly. That might have had something to do with fighting for another lead promoter, as Stieglitz's promoters SES had the reins, or maybe it was a dispute about an extra 1/4 pound at the weigh-in.
Stieglitz looked very focused and relaxed immediately prior to the bout, but once the bell rang it was the more widely experienced Abraham who carried out his game plan. He covered up well, picked off many punches, and timed Stieglitz coming in with stunning accuracy. Abraham did an excellent job with wide left uppercuts and crosses.
For Abraham, now 39-4 (28), the clock was almost turned back to before the Super Six. He will probably defend his new belt throughout Germany a couple times this year.
Each man's options are probably limited in terms of matching a payday like tonight's, unless they head to the States for an underdog assignment against a favored fighter from the Americas. Both fighters' best bet would seem to remain in Germany, unless somebody like Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr or Gennady Golovkin came calling with an irresistible payday.
Abraham - Golovkin at 168 could be quite a blast, even if that's only for a few rounds. Abraham - Felix Sturm could be a German stadium fight.
Stieglitz, 46-4 (26), didn't seem to lose much ground in motivation or marketability. It will be interesting to see how far the region on his drawing board extends. It might be worth it in the long run to gather some frequent flyer miles.
Abraham remains a straightforward, hard working guy with a decent foundation. How far this chapter of his championship run might go remains to be seen, but tonight it was enough for a big win.
Would you pay to see Manny Pacquiao vs Saul Alvarez?