By Jake Donovan
The first fight between Arthur Abraham and Robert Stieglitz came with a considerable amount of intrigue beforehand, with the majority of buzz coming after their 12 round war. Abraham managed to take a decision, which in turn launched a title reign in a second weight class.
The win served as part of a remarkable comeback campaign for Abraham, whose career just one year prior was thought to be left for dead following his disastrous turn in the Showtime Super Six World Boxing Classic round robin tournament.
The comeback comes with enough intrigue and buzz to where expanded coverage beyond illegal streams was thought to be necessary for the rematch.
EPIX will take its cameras overseas, going live from ringside at the GETEC Arena in Magdeburg, Germany for its 2013 season premiere.
The show comes roughly around the two-year anniversary of its inaugural broadcast. Vitali Klitschko topped Odlanier Solis in anti-climactic fashion in Cologne, Germany back in March 2011. That fight came with enough buzz to warrant the news that EPIX was entering the boxing fray, even if the result itself – a 1st round injury stoppage for Klitschko – fell way short of expectations.
Networks have learned to pick their poison when it comes to the Klitschko brothers, a lesson EPIX was forced to learn the hard way. A letdown would be a surprise this time around, as both fighters promise similarly violent tendencies as was exuded last August. For that reason, EPIX agreed to roll the cameras and tell a story along with the fight.
“After seeing the first fight, we knew it would be a great rematch and that it wouldn’t be seen anywhere else,” said Travis Pomposello, CCO for EPIX Sports, which airs the bout live on its flagship network at 4PM ET/1PM. The bout will also stream live on its website EpixHD.com, as well as on the EPIX app on X-Box consoles and RoKu players. The Jumbotron will not be included in the presentation of this weekend's event, though a temporary break from the network's tradition as it under repair.
For Abraham (36-3, 28KO) to headline in a fight of this magnitude is a remarkable statement considering where he was this time just one year ago. Once considered no worse than the second best middleweight in the world, the Armenia-born, Germany-based slugger hit a wall beginning in 2010. Abraham entered the Super Six with a bang, scoring a literal last-second knockout of Jermain Taylor to take an early lead in the round-robin tournament.
It would be the only win he’d post, suffering humbling losses to Andre Dirrell, Carl Froch and Andre Ward, barely competitive in any of the three fights.
Some much needed rest and relaxation came following the Ward fight, proving to be just what the doctor ordered. Four wins came in 2012, a run so impressive that many considered it to be the Comeback of the Year for any fighter whose career turnaround was limited to in-ring achievements. Abraham went from unranked to a major player in the still-hot super middleweight division.
Chief among his year-long blitz was last August’s remarkable win over Stieglitz (43-3, 24KO) to lift an alphabet crown. The fight took place in his adopted hometown of Berlin. This time, Abraham returns the favor and defends in his opponent’s hometown of Magdeburg. The capital city of German state Saxony-Anhalt holds a special place in the heart of the arriving titlist.
“I am very excited to be fighting in the city of Magdeburg. My first fight here was when Sven Ottke retired and the atmosphere was amazing,” Abraham vividly recalls. “The crowd was even doing the Mexican wave which you normally only get during soccer games. I have never seen anything like that outside of Magdeburg.”
That very atmosphere is why EPIX decided to bring the fight live from ringside, as opposed to “just” presenting from its studios in New York City.
“When the opportunity presents itself where the live atmosphere adds something to the show, we take advantage,” Pomposello states. “It especially hypes it up a bit.”
There was enough of a backstory to where the network wanted to capture the full tale for its viewing audience. A similar strategy was applied for its presentation of last year’s super middleweight showdown between Carl Froch and Lucian Bute in England.
The same was planned for its scheduled March 16 broadcast, only for several hours of onsite footage to go to waste when the lightweight unification bout between Ricky Burns and Miguel Vazquez fell apart. The event was to serve as EPIX’ 2013 season debut, with such plans now bumped back to this weekend in Germany.
“It was certainly disappointing,” Pomposello admits, having invested a considerable amount of his own time in the product. “Myself, I was able to spend time with Ricky, (unbeaten light heavyweight Nathan) Cleverly and (heavyweight Dereck) Chisora. I got to know them well. March 23 show will be ringside; we were geared up to air both from ringside.
“It’s a bit more challenging with Abraham and Stieglitz due to the language barrier. Were still going to give the fight its proper presentation and buildup and we will continue with our plans for more shows from ringside.”
Whether or not Abraham and Stieglitz are included in those future plans… are entirely up to Abraham and Stieglitz. The two rivals are certainly talking up a good game, to which they have that right considering the fierce nature of their first fight.
“I can only say one thing about the fight,” Abraham stated during a press conference earlier this week. “We won the first fight and consequently took the world championship. Now it´s time for the rematch and we have a clear goal. We have to destroy him and we will do everything we can to reach our goal which showed during our preparations.
“We have a lot of respect for our opponents but once we step into the ring I have to destroy him, no question.”
Stieglitz isn’t too keen on serving as anyone’s sacrificial lamb, least of all in his own hometown.
“Those are some big words. We will see what happens come March 23. I am in great shape and want to take revenge. There is a reason why I was the world champion for more than two years and I want the crown back,” insists Stieglitz, whose reign actually lasted just over three years. “It was a close decision (the first fight). I am excited to be fighting in Magdeburg. The fans will help me to take revenge and I am looking forward to that.”
The brass at EPIX is looking forward to the rematch, as well as its return to the boxing fold.
“Having reviewed the first fight and speaking to both camps, you have one man seeking revenge and the other striving to hold on to his world title,” Pomposello points out. “There hasn’t been a lot of time between the fights. It should be mayhem, it should be a slugfest.”
If Abraham has his way, it will be a repeat of the first fight and the continuation of the type of remarkable comeback seldom seen outside of boxing.
“[T]his fight is going to happen in his hometown of Magdeburg but this won’t work to his advantage as he might think. Years ago, my coach Ulli Wegner guided Sven Ottke to his biggest successes at this very arena. I feel confident that more than half of the crowd will side with me come March 23.
“Moreover, Berlin isn’t that far away either. For one night only, the city of Magdeburg will be my backyard. The people who might boo me at the beginning will be the ones who will cheer me the loudest after the fight.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, Yahoo Boxing Ratings Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox