By Alexey Sukachev
König Palast, Krefeld, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany - 40-year-old veteran Sam Soliman (44-11, 18KOs) did it once again, defeating Felix Sturm (39-4-2, 18KOs) with a dominating unanimous decision to capture the IBF middleweight championship. The scores were 118-110, 118-110, 119-109
Last February, Sturm lost a twelve round unanimous decision to Soliman. Afterwards the result was changed to a "no-contest" after Soliman tested positive for a banned substance.
Seventeen years of prizefighting, fifty-five professional contests and two missed title opportunities combined - and Soliman produced one of the biggest shockers in 2014 to capture his first world crown.
It has never been easy to fight an ever-dedicated swarmer like Soliman. The only fighter from long ago, who got the better of him without any "if's" and "but's", was his fellow countryman Anthony Mundine, who is also the only fighter to defeat him thrice (SD 12 in 2001, KO 9 and UD 12) and to stop him inside the road.
Sturm, who looked blistering in a two-round drubbing of Darren Barker for the IBF belt just six months ago, had a big trouble finding elusive Soliman. The Australian was in his face and nowhere to hit at the same time. Being at his awkward best, he ducked low to avoid Sturm's jab, which was surprisingly ineffective, and then to clinch on the inside but not without a couple of landed punches. Soliman's own offensive was based on increased activity rather than power or precision. He just couldn't stop throwing punches, and some of the landed on the German champion.
Sturm did his best to make Soliman adapt to his classic style - fruitlessly. Soliman, on the other hand, had little problems finding Sturm, although he did get his in return. Rounds were mostly close, but the feeling was Sturm was tricked into Soliman's trademark game of tactical fouls, clinches and muddle. More decisive was round six, when Soliman caught Sturm on his way in, rocked him with the left and stalked him for the rest of the round, almost managing to knock him down. The Australian also increased (not decreased!) his punch output later on, taking the championship rounds.
There were no confusion or disagreement among the judges. John Poturaj and Don Trella both had it 118-110 and Miroslaw Brozio (and BoxingScene as well) scored the contest 117-111 - for the new IBF middleweight champion of the world.
Sturm ended his fourth stint as a middleweight champion. He also reigned in 2003-2004 (WBO, 1 title defenses), 2006 (WBA, 0), 2007-2012 (WBA, 12) and 2013-2013 (IBF, 0). At 35 and after numerous hard fights, Sturm (born Adnan Catic) is on his way down, facing inevitable Father Time, his win over Barker being possibly his last big performance.
Soliman was 12-7 after the start of his career, then issued a 19-fight winning streak in 2002-2005 (including wins over Ray Joval, Sakio Bika, Nader Hamdan and Fernando Zuniga), and then went just 4-4 after that. He made his comeback to the ring in August 2009 and is 9-0 since then. His win over Sturm was a cherry on top of a huge pie.
WBA female flyweight champion Susi Kentikian (34-2, 17KOs) dominated challenger Dan-Bi Kim (9-3-1, 2KOs) over nine rounds, getting her first stoppage victory in six years. Kentikian controlled the action in every single rounds and then unleashed a big flurry of shots in the ninth round, pounding away until Kim's own corner had seen enough and threw in the towel to stop the contest.