By Jake Donovan
Seven months after losing his super middleweight title on the road, Robert Stieglitz enjoyed the mother of all homecomings.
A packed crowd of over 8,000 at the GETEC Arena in Magdeburg, Germany saw their hometown favorite avenge last year’s narrow loss to Arthur Abraham with an emphatic stoppage win. Stieglitz was relentless from the opening bell, unloading on his prior conqueror before forcing the two-division titlist to quit on his stool at the start of the fourth round.
The book has been out on Abraham’s reputation as a notoriously slow starter. Stieglitz took advantage in the first fight and did so again on Saturday, attacking his familiar foe immediately from the opening bell. Abraham made a mid-round adjustment, finally letting his hands go, but the sequence was just a burst as Stieglitz resumed control in the final minute to outwork the defending titlist.
It was the closest that Abraham came to being competitive at any point in the fight.
Stieglitz continued to fight like a man hell-bent on revenge. The 31-year old had previously served as a super middleweight titlist for more than three years before conceding the crown in a tightly contested affair last August. There was nothing that was going to allow the title to leave his hometown on this night.
“It was very important,” Stieglitz said of reversing last year’s loss. “I wanted this win and my title back. This was a very important win.”
The win became doubly satisfying after accomplishing what no other fighter was able to do – stop the granite-chinned Armenian. The beginning of the end came late in round two, when constant pressure from Stieglitz led to Abraham’s left eye rapidly swelling shut.
The onslaught continued in round three, as Stieglitz treated the wound like a poster-sized bullseye.
“It was much easier as the challenger to win the fight and regain my title. The crowd was behind me and the more I hit his eye, I knew it would close.”
Repeated head shots from Stieglitz provided such facial damage. Abraham was in trouble at several points in a one-sided round, wisely clinching at times while resorting to dirty tactics on other occasions. Referee Michael Ortega ordered a point deduction from Abraham’s tally for rabbit punching, though the scorecards soon became a moot point.
Battered and wounded, Abraham sat on his stool with vision drastically impaired. His left eye swollen all the way shut, a stoppage was inevitable.
The 33-year old was spared further damage when the fight was stopped in between rounds, with the official time 0:02 of round four.
“We worked a long time on my punching power,” noted Stieglitz, whose record improves to 44-3 (25KO) in his second tour as a 168 lb. titlist. “I landed my punches tonight and my power showed.”
Abraham was thought to boast the considerable power advantage, but was never given a chance by the challenger to get untracked. The two-division champ saw Stieglitz land more than two times as many power shots in the three round affair, leading to the first stoppage loss of his career as he ffalls to 36-4 (28KO).
The feat is doubly impressive for Stieglitz. In addition to the revenge factor, also to take into consideration is the fact that elite super middleweights such as lineal champ Andre Ward and three-time titlist Carl Froch were unable to stop Abraham.
That Stieglitz was able to turn the feat brings a new level of respectability that wasn’t previously associated with his career. The German was once best known for a humiliating one-sided stoppage loss to Librado Andrade on HBO back in 2008. Even in claiming title status more than a year later, Stieglitz was viewed as the weak link in a super middleweight division that at the time gained notoriety for the inception of the Super Six World Boxing Classic.
Abraham was one of the Super Six, though the round robin tournament nearly ruined his career. All of his three previous losses came in the series, suffering a disqualification loss to Andre Dirrell and one-sided drubbings at the hands off Froch and Ward.
An incredible comeback campaign surfaced for Abraham in 2012, resurrecting his career with four wins on the year. Chief among them was his title win over Stieglitz in his adopted hometown of Berlin, though the run was short lived.
Stieglitz is now back in a position of power, delivering a career-best performance on Saturday evening at a time when the division is still among boxing’s most lucrative.
Ward has fought just once since winning the Super Six tournament, dominating and stopping Chad Dawson last September but with injuries preceding and following the bout to halt his career progress in the heart of his prime.
Froch is currently in training for his May 25 rematch with Mikkel Kessler, with two titles at stake in their HBO-televised bout in London.
There’s even the possibility of a rubber match with Abraham, though the one-sided nature of this bout makes that less appetizing for a next step.
Stieglitz is fine with whatever next comes his way, no matter the opponent.
“That is a question for my manager, but I will fight anyone,” insists the two-time titlist. “It doesn’t matter what name you offer me. I don’t care which belt it is, I want to capture them all.”
For the moment, he’s captured the attention of the boxing industry, finally standing out in a division whose overflowing talent had previously overshadowed his accomplishments and accentuated his shortcomings. Winning the biggest fight of your career tends to have that effect.
“I’m very proud to once again be world champion and to win in my hometown.”
In the televise co-feature, unbeaten heavyweight contender Robert Helenius settled for a third straight decision win in outpointing journeyman Michael Sprott. Scores were 97-93 (twice) and 98-93 in their 10-round affair.
Helenius (19-0, 11KO) cited a hand injury suffered after two rounds as the cause for yet another unimpressive performance. The Finnish heavyweight struggled in the middle rounds but picked up the pace in the second half of the fight to cruise to a decision.
Both fights aired live on ARD in Germany and on EPIX in the United States.
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