By Alexey Sukachev
Lanxess-Arena in Cologne, Germany - Felix Sturm (37-2-2, 16KOs) stopped Sebastian Zbik (30-2, 10KOs) after nine rounds of action to retain his WBA world middleweight chamionship.
After several years of mild criticism and two back-to-back controversial fights with British contenders Matthew Macklin and Martin Murray, Sturm was in desperate need of an eye-popping victory and a statement to restore his wobbling reputation as an elite 160-pounder. Showing his A-game in front of the packed Laxess-Arena, he surely made his point by forcing his world-class opponent to retire in his corner after a one-sided battering.
WBA/WBO #5 Zbik, a former WBC middleweight beltholder, was coming off last summer's controversial loss to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. He looked to be a formidable challenge for the long-time champion Sturm, and he surely proved his worth in the starting rounds. The 30-year old challenger used his fast hands to deal some damage to the champion. Sturm was eating punches even behind his trademark block, which frustrated the majority of his past opponents. Zbik mixed in well-placed body punches with series of left-right combos and had Sturm on the defensive in a big round two.
Round three was also for Zbik but it was also the beginning of the end. It was well felt by everyone beforehand that Zbik's subpar punching power will prevent him from being a danger to the champion. Indeed, Sturm, 33, paid little attention to Zbik's punches, moved forward and used his jab to measure the distance.
In the fourth, he landed a high volume of punches to mark the forehead and the left eye of the challenger. And from that point on - not surprising for everyone in attendance - the fight was all Sturm. He increased his punch output and fueled his domination slowly but relentlessly. Zbik tried to answer but a sneaky left jab and a stinging right uppercut from the champion found him one time after another.
Sturm looked as good as he was in his better years - by being sharp, rock-solid and ultimately determined and focused on the result. He wasn't entertaining - a quality we don't expect from him - but he was consistent and persistent. He also proved to be a psychological killer - once he felt the blood of Zbik, he didn't let the victim get away. Instead he slowly beat his foe into a state of despair and pain.
Rounds five-to-seven were fairly close but clearly in Sturm's favor, and each round was better for him than the latter. Round eight was very one-sided, and one could argue the ninth round could have been scored 10-8 for Sturm. Badly beaten Zbik retired in corner right after the ninth, having nothing to rely on. Referee Raul Caiz waved the fight off, and Zbik, a classy loser, went to Sturm and greeted the champion.
That was Sturm's twelfth defense in his third run as the middleweight champion of the world. He has a good argument to be named the second best 160 - ahead of Pirog, Golovkin and Geale - and only behind Sergio Martinez. Zbik suffers his second setback and he needs some time to re-group. Sturm doesn't need time - he needs a unification fight to solidify his legacy.
German Nadia Raoui (14-1-1, 3 KOs) successfully retained her WIBA female flyweight title for the first time by defeating the 43-year old Hawaiian Mongoose Eileen Olszewski (7-4-2) over ten close tactical rounds. Raoui, 17 years younger than her challenger, was the more active and the more aggressive of the two and was rightfully declared the winner. Scores were 98-93 (twice) and 100-90 - for the German. BoxingScene had it 97-93 - also in her favour.
Highly regarded Russian heavyweight Denis Boytsov (31-0, 25 KOs) continued his development but hardly impressed any followers with his rather unspectacular and workmanlike win over rock-solid American prospect-turned-gatekeeper Dominic Guinn. Boytsov, 26, who is ranked #2 by the WBC, #3 by the WBO, #4 by the WBA and #5 by the IBF, used his sharp jab and activity to dominate Guinn but the "Southerm Disaster" easily avoided any possibility of being stopped for the first time in his career. He also offered some resistance to the Russian making a fight (though a dull one) instead of simply losing the bout. Scores, however, were lopsided: 100-90 (twice) and 99-91 - for Boytsov. Guinn, 36, falls down to 33-9-1, 22 KOs, after his third loss in a row.
German heavyweight force Adam Lautenschlaeger improved to 5-0, with 5 KOs, after stopping a parody of a boxer in Belarussian Andrey Shilovich (1-6) in a horrible mismatch. Shilovich was stopped in each of his losses and started wobbling in this particular fight right after the opening bell. He continued to wobble around the ring for almost a round until a towel went in from his corner to stop this miserable act.
Maurice Weber (14-1-1, 4 KOs) continued his comeback with an easy second-round stoppage of irrelevant Belarussian Andrey Maliavka (1-1-1, 1 KO).
Bosnian heavyweight hope Adnan Redzovic (7-0, 3 KOs) knocked out Alexander Makarenko (2-5, 2 KOs), also from Belarus, in the very first round.
Albanian light middleweight slugger Mike Keta (11-2, 10 KOs) accomplished a clear sweep of Belarussian imports by the local boys by stopping Wladislav Magdanov (0-2) in the second round.