This past July 6th, a fairytale of sorts took place in Sebastian Formella's home town of Hamburg, Germany. The undefeated thirty-two year-old ripped the IBO welterweight world championship away from South Africa's Thulani Mbenge.
It was a twelve-round fight-of-the-year contender that left fans in the arena and watching on TV firmly on the edge of their seats.
A couple of months after his career-defining victory, Formella took some time to reflect on that night and talk about his future plans, translated by Steffen Soltau.
IA: First of all, congratulations on becoming the IBO welterweight world champion. Looking back on your championship contest with Thulani Mbenge, it was a very entertaining and hard fight. Please describe your thoughts when Jimmy Lennon Jr. announced you as the winner.
SF: This is really hard to describe in words. I knew it was a close fight, but I had the last three rounds for myself and I knew that should be enough to be in front. But you never know. I only heard "and the new" and from then on it was over. Everyone stormed into the ring. The 2,500 spectators in the hall are completely crazy. It was just so loud!
IA: In my opinion, Mbenge did well in the first half of the fight and you won the second half of the fight. How well did you think you were performing after six rounds?
SF: Yes, you’re right. There were many who told me after the fight that they did not think I would survive the sixth round (laughing). We had the game plan to be very agile in the early rounds, not to give him an easy target for his hard hands - of course that was very intense physically. After the sixth round, my corner, but above all my coach, Mark Haupt got me back into the fight. We changed over and went forward immediately and put pressure on Thulani. This plan worked perfectly. I think he did not expect me to come back that way and then noticeably broke down in the back half of the fight. That was the moment that decided the fight.
IA: In the ninth round, he was deducted a point for repeated low shots. Do you think that was a correct decision by the referee?
SF: I am a sportsman and would like to do my sport without such deductions. I also believe that the point deduction did not decide the fight, but there were already a lot of low hands, as he often bent his body very far down.
IA: It seemed like a very hard and tiring fight. Was it the hardest of your career so far?
SF: I believe that in addition to Thulani, I defeated myself several times in this fight and that will make me stronger. Stylistically, it may not have been the best fight in my career, but I've worked it out. Psychically and mentally it was the toughest fight so far.
IA: Mbenge’s promoter was outraged by the scorecards. Do you think the scorecards accurately reflected what happened in the fight?
SF: Of course. I took a look at the fight again with some distance. Personally, I was two to three rounds in front. Thulani is a great champion and I'm grateful he offered me that opportunity. In the end it was an incredible fight, a great spectacle for the spectators and a scant but deserved victory for me.
IA: He called for an immediate rematch. Was there a rematch clause in the original contract?
SF: I do not know this. I fully trust my promoter Erol Ceylan.
IA: Do you feel that Mbenge deserves a rematch immediately?
SF: He is a strong boxer, a great sportsman and a true entertainer. My goal was to become world champion. I did that. How will it continue for me? My promoter will decide.
IA: Would you travel to South Africa or would you prefer it to be in Germany again?
SF: Of course I have a big fan base in Germany, but I like travelling privately. If everything fits, I would box anywhere in the world.
IA: Out of the other title holders at 147lbs, who would you most like to unify your world title against?
SF: You become humble when you read these names. I believe the biggest, and that's where the fan speaks out of me, a fight against Manny Pacquiao. He has been in the boxing business for decades, has fought so many battles and is simply a legend. To make a unification fight against this man would be the greatest.
IA: So, you’ve reached the top of the sport as a world champion. How many years do you hope to continue boxing? Do you have a plan for the rest of your career?
SF: As long as my body is healthy and nobody on my team tells me that I should stop, I will box. I feel very good and I'm especially looking forward to the first title defence. The IBO title is something very special for me that I am very proud of. I will hopefully defend this title many times with pride and courage.