Robert Stieglitz vs. Isaac Ekpo: Preview and Prediction for Title Fight
On Saturday night in Leipzig, Germany, WBO super middleweight champion Robert Stieglitz will defend his belt against Isaac Ekpo of Nigeria.
This will be the second defense for Stieglitz in four months and his second straight fight against an opponent obscure enough to leave even serious American boxing fans scratching their heads and asking: "Who?"
Stieglitz is, arguably, the top super middleweight out there who hasn't lost to Andre Ward. But it's a little tough to take his world-title claim seriously, and it gets tougher with each one of these embarrassing defenses against nonentities plucked from boxing backwaters.
Tale of the Tape
|Per Boxrec||Robert Stieglitz||Isaac Ekpo|
|Record||45-3, 26 KOs||22-1, 16 KOs|
|Weight||168 pounds||168 pounds|
|Hometown||Magdeburg, Germany||Abuja, Nigeria|
Stieglitz and Ekpo are both relatively compact and powerful super middleweights. Steiglitz's fights tend to be physical, and this should be no exception.
Stieglitz is only two years older than Ekpo, but vastly more experienced in the professional ring.
A native of Yeysk, Russia, Stieglitz has found a supportive hometown crowd in the German state of Sachsen.
Last July, Stieglitz defended his belt against Yuzo Kiyota of Japan. Kiyota is almost certainly the least qualified world-title challenger I have ever seen.
Ekpo isn't going to wrest that distinction away from Kiyota, but he could certainly be named behind him on any short list. None of Ekpo's 23 professional fights have taken place outside of Africa, and only three have been scheduled for more than eight rounds. Only a handful of his opponents have had over a dozen pro fights.
Stieglitz has a legitimate world-class resume. In the past 14 months, he's swapped the WBO title with Arthur Abraham, and his Round 4 TKO of Abraham in March was an impressive performance.
Since then, the WBO has been willing to sanction "title fights" for Stieglitz in his own backyard against opponents who have no business fighting for world titles. Stieglitz appears to be a pretty good draw in his adopted home, regardless of who he is fighting.
People are, no doubt, making money from these fights, but they are making a mockery of the WBO belt in the process.
Robert Stieglitz is a strong, pressure fighter with very good offense. When he started aggressively against Arthur Abraham in their rematch last March, he was able to push the tough veteran back onto his heels and close his left eye after three hard-fought rounds.
Stieglitz is a bull of a fighter, with very good conditioning. In his unanimous decision loss to Abraham in November of last year, he appeared to be the fresher fighter in the later rounds.
Isaac Ekpo looks like a very sturdy super middleweight. He was a soccer goalie before turning to boxing and appears to have very good athleticism.
Ekpo represented Nigeria in the 2004 Olympics. He lost in the first round, but to even qualify for the games requires some degree of success at the international level as an amateur. That usually indicates at least decent fundamental boxing skills.
Robert Stieglitz is a very hittable fighter. He comes forward in predictable lines and uses minimal head movement.
He has a tendency to drop his hands slightly, just before pumping his jab. This provides his opponents a tell, and it makes it easier for them to counter over the top with straight rights.
When Stieglitz attacks, he has a tendency to square up and make himself a bigger target.
Isaac Ekpo is looking to make one heck of a jump up in competition for this fight. He's physically gifted and has some skill, but his lack of experience is, by far, his biggest weakness here.
It's almost pointless to talk about Ekpo's strengths and weaknesses, given the vast gulf between who he's fought and who he is facing. The strengths he's shown against regional prospects and journeymen in Africa could very well be invisible against a world-class fighter like Stieglitz.
Robert Stieglitz Will Win This Fight If...
Robert Stieglitz should fight his standard fight in this one and expect the best. He should impose a physical, bullying fight on Ekpo and take away the challenger's room to deliver a big punch.
Ekpo is a very inexperienced fighter, fighting far away from his own turf for the first time in his career. Stieglitz should try to make him as uncomfortable as possible as quickly as possible and never let up on him.
He needs to show Ekpo how extreme the difference in quality is between a world champion and the regional journeymen Ekpo has faced so far. If Stieglitz simply applies his usual smart, bruising pressure, he should be able to stop the inexperienced Ekpo before the fight reaches the later rounds.
Isaac Ekpo Will Win If...
Isaac Ekpo has a decent knockout percentage and a track record for catching opponents early. Against Stieglitz, he should come out looking to land big from the first round on. Stieglitz comes forward in a relatively predictable manner and should be there to hit.
But Ekpo has to stay tough in the pocket against Stieglitz's pressure in order to find the openings to throw. After the level of competition Ekpo has faced, Stieglitz is going to be a very uncomfortable opponent.
The best way for Ekpo to deal with that is to boost his own confidence by hurting Stieglitz early.
Decision victories are notoriously hard to earn against hometown fighters in Germany. Ekpo probably isn't good enough to win one against Stieglitz anyway.
His best chance is to roll the dice and go for the early stoppage.
If Robert Stieglitz loses this fight, it will be the upset of the year, eclipsing Adonis Stevenson's Round 1 KO of Chad Dawson. That was was a pretty big shocker to me, but Stevenson was a legitimate, established contender at light heavyweight, with some quality wins behind him.
Isaac Ekpo is an obscure fighter who has faced nobody familiar to even hardcore western fans. He's faced very few fighters with even a dozen or more fights total.
In boxing, we see fighters stumble all the time when they step up in competition too soon. The step Ekpo is taking here is rarely even attempted.
Stieglitz is one of the less impressive current world champions, in my opinion. But he's a legit, world-class fighter. He should be able to beat up Ekpo badly and stop him well before the scheduled end of the fight.
I'm picking Stieglitz by Round 6 TKO. Maybe early next year, he'll finally be ready to fight a real challenger again.