IBF middleweight champion Felix "The Fighter" Sturm (39-3-2, 18 KO) was fortunate to escape his first brush with Sam "King" Soliman (43-11, 18 KO) without a loss. In the rematch, more than just a notch in the win-loss columns will be at stake.
On Saturday from Konig Palast in Sturm's native Germany, Sturm will put his title on the line against the crafty Soliman.
Soliman outboxed Sturm easily in the first bout and initially won a unanimous decision. However, a post-fight drug test showed a banned substance and the fight was ruled a no contest.
Both men are looking to settle the score. Here are the vitals for television coverage.
When: Saturday, May 31 at 3 p.m. ET
Where: König Palast in Germany
TV: Main Event PPV in Australia
The Book on Sturm
Long considered one of the most exciting fighters in the world, Sturm is aging. He turned 35 in January, and clearly he isn't the boxer he once was.
Even with that, he has had enough to stop Darren Barker in Dec. 2013 to win the title, and Predrag Radosevic in the fight before that.
Both Barker and Radosevic were gone inside of four rounds.
A quick finish is highly unlikely against Soliman. He's only been stopped once in his career, and that came in 2007 against Anthony Mundine.
How Sturm performs in this fight will dictate how much he has left in the tank. If he can put on an impressive performance—even if he loses—he'll at the very least set up a potential third fight with Sturm.
If he's out-boxed as soundly as he was in their first meeting, Sturm needs to ponder whether or not he can still compete in this sport on an elite level.
The Book on Soliman
Soliman is a rough, tough, mentally strong competitor who has been in the ring with some of the better fighters in his weight region during his career.
Aside from the scrap with Sturm, Soliman has fought Mundine twice, Winky Wright, Garth Wood and Sakio Bika.
Unfortunately, Soliman has only defeated Wood of that group.
What makes him believe he'll claim a win over his first marquee opponent on Saturday? Soliman believes the memory of the boxing lesson he gave Sturm in their first fight has lingered.
Per Adrian Warren of Boxing Scene, Soliman said this to AAP Copenhagen:
"He's going to have in the back of his mind I've beaten him. He doesn't know if he can beat me."
Another great performance from Soliman will take it from the back to the front of Sturm's mind in a hurry.
Soliman's style would likely give even a younger version of Sturm an issue. The Australian moves a lot, has quick hands, and he uses his lack of height (5'8.5") to his advantage.
Because Sturm stands tall with the high guard, Soliman's shortness and head movement make it difficult for Sturm to see him, or the round punches coming.
Alex McClintock of Queensberry Rules offered this take and prediction on the rematch:
I’m not sure if Sturm has the ability to change things up at this point in his career, and it seemed in the last fight that Soliman cracked the “high hands, jab, jab, right hand” code with activity and smarts. I think it happens all the same way, just more easily for Soliman.
While many signs point to a potential Soliman win, something says there's a reason why he hasn't gotten over the hump against top fighters.
Soliman is 40 years old, so there's no guarantee he'll deliver the same performance he did in the first fight. Moreover, Sturm and his camp don't seem like the type of team that would take this bout without making serious adjustments.
The champion will be prepared for Soliman this time, and he'll win a unanimous decision.
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