Three months after suffering his first loss in three years, Arthur Abraham got back on track with a decisive TKO victory over Tim-Robin Lihaug in the eighth round on Saturday to win the vacant WBO international super middleweight title.
Abraham (45-5) was stunned by Gilberto Ramirez in April, which led to some speculation about his interest in competing at a high level anymore. Jeff Aranow of Boxing News 24 said that Abraham "may no longer have enough motivation to fight hard at his age" after not going after Ramirez "to force him to brawl."
Saturday's bout proved that Abraham still has something left in the tank, though the future will determine exactly how much.
While Abraham would not use this as an excuse for his loss against Ramirez, it was his first fight away from Germany in five years when he lost to Andre Ward in 2011.
Abraham entered Saturday 12-1 in his last 13 fights in Germany but 0-2 in fights outside of that comfort zone since 2011.
The start of this fight looked similar to his defeat against Ramirez. He came out of the gate passively, seemingly waiting for Lihaug (15-2) to bring the fight before making any kind of move. It was a dangerous strategy, though it did not hurt him in the long run.
Things picked up for Abraham in the second round, as he landed the first major blow of the fight to take the advantage on the scorecards. After delivering more of the same in the third round, the 36-year-old rocked Lihaug with a strong left-right combination.
Things would only get worse from that point on for Lihaug, though he managed to stick it out. Abraham was landing good shots to the head in the sixth round, but the Norway native kept battling his way through.
In the eighth round, after Lihaug was unable to fight back and even fell down from the onslaught, his corner threw in the towel 69 seconds in to secure the TKO for Abraham.
Abraham expressed his excitement at getting back on track using his official Twitter account:
Coming into the fight, Lihaug told ESPN.com's Dan Rafael he thought the age difference between him and Abraham would help him out:
Abraham is 36 years old and has already won a lot of titles and made a lot of money, whereas I'm a young, hungry fighter, and I think that will give me an advantage. This is like a world title fight to me. It means everything. I've been in training camp since the beginning of January and I will be in the best shape of my life on July 16. I want to prove myself and there is no better way of doing that than by beating Abraham.
Unfortunately for the 23-year-old, his youth didn't make up for the fact that he was taking a significant step up in competition after beating journeymen such as Jozsef Racz and Baptiste Castegnaro to pad his win-loss record.
Abraham's win won't exactly lead to bigger things for him, because Lihaug was served up to him on a silver platter. He deserves credit for taking care of business in the fight, but a proper opponent for his next bout will tell us more about where his skills are at right now.