Felix Sturm was a German boxer who held multiple world titles in the middleweight division from 2003 to 2016. He was widely regarded as one of the best boxers of his era, but a closer look at his career reveals that he was a very overrated fighter who benefited from favorable matchmaking, controversial decisions and doping allegations.
Sturm’s first world title came in 2003 when he defeated Hector Javier Velazco for the vacant WBO belt. However, he lost it in his first defense against Oscar De La Hoya in a close and disputed split decision. Many observers felt that Sturm deserved the win, but De La Hoya was the bigger star and had a lucrative fight with Bernard Hopkins lined up.
Sturm bounced back by winning the WBA title in 2006 against Maselino Masoe, and defended it nine times until 2012. However, most of his opponents were either past their prime, unproven or undeserving of a title shot. For example, he fought Sebastian Sylvester twice, who had lost to Masoe before; he fought Randy Griffin twice, who had a draw and a loss to Sylvester; he fought Khoren Gevor twice, who had lost to Arthur Abraham and Sebastian Zbik; he fought Giovanni Lorenzo, who had lost to Zbik and Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam; and he fought Matthew Macklin, who had lost to Jamie Moore and Sergio Martinez.
Sturm also had several controversial decisions in his favor during this period. He barely escaped with a draw against Griffin in their first fight; he won a split decision over Macklin that many felt was a robbery; he won a unanimous decision over Martin Murray that was also widely disputed; and he won another split decision over Daniel Geale that was seen as another gift. Sturm’s style of fighting was often defensive and passive, relying on his jab and counterpunching skills, but he lacked power and aggression to convincingly dominate his opponents.
Sturm’s reign as WBA champion ended in 2012 with a loss to Daniel Geale. He then moved up to super middleweight and challenged IBF champion Robert Stieglitz, but lost by a technical knockout in the second round. He returned to middleweight and won the IBF title in 2013 against Darren Barker, who suffered a hip injury during the fight. He defended it once against Sam Soliman, but lost by a unanimous decision. However, the result was changed to a no contest after Soliman tested positive for a banned substance.
Another controversial win for Sturm was against Fedor Chudinov in 2016, when he regained the WBA super-middleweight title by a majority decision. Sturm had lost to Chudinov by a split decision in their first fight in 2015, which was also a close and competitive affair. In the rematch, Sturm appeared to be outworked and outlanded by Chudinov, who threw more punches and connected with more power shots. The Russian fighter also seemed to hurt Sturm several times with his right hand, while Sturm relied mostly on his jab and occasional combinations. However, the judges scored the fight 114-114, 115-113 and 115-113 for Sturm, who became a five-time world champion. Many fans and media outlets criticized the decision and accused Sturm of benefiting from home advantage and corruption.
Here are some of his most disputed fights:
– Oscar De La Hoya vs. Felix Sturm (2004): Sturm faced De La Hoya for the WBO middleweight title in a fight that many observers felt he won convincingly. Sturm outlanded De La Hoya by a wide margin, especially with his jab and counterpunching. However, the judges scored the fight unanimously for De La Hoya by 115-113 on all three cards. Many believed that De La Hoya was given a favorable decision to preserve his lucrative match with Bernard Hopkins later that year .
– Felix Sturm vs. Matthew Macklin (2011): Sturm defended his WBA middleweight title against Macklin in a close and competitive fight. Macklin started strongly and pressured Sturm throughout the fight, while Sturm relied on his accuracy and defense. The fight went to the scorecards, where Sturm retained his title by a split decision with scores of 116-112 for Macklin, 115-113 for Sturm, and 116-112 for Sturm. Many fans and media members felt that Macklin deserved the win or at least a draw .
– Felix Sturm vs. Martin Murray (2011): Sturm made another controversial defense of his WBA middleweight title against Murray in the same year. Murray gave Sturm a tough challenge and seemed to have the edge in most of the rounds. He also hurt Sturm several times with his right hand and body shots. The fight was scored a draw, with two judges scoring it 114-114 and one judge scoring it 116-112 for Murray. Many observers felt that Murray was robbed of a clear victory .
– Felix Sturm vs. Daniel Geale (2012): Sturm lost his WBA middleweight title to Geale by a split decision in a unification bout with Geale’s IBF title. The fight was very close and could have gone either way, but many felt that Sturm did enough to retain his belt. Geale was more active and threw more punches, while Sturm was more accurate and landed the cleaner shots. The judges scored the fight 116-112 for Geale, 116-112 for Sturm, and 118-110 for Geale .
Sturm’s most recent win was also controversial, as he defeated Sükrü Altay by a unanimous decision in his comeback fight this year. Sturm had been out of the ring for almost five years, after testing positive for a banned substance following his fight with Chudinov. He faced Altay, a Turkish journeyman with a modest record of 21-15, in Stuttgart. The fight was expected to be an easy tune-up for Sturm, but he struggled to impress against his opponent, who showed more aggression and activity. Sturm looked rusty and tired, and was rocked by Altay’s punches in the seventh round. He recovered and finished strongly in the last three rounds, but many observers felt that he did not do enough to win the fight. The judges scored the fight 97-93, 98-92 and 99-91 for Sturm, who admitted that he was not satisfied with his performance and that he needed to improve.
Sturm’s career was marked by inconsistency, controversy and cheating. He never faced the best fighters of his division, such as Hopkins, Martinez, Gennady Golovkin or Canelo Alvarez. He never fought outside of Germany or Europe, where he enjoyed home advantage and favorable judging. He never proved himself as a dominant or exciting champion, but rather as a cautious and lucky one. He tarnished his legacy by doping and evading justice. Felix Sturm was a very overrated boxer who did not deserve the accolades and respect that he received.