Saturday, May 31, 2014
Soliman leaves no doubt in Sturm rematch
By Brian Campbell
Sam Soliman waited nearly 16 months for a second chance against Felix Sturm.
In the end, Soliman not only proved he still has Sturm's number, he showed that after 18 years as a professional, throughout a career that has featured 11 losses in 56 fights, his first world title tastes mighty sweet at age 40.
Soliman (44-11, 18 KOs), who saw his close unanimous-decision win over Sturm in February 2013 ruled a no contest when he tested positive for a banned stimulant and was suspended nine months, left no doubt in Saturday's rematch at the Koenig Palast Arena in Krefield, Germany.
Fighting in Sturm's backyard for the second straight time, Soliman captured Sturm's middleweight title -- which he won in December by knocking out Darren Barker -- with a unanimous decision (118-110, 117-111, 118-110). ESPN.com also scored the bout 118-110 for Soliman.
Soliman ended Sturm's fourth 160-pound title reign by simply outworking the fighter five years his junior from the opening bell.
The Australian was all of the things that have made him a difficult opponent -- awkward, unconventional and persistent. And even though his raw attack didn't always produce clean punching, his activity level was enough to consistently stifle Sturm (39-4-2, 18 KOs), who was unable to time him with counter right hands.
Sturm ultimately waited too long to step on the gas and take the fight to Soliman, despite the two fighters providing fans with a series of exciting two-way action in spots over the second half of the fight.
"It was a great war," Soliman said. "He gave me a great fight."
Soliman kept Sturm off balance with a frenetic style built upon hard body shots and short hooks from a variety of angles. He also limited Sturm's counterattack by consistently tying him up at close range (not to mention being routinely warned by referee Eddie Cotton for a variety of transgressions).
Sturm began a late surge in Round 9 by picking up the pace and landing right hands and short uppercuts as Soliman appeared to be fading. But Soliman consistently held his ground and traded effectively with Sturm to work his way out of trouble.
Despite being hurt by a body shot in Round 11, Soliman continued to answer Sturm's single right hands with flurries of two- and three-punch combinations to leave no doubt in the championship rounds.
Soliman, a former "Contender" fighter, becomes an unlikely belt holder at age 40 in his third time contesting for a world title. Despite losing seven of his first 19 pro fights, Soliman has remained a tough out in recent years and entered Saturday's bout having not lost since unsuccessfully challenging for Anthony Mundine's super middleweight belt in 2008, in their third meeting.