Sturm, Soliman ready for rematch

Sam Soliman saw his 2013 win over Felix Sturm erased after testing positive for a banned stimulant. Dennis Grombkowski/Bongarts/Getty Images

Saturday's rematch between middleweight titleholder Felix Sturm and Sam Soliman has been a long time coming since their controversial first fight in February 2013.

Australia's Soliman traveled to Sturm's turf in Germany and won a unanimous decision on scores of 116-111, 114-113 and 114-113 in the world title eliminator, but he tested positive for a banned stimulant after the fight. The result was changed to a no contest and Soliman was suspended for nine months by German regulators.

Sturm won his next two fights, including a second-round knockout of England's Darren Barker to win a middleweight belt in December, while Soliman returned to win a fight in December.

Sturm's first defense will come against Soliman. They have a score to settle in their grudge match at the Koenig Palast Arena in Krefeld, Germany (ESPN3.com, 5 p.m. ET), even though Sturm claims that is not part of his thinking.

Soliman is Sturm's mandatory challenger, so Sturm had to take this fight unless he wanted to give up his belt. He said he did not take the fight with Soliman to even any kind of score over the dirty drug test.

"I'm not mad or anything. I don't care about that whole doping theater anymore," Sturm said at this week's final news conference. "He and his team have to live with that. He's trying to play games once again, but that doesn't matter to me. I had a perfect preparation and I am in tiptop shape.

"I had to do this fight since he is my mandatory challenger. But that is a good thing because I can make things right. People will forget about the first fight after this one. Back after I fought Soliman last February, I changed my whole attitude towards the sport of boxing. I'm now eating clean and healthy, which makes training a whole lot easier. I now live like an athlete all year around and not only the 10 or 12 weeks during training camp. That pays off as I'm in a much, much better shape than before."

The 35-year-old Sturm (39-3-2, 18 KOs) is making the first defense of his fourth 160-pound title reign and he is confident.

"I'm looking forward to a great evening and an exciting fight on Saturday," Sturm said. "As you know, the first title defense is always the most difficult. But I am the champion, and believe me -- I will remain the champion."

Said trainer Fritz Sdunek, "Felix is in incredible form. It's rare to work with an athlete in such good shape. I strongly believe he'll beat Soliman inside the distance this time."

Soliman (43-11, 18 KOs), 40, will be fighting for a world title for the third time. He lost a pair of super middleweight title bouts to countryman Anthony Mundine, a ninth-round knockout in 2007 and a unanimous decision loss in a 2008 rematch. Soliman is 8-0 plus the no contest since the second loss to Mundine.

Soliman, who has denied using any illegal substances, said he will beat Sturm the same way he did in their first fight.

"If a plan is working, you shouldn't change it. You should fix it to make it even better," Soliman said. "That's what I have done. I'm grateful to be back in Germany and to be able to fight for the IBF world title. I had perfect sparring during my camp in Denmark. I'll be even better than the last time around. I will fulfill the dream of my family, who'll be ringside on Saturday, and become world middleweight champion."