- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Former three-time middleweight titlist Felix Sturm, one of Germany's most popular fighters, is returning to action and hoping to put the misery of his past two fights behind him. Sturm (37-3-2, 16 KOs), 34, announced that he will face an opponent to be determined on July 6 in Dortmund, Germany.
In September, Sturm was upset by split decision in Germany by Australia's Daniel Geale in a world title unification bout. In February, Sturm lost another tight decision in Germany to another Australian, perennial contender Sam Soliman, in a title elimination bout.
However, Soliman tested positive for a banned substance after the fight and the result was changed to a no-contest, leaving the mandatory position in limbo as to who would get a shot at Geale (who, meantime, will defend against Darren Barker on Aug. 17).
There remains controversy over the Soliman-Sturm result because of issues regarding the testing procedure, which agency handled the testing and where the samples were tested. Soliman, who is suspended in Germany but likely could be licensed in Australia, is appealing the ruling.
At the annual IBF convention, which recently wrapped up in Berlin, the organization clarified its position on the mandatory status. Since Soliman's case will take time, the IBF is allowing him to keep his No. 1 position (pending the outcome of the legal appeal) while Sturm will be allowed to participate in another elimination bout, possibly against the obscure Predrag Radosevic (27-0, 9 KOs) of Montenegro, who is next in the IBF's ratings but has never faced anyone halfway decent. If Soliman loses his appeal, the winner of the Sturm eliminator would get the next mandatory title shot against the Geale-Barker winner.
"My loss to Geale was unlucky," Sturm said. "I know I can do better than I did back in September. I'm sure there will be a rematch down the road. But the fans will already see the return of the real Felix Sturm in my next fight. I don't want to say much about the Sam Soliman doping scandal anymore. I stated numerous times that there is no room for cheaters in sports, and I stand by that. I can promise my fans that I'll be middleweight champion for a fourth time pretty soon. I'm 100 percent sure that I have that in me."
Sturm is expected to announce his July 6 opponent in the coming days.