Super middleweight titlist Arthur Abraham has come a long way since his disastrous run in the Super Six World Boxing Classic, and he hopes to keep his recent momentum going.
Abraham was one of the top two favorites (along with Mikkel Kessler) to win the six-man tournament that ran from 2009 to 2011, and he opened with a booming 12th-round knockout of Jermain Taylor. But then Abraham crapped out. Not only did he lose his three remaining tournament fights, he lost them decisively.
Abraham, a former longtime middleweight titleholder who moved up in weight to be part of the Super Six, was easily outboxed and dropped by Andre Dirrell before being disqualified in the 11th round for hitting Dirrell while he was on the mat after slipping. Then Abraham lost lopsided decisions in world title bouts against finalist Carl Froch and tournament winner Andre Ward.
Although Abraham bounced back from those forgettable Super Six performances to win back-to-back bouts in 2012, he didn't look very good in either one, both of which came against pedestrian opponents, Pablo Natalio Farias and Piotr Wilczewski.
Yet because Abraham is a popular figure in Germany, he landed a world title shot against Robert Stieglitz last August. Stieglitz, also from Germany, even went to Abraham's home city of Berlin for the match.
But Abraham's stock had fallen so far after the Super Six that his promoter, Sauerland Event, dubbed the fight with Stieglitz as "The Last Chance." It was Abraham's, and he knew it.
Fighting in front of a crowd of more than 14,000 at the O2 World Arena, Abraham and Stieglitz put on a heckuva show. The fight was close and competitive, with steady action throughout. Stieglitz, having suffered damage around both eyes, had trouble seeing for most of the second half of the fight, yet still turned in a performance he could be proud of. He certainly could have come out as the winner, but the judges preferred the heavier-hitting Abraham, who won a unanimous decision by scores of 116-112, 116-112 and 115-113 to claim his second world title.
It was a fight worthy of a rematch, which was bound to happen anyway because Stieglitz exercised his contractual right for a return fight.
After each man took allowable interim fights -- Abraham defended the title by eighth-round knockout against Mehdi Bouadla in December, while Stieglitz knocked out soft touch Michal Nieroda in the third round in January in Spain -- the rematch was on.
So with the interim-fight business out of the way, Abraham-Stieglitz II will take place on Saturday in Magdeburg, Germany, Stieglitz's hometown.
"I said before the first fight that it will turn out to be a war, and that was exactly what happened," said Kalle Sauerland, Abraham's promoter. "I don't expect the rematch to be any different. We are confident and believe that we will again turn out to be the winners."
In the scheduled 10-round co-feature, heavyweight contender Robert Helenius (18-0, 11 KOs), 29, of Finland, who has struggled in recent fights and also missed time because of shoulder surgery, will face 38-year-old journeyman Michael Sprott (37-19, 17 KOs) of England.
Abraham (36-3, 28 KOs), 33, said he has a specific goal in mind for the rematch: to make sure that it isn't nearly as close as the first encounter. "I can only say one thing about the fight," Abraham said. "We won the first fight and consequently took the world championship. Now it's time for the rematch, and we have a clear goal. We have to destroy him, and we will do everything we can to reach our goal, which showed during our preparations. We have a lot of respect for our opponents, but once we step into the ring, I have to destroy him, no question."
Before the loss to Abraham, the 31-year-old Stieglitz (43-3, 24 KOs) held his piece of the 168-pound world title from 2009 to 2012, making six defenses. He's anxious to turn the tables on Abraham.
"I am in great shape and want to take revenge," Stieglitz said. "There is a reason why I was the world champion for more than two years, and I want the crown back. It was a close decision [in the first fight]. I am excited to be fighting in Magdeburg. The fans will help me to take revenge, and I am looking forward to that."
Stieglitz said he has tried to put the first fight behind him.
"I'm not the kind of person to look back and dwell on the past," he said. "I always have my sights on what lies ahead. Of course, I have mixed feelings when I reflect the happenings of that night. Although I did lose on points, and consequently my title, I do believe that it was a great fight in front of a huge crowd. The fans were ecstatic, hence the big interest in the rematch. The important thing to me is that I only loaned him my title, and now I want it back.
"I have to admit that he did better over the whole 12 rounds from a boxing point of view. However, he did not manage to knock me out and improve his KO ratio. Secondly, the cuts I suffered in Rounds 4 and 5 had a big impact on my performance for the duration of the bout. I wasn't able to pressure him as much as I wanted to and make life difficult for him towards the end of the fight. So no, I wasn't surprised by the result. I was mostly annoyed by my own performance and the cuts."
Said Dirk Dzemski, Stieglitz's trainer: "I hope that the home fans will be right behind Robert and keep pushing him throughout the bout. I also hope that he will not make the same mistakes again. We have been working on them for a long time. He has a good game plan and tactics, which will surprise you."
Abraham said the fact that he has already fought Stieglitz over 12 rounds and won will be an advantage for him in the rematch.
"I already beat him and I got all the knowledge and tools to do it again," he said. "He can't really alter the way he fights, but I should not underestimate him. Stieglitz wasn't a world champion for nothing, defending his title a few times before I took it off him. He still has the ambition to beat me. Therefore, I have to sit down again with my coach and develop a game plan to defend my belt.
"Stieglitz hasn't seen the best that Arthur Abraham has to offer in our first fight, whereas he might have already shown everything he's got. I have some words for him: Beware, because our rematch is going to be much tougher than the first fight."