It’s just two months shy of five years since former two-weight champion Felix Sturm (40-5-3, 18 KOs & 1 NC) made his way to the boxing ring. A lot has happened, it’s fair to say, but ahead of his eventual return this Saturday evening, the Leverkusen-native believes there’s plenty more left in the tank.
“I’ve been in the fight business since 1992 and, as soon as I was healthy and hungry to win more titles, I wanted to return to this sport,” the former IBF, WBA Super and WBO middleweight champion, and WBA super-middleweight champion told Boxing Social, with the assistance of Universum Boxing promotion’s Flavio Oleaga.
“Other than that, I’ve come back because I want to inspire the younger generation in Germany, as unfortunately the future of boxing is not looking that great here. My motivation is to: inspire, engage and empower. I want to mobilize a population of eager, talented young people desperate for opportunity. And to establish a boxing culture; I want to encourage, motivate, teach. Fear becomes courage; despair turns to promise.”
Sturm’s words seemed to carry a deeper meaning than they maybe once did. He’s older and wiser now, with the benefit of a clean break from boxing after beating Fedor Chudinov via majority decision in their rematch, in February 2016. Issues with drug testing and reported criminal charges regarding German taxes have kept his name in the headlines, albeit on the front pages, rather than the back.
The card that he finds himself headlining will take place in the Universum Boxing gym and it features a couple of prospects, such as Cuban heavyweight Jose Larduet. Universum were the team that propelled the German’s career, before he branched out and worked with promotional independence. But he’s back and, despite maybe not being better than ever, the fire is still burning.
“I never focused on my opponents then; I don’t need this extrinsic motivation. My focus was always on the titles and I am looking forward to revenge against Oscar de la Hoya. My training camp is going well and my boxing coach Maurice Weber and my striking coach Chris Mohr have helped me a lot to get prepared.”
When asked if his achievements over the last two decades would be enough to satisfy him in his eventual retirement, Sturm was adamant: “Yes, I’m very satisfied. Not everyone has the opportunity to live the life of a fighter. Boxing is my passion and there would be no Felix Sturm without boxing. It has helped me a lot in my life and I will never regret it.
“Unfortunately, I haven’t [been impressed with the current German boxing scene],” he added. “The future of boxing in Germany is in danger, and these athletes need more support from the media and in general. The benefits of the boxing in our culture, and its impact on the people should be taught everywhere.”
Sturm, now approaching 42-years of age, is just one of many ex-champions returning in search of their former glory. One of his former rivals – whom he unfortunately never boxed during their respective primes – Sergio Martinez also fights again this week. There appears to be something in the water as men past their peak reignite their passion for the sport, while fans and followers of boxing often know they’ve given enough of themselves. For Sturm though, who defeated British duo Matt Macklin and Darren Barker, and scraped a draw with St Helen’s Martin Murray, this isn’t a cash-and-grab operation.
After battling injuries, financial concerns and father time, his return to boxing is a homecoming. It is the young, fiery prospect seeing out the end of his career at the stable that raised him; it is doing things the right way, for the right reasons, in order to see what’s truly left. His opponent, Timo Rost, is unbeaten after 12 professional contests, boasting 10 unremarkable wins. He isn’t at Sturm’s level. Or, at least, he wouldn’t have been.
The bottom line is that in Germany, and probably further afield, there remains a sense of intrigue. We didn’t watch a tired, old Felix Sturm lose in an undignified manner; in fact, he went out on top, clutching a world title and with a meaningful victory. There remains a tiny slice of ‘What if?’ And, in boxing, that’s enough to attract attention.
“Now, I try to spend as much time with my family as I can. I can’t wait to have more time for my family [after this fight], and the next fight is already on the cards. I have a lot of plans for next year and I promise that the boxing world will be more than happy when they see me fight again. I am ready for anyone, but first, Timo Rost – it’s your turn. Then in 2021, I’ll fight anyone,” said Sturm.
Boxing offers the old adage: “The last thing to leave a fighter is their punch.” I’d argue that something lingers far longer than that basic, brute physical attribute. In speaking to the men who’ve retired too soon, or in fact to those returning after lengthy disappearances, it seems clear that their innate self-belief is almost immortal. If they can skip rope and clench their fists, they can capture world titles; “age is just a number,” they’ll tell you.
Felix Sturm may be an exception to the rule – and let’s not forget, there have been a few (Bernard Hopkins, George Foreman, etc). This Saturday night in Germany and at Universum Boxing’s gym once again, we’re set to find out.