The February 20 rematch between Fedor Chudinov and Felix Sturm in Nordrhein-Wesfalen, Germany is not raising a tremendous amount of interest in the United States, but it’s still a very significant fight at the world-class level. The WBA super middleweight title will once more be up for grabs in this clash of generations.
At 37, Sturm is perhaps still best known in the United States for losing a very controversial decision to Oscar De La Hoya in 2004. However, any injustice he suffered in that case has certainly been balanced out in the larger scheme of things. As a long-time champion at middleweight, Sturm routinely benefited from “home cooking” decisions in his native Germany. He won a highly criticized decision over Matthew Macklin in June 2011 and retained his title with a questionable draw against Martin Murray in December of the same year.
Sturm dropped his belt to Daniel Geale by split decision in September 2012, but regained it with a stunning Round 2 TKO of Darren Barker in December 2013, after Barker had lifted the belt from Geale. Sturm lost the IBF belt to Sam Soliman in May 2014 and then moved up to 168 pounds, where he has fought twice now, drawing with former WBO champion Robert Stieglitz in November 2014 and dropping a split decision to Chudinov last May, with the vacant WBA title on the line.
While 168 pounds lacks the prestige right now that it enjoyed under champions like Andre Ward and Joe Calzaghe, it looks to be on the way up, as well. Chudinov is one of three rising talents who hold belts there now, alongside WBC champion Badou Jack and IBF champ James DeGale. Gilberto Ramirez could become a fourth when he faces long-time division stalwart Arthur Abraham for the WBO belt in April.
Chudinov had an impressive amateur career and has developed to the world-class level quickly as a professional. He claimed the title against Sturm in just his 13th professional fight. His record now stands at 14-0 with 10 KOs.
My gut feeling is that Chudinov should win a more one-sided fight the second time around. But Sturm is a veteran who now has a history of coming back strong when he’s been counted out.