Macklin and Murray preview Sturm vs Zbik
Birmingham’s Matthew Macklin appeared desperately unfortunate not to elope with Felix Sturm’s title when the pair collided in Cologne last June. The split decision in Sturm’s favour invoked major media dissent, even within the German press.
And in his first start at top international level, unbeaten British and Commonwealth king Martin Murray from St Helens acquitted himself admirably when restricting Sturm to a draw in Mannheim last December.
Both fighters talked to boxing writer Glyn Evans about the long-standing champ’s chances of holding on to his title tonight when he takes on challenger Sebastian Zbik at the Lanxess Arena in Cologne, Germany…
Matt Macklin: ‘Felix there for the taking’
‘I’ve followed Zbik since we both competed at the same weight in the 2000 World Juniors in Budapest and I’ve always kept an eye out for him since. When I fought Ruben Varon, I studied his fight against Zbik, and Zbik impressed, knocking him out with body shots.
‘He’s a technical fighter, very skillful and well schooled, delivers good straight punches. He’s got a sharp right hand and nice left hook to the body. He can carry his left hand low which could be dangerous because, against me, Sturm had a very sharp double right hand and throws nice counter uppercuts.
‘Sturm picks his moments to attack and picks his shots very well. He’s got a very, very tight defence and very strong forearms. It was much harder to penetrate him than I anticipated and, when I did, he absorbed plenty of heavy shots around the ears.
‘They’d definitely have sparred together during their time together on the German amateur squad and at Universum. Neither are big punchers so I’d anticipate an interesting technical boxing match. Both are very measured, almost count the number of punches they throw each round so I think we’re destined for a distance fight.
‘But I wouldn’t be shocked at all if Zbik springs an upset. At their peaks, Felix was probably the better man but, while Zbik is right on top of his game now, I think Felix has probably had some of the stuffing knocked out of him by me and others and is now on the slide. He might be there for the taking.’
Martin Murray: ‘Sturm will edge it’
‘Sturm was a good quick counter puncher, particularly with the right hand - I was very wary of that – and, stepping up a level, I felt his physical presence and his experience far more than anyone I’d faced previously. He’s not really a pressure fighter but you really feel his strength when he does attack.
‘That said, I’m not sold on him. If I got the call for a rematch I’d accept in a heartbeat, even in Germany again. Though he always turns up in good fettle, I don’t think he has the confidence in his conditioning that he once had. He can be lazy, only throws the bare minimum.
‘Our fight was very close – I’m not going to cry about the verdict like Macklin did – but it was my first time at that level and he knows I’ll only get better which is why I never got the rematch. Last time, I was a bit too cautious, too wary, but if we did it again, I’d sustain my attacks, put in on him for longer. He’s an old man, not what he was two or three years back.
‘I’m familiar with Zbik because I watched a bit of his title loss to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. He’s a typical stand up German fighter and it’s a good fight for Sturm to take. He’s a good opponent. Sturm’s not picked an easy one.
‘I expect it to be very cagey, very close. Whoever wins, the title will remain in Germany. I think Sturm will just edge it but he’s not got long left and, soon, someone’s going to be in the right place at the right time. Hopefully, that’ll be me.’
Watch Sturm vs Zbik live tonight on BoxNation (Sky 456, Virgin 546) in the ABA Finals show with coverage starting at 6.30pm. For more info visit www.boxnation.tv