In what will effectively be Felix Sturm’s 10th WBA Middleweight title defence, which came either side of an avenged shock loss to Javier Castillejo, we have perhaps a surprise contender squaring up opposite him, given the activity at the top of the WBA’s Middleweight rankings.
Step forward Ronald Hearns.
Not anywhere near the same league as his esteemed father (but then again who is?), yet he still possesses the same attributes that Thomas Hearns used to full effect more than 20 years ago.
Standing at 6’3″ and with a 73″ reach, he is big by anyone’s standards for a middleweight.
He is a relatively fast fighter, and probably as expected for the level of opponent he has been facing, he has a great KO ratio.
Few people give him much chance of pulling off the upset, but he has become used to being considered the underdog. He has had a huge shadow to live under, carrying the Hearns name, and despite gaining exposure he could never have dreamed of off the back of it, the level of expectation heaped upon him has probably been more of a burden and a curse than a gift.
Yet still, despite a solitary 2009 loss to Harry Joe Yorgey (who is fresh off the back of a WBO interim title challenge himself), Hearns has come back with 5 straight victories to propel himself to WBA #12 and with it, an unexpected World Title shot versus the ultimate under-achiever Felix Sturm.
He has a single opportunity to cement his name into the record books, alongside his father, which at the age of 32, is likely to be his last.
Hearns knows himself that opportunities like these don’t come around too often, and he would do well to look to Tommy for some advice on how he might actually use the underdog tag to his advantage.
As for Sturm, and the WBA, there is a procession of perhaps more deserving fighters who have already been gifted trinkets to stave off their challenge temporarily.
I would question what the very point is of a regular title and an interim title, if the WBA have no intention of forcing those in possession to ever meet in the ring, but that is besides the point.
Gennady Golovkin, the hard-hitting Kazakh-born fighter, is currently ranked as the WBA “regular” champion.
Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam, the perhaps more impressive Cameroon national, who also packs a considerable punch, is currently the “Interim Champion.”
The #1 ranked fighter is currently Canadian hotshot David Lemieux who is certainly making waves also.
Yet despite 3 very prime legitimate contenders currently hanging on to a portion of the title Sturm holds or having a foot in the “titleshot door,” Felix has opted for the much lesser-regarded Ronald Hearns.
This alone may speak volumes about Sturm’s credentials of late, and perhaps since his controversial loss to Oscar De La Hoya.
While many observers felt he clearly won the fight, and with it, propelled himself into the very elite of the sport, his progress and opponents have been somewhat underwhelming.
There may be some logic in there somewhere for facing Hearns, but for his attributes alone, and his tendancy to pick up wins, regardless of the level of his opponents, Sturm would do well not to be complacent and underestimate the guy.
He may be cashing in on the name, he may be trying to break new markets.
Whatever it is, Sturm should have been facing far superior opposition a long long time ago, and if he opts not to up the stakes….then pretty soon one of the above 3 fighters will be more than ready to take his crown.