17.07.06 - By Fritz Drexel: On Saturday night, in his first title defense, WBA Middleweight champion Felix Sturm was shockingly stopped by Javier Castillejo, 38, in the 10th round at the Color Line Arena, Hamburg, Germany. Going into the fight, it would appear that Castillejo (61-6, 41 KO's) had little chance for an upset against Felix Sturm (25-2, 11 KO's), who at 27-years-old, was considered in the top three of the world's best middleweights by many people. However, other than a fight against Oscar De La Hoya, who appeared to be badly out of shape at the time of their fight, Sturm had not previously fought against a fighter as experienced and skilled as Castillejo.
Article posted on 18.07.2006
Still, if I was pressed to give an excuse for Sturm's knockout loss, I'd point to the fact that he seemed to try too hard to look good, possibly hoping to erase his poor performance in his last fight against Maselino Masoe, when Sturm fought defensively much to the disappointment of the German crowd. This time, however, Sturm fought essentially the same fight, rarely engaging except for brief flurries. Even then, Sturm seemed very cautious of Castillejo, despite the Spaniard's average punching power.
Nevertheless, what Sturm wasn't ready for, in my opinion, was Castillejo's constant pressure, which he never let up on throughout the fight, forcing Sturm to either fight or run. Unfortunately for Sturm, whenever he would stop running, Castilljo would immediately be on him, getting inside and landing hooks and uppercuts, none of which were thrown with a lot of power, mind you, but were still effective due to Castillejo’s good form. As I mentioned previously, Castillejo’s not a particularly powerful puncher, but he is a good inside fighter and from the earliest moments of the fight, it was painfully obvious that Sturm wasn't able to deal with it, other than covering up and waiting for Castillejo to stop punching.
In the 2nd round, Sturm suddenly stopped moving and seemed to try and stand his ground, like a dog rising on his hind feet. However, Castillejo was immediately on him, landing left and right hand hooks to the side of Sturm's head, for he seemed completely out of sorts, as instead of firing back, Sturm kept his gloves glued to both sides of his face, while Castillejo punched at will. Finally, two left hooks got through Sturm's guard and sent him to the canvas, badly hurt. He immediately attempted to get back up, but slipped for a second before finally making it up to his feet. Smelling blood, Castillejo launched an all out assault, throwing punches without caution, tagging Sturm with every punch he threw. The referee stood by, and watched the action closely and appeared to be about to stop it. However, Sturm, to his credit, quickly recovered and ended the round strong, scoring with a powerful left uppercut followed by a left cross.
In the following rounds 3-9, Sturm stayed mostly on the outside, pumping his strong jab continuously, while constantly moving from side to side to keep from being cornered by Castillejo. However, the constant movement seemed to be taking a lot out of Sturm, for in between rounds, Sturm was breathing very hard, looking tired and worried. Still, Sturm had built up a commanding lead and had easily swept all the rounds following the 2nd, and he seemed poised to win the fight. Castillejo, though, stubbornly kept coming forward, occasionally landing his left hook, which by the 9th round, had caused Sturm’s left jaw to swell badly from the effects..
In the 10th round, Sturm looked completely exhausted, perhaps not used to being pressured as hard by an opponent. As if trying to stick to his script, Sturm circled Castillejo, and jabbed, while occasionally changing directions. However, Sturm was forced to fight again and again by Castillejo, who began to time Sturm and trap him, forcing Sturm to fight on the inside. For a fighter like Sturm, who's not accustomed to fighting on the inside, he did remarkably well, landing the cleaner punches and driving Castillejo off him. Finally, late in the round, Sturm started circling again, and mistakenly reversed his movement and came towards Castillo's left side. As if chasing a mouse, Castillejo timed Sturm perfect, and launched a powerful left hook that stopped Sturm in mid flight, badly hurting him and sending him backwards against the ropes. Castillejo immediately followed after him, and landed three left uppercuts, each one snapping Sturm's head, making him seem like a 'Rock-em Sock'em Robot' getting it's blocked knocked off. Seeing that Sturm was badly hurt and defenseless, the referee stepped in stopping the but at 2:47 of 10th round.
As Sturm was being taken back to his corner, his nose appeared badly swollen, and looked as if it might be broken. Likewise, Sturm's left cheek was swollen, giving the appearance that his jaw was possibly damaged, likely courtesy of one of Castillejo's left hooks.
More than anything, I think Castillejo exposed Sturm for being a limited, defensive sharpshooter, one that depends mostly on ring movement and a strong jab to be effective. No doubt, Sturm's style is effective against most fighters, yet against a high pressure fighter or a fighter with a lot of power, Sturm is going to have problems. When he's not being pressed, Sturm can dominate with his jab alone, but if you stay on him and apply steady pressure, he'll tire himself out running all over the ring, leaving him vulnerable in the later rounds. In many ways, Sturm is much like Wladimir Klitschko, a fighter that is very effective on the outside, but tends to wilt when pressured hard for a long period of time. Neither fighter is good on the inside, although Sturm would be considered even worse, since he appeared to do very little clinching, as if still using his former amateur style.
More than likely, will be seeing a rematch between Castillejo and Sturm in the near future, for Universum reportedly as options on Castillejo's next three fights. Though, I don't see the outcome being any different, other than an earlier knockout by Castillejo, who I think has Sturm's style all figured out. Strangely enough, for a fighter that many people considered to be shot, Castillejo's inside fighting style is like kryptonite to Sturm, and something I have serious doubts that he'll ever figure out.