by Tim Harrison
This Saturday night (afternoon in the United States) at the GETEC Arena in Magdeburg, Germany, WBO super middleweight champion Robert Stieglitz (46-3, 26 KOs) puts his belt on the line in a rubber match against former titlist Arthur Abraham (38-4, 28 KOs).
While this fight may be flying slightly below the radar in the U.S., it is a big deal in Germany, the adopted home nation of both men. Stieglitz and Abraham have spit their first two meetings. Abraham took a unanimous decision victory in their first meeting, but lost the rematch when his corner stopped the fight after his left eye closed after an early blitzkrieg from Stieglitz.
Neither man has been a shining example of a World Champion, both often settling for sanctioned defenses against soft touches and opponents recently dropped into the rankings. As the IBF middleweight champion, Abraham was a feared and quite destructive force. His list of title defenses is littered with challengers who made many appearances as B-sides to up-and-comers on the Euro circuit. After cutting a bloody swath through the second third of the middleweight ranks, Abraham stepped up and joined Showtime’s Super Six Super Middleweight tournament as an early favorite to win it all. Abraham put a brief end to the career of Jermain Taylor in the tournament’s opening round, but was out boxed and outclassed by Andre Dirrell for nine rounds before his disqualification loss. Since losing to Dirrell, Abraham’s menacing aura dissipated and he’s been beaten by any world-class opponent he’s faced, with the lone exception of the win over Stieglitz.
Stieglitz is a two-time holder of the WBO’s super middleweight belt. He won the title in 2009 when he stopped Karoly Balzsay in eleven rounds. He made six defenses before dropping his title in a twelve-round loss to Abraham in 2012. Since winning the title back in his rematch with Abraham in 2013, Stieglitz has made successful defenses against Yuzo Kiyota and Isaac Ekpo.
Abraham has made a successful career with a combination of nifty matchmaking, good defense, and a penchant for counter-punching. His modus operandi involves hiding behind his guard and finding openings. Abraham is a very patient fighter, but can be too patient at times. Stieglitz was unable to find his way through or around Abraham’s guard in their first fight, but was able to turn up the intensity and bull his way through in their rematch. Stieglitz is his most effective when he’s on the offensive and he punches first.
Abraham has had the look of a fighter lacking confidence since his exit from the Super Six Tournament three years ago. His tendency to hide behind his gloves and wait for countering opportunities will work against him when presented with a fighter slick enough to get off first and get out before Abraham returns fire. And as shown in the rematch with Stieglitz, Abraham can be overwhelmed by a pressure fighter who refuses to give him the space he needs to work.
Abraham will need to punch first if he hopes to take the advantage in his rivalry with Stieglitz. He’ll have to circle and hit Stieglitz on the way in and get him moving backwards so he can mount his own offense. But after a long career and his late-career struggles, Abraham will have his work cut out for him. Stieglitz should look to replicate his strategy from their rematch, but be wary of not being overly aggressive and sloppy. In their first fight, Stieglitz was often following Abraham and not cutting off the ring. He’ll also need to be mindful of his footwork. Look for this fight to look a lot like their rematch, with Abraham seeing the final bell this time, but coming up on the short end of the scorecards.
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