One of Germany's most popular boxers was back in action last night as Felix Sturm put his WBA middleweight crown at risk against Sebastian Zbik at Lanxess Arena in Cologne.
Ex-Interim WBC beltholder Zbik was coming off a loss to full WBC champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr 10 months ago while Sturm was engaging in his first action of 2012 after taking part in three defenses the year before.
As usual, Sturm started slowly, pacing himself for the 12 round distance, allowing the more active Zbik to gain the initiative in the early rounds behind sharp combination punching.
Although the high energy approach won rounds for the challenger, it also produced a very tired Zbik during the second half of the contest.
Sturm took advantage of this drop in effort from Zbik and produced an effective attack behind the jab that had the challenger looking for answers to stem the tide.
By the ninth frame, Zbik was taking one-way punishment, prompting referee Raul Caiz Sr to stop the bout before the tenth round began.
Sturm retains the WBA title for the 12th straight time, improving to 37-2-2 (16). Zbik, has now lost two straight, both world title contests, dropping to 30-2 (10).
The undercard featured a Women's championship fight as WIBA flyweight titlist Nadia Raoui, 14-1-1 (3), won a rematch with 43 year old former WIBA strapholder Eileen Olszewski, 7-4-2 (0), over 10 rounds by scores of 100-90, 98-93 and 98-93.
Raoui and Olszewski first tangled in 2008, also for the WIBA crown, producing a draw.
Also on the bill was heavyweight contender Denis Boystov, 31-0 (25), outpointing former contender Dominick Guinn, 33-9-1 (22), on scores of 100-90, 100-90 and 99-91 after 10 rounds.