The fact that the bout is happening is not much of a surprise in and of itself… Sturm was Barker’s mandatory challenger… but what is somewhat surprising is that the bout is set to happen in Germany with Matchroom Sports, Barker’s promoter had put a lot of effort into getting the bout at home. Considering that Barker is the champion and Matchroom have fairly deep pockets one can only assume that Barker is being very well compensated for his time.
The first concern for boxing fans hearing that a bout is to be held in Germany is normally to put their heads in their hands. It’s a stereotype that in Germany the home fighter gets a significant edge both from the referee and the judges, with the old phrase being that in Germany you have the knock out the home fighter to get a draw. There’s no doubt that many boxers based in Germany… including Sturm… have benefited from some… shall we say generous… judges in the past. At a time when judging in boxing is under the microscope following the contrversial judges cards in Mayweather vs Alvarez and Chavez Jr vs Vera I imagine more than one fan is quietly dreading the announcer saying (in German but my language skills are somewhat limited)… “We have a split decision…”.
That said, I think that view is a little outdated. If we look at Sturm’s last three bouts to go to decision in Germany, his record reads 0-2-1; no wins, two losses and a draw. One of those loses was subsequently changed to a no contest followed a somewhat farcical failed drug test by his opponent Sam Soliman but the fact of the matter is that on the night Sturm was declared the loser. And it’s not as if the bouts were blowouts where even the most biased or incompetant of judges would struggle to give Sturm rounds… his bouts with Soliman, Geale and Murray were all close contests which could have gone either way.
And they didn’t go Sturm’s way.
That’s not to say that there’s no chance of poor judging costing Barker his belt but frankly, considering the decisions we’ve seen in recent times in the US and UK and the general difficulties in judging boxing, it’s quite hard to argue that today Germany is any worse with a straight face.
As for the matchup itself, there’s more analysis to come closer to the date but for now I think Barker has the edge. Sturm does a lot of his best work by pressuring with his feet, coming forward and covering up while boxing in brief spurts. That plays into Barker’s hands as he keeps up a high workrate of flowing combinations and then skips away from any return fire from Sturm. At 31, healthy and free from ring rust Barker is basically at his peak as a boxer while in contrast Sturm, despite only being 34, looks to be on the downside of his career. That’s not to say he’s shot… he looked pretty good in stopping both Zbik and the unheralded Predrag Radosevic… but in my opinion both of those pugilists are a clear step behind Barker in the talent levels.
Barker by a narrow decision.