Who knew Robert Stieglitz had this kind of animal in him? Saturday on Epix, the super middleweight got revenge on his hard-punching German countryman Arthur Abraham, reversing a competitive loss in their first meeting by storming out hard, hurting Abraham in the 2nd and closing his eye so badly that the referee and ring doctor didn't think it should continue after the 3rd.
For as short as it went, it was an exciting event. Nobody does ring walk theatrics like the Germans, and the sometimes-staid German crowds were nowhere to be found for the main event Saturday. Stieglitz forced the action in the 1st round, dominating it even as Abraham went into the kind of defensive shells that have hampered him in many a fight. In the 2nd, Abraham sprung to life with his trademark power shots, only for Stieglitz to eagerly engage and end up hurting Abraham during a combo. Some punch or the other badly damaged Abraham's left eye during the exchange, and he was holding on for dear life the remainder of the round. Abraham survived the 3rd, even resorting to rabbit punches and getting docked a point, but by the end of the round it was clear that Abraham couldn't see out of his eye and shouldn't continue. Stieglitz got a resounding win, and he beamed afterward like a guy who was enjoying THE moment of his life. The fans probably enjoyed watching the tables turned on the man who once ranked among boxing's heaviest hitters.
Reports of the demise of the 168-pounders are, clearly, premature. Showtime's Super Six hurt some fighters (Jermain Taylor, who shouldn't have been in it; Allan Green, who as a replacement got his limitation exposed) helped some (champion Andre Ward, who now sits near the top of boxing's current greats; Carl Froch, who has become an action star and bigger attraction; Glen Johnson, who saw his career prolonged); and offered mixed results for some (Andre Dirrell, who had a good win over Abraham yet has stagnated since; Mikkel Kessler, who won one and lost one yet has remained a big star in Europe; and Abraham, who was "exposed" yet still can be a part of big fights like this one). But the division is richer for it having happened, and there are a number of fighters who weren't in the tournament who continue to give it a boost. Stieglitz is one of them, and for all the reports that the Super Six burned out the division, there remain a large number of appealing match-ups at 168. Match Stieglitz against Abraham again, or against Ward, or the winner of Kessler-Froch II, or against George Groves — who fought on the Epix undercard — and you begin to get a sense of how lively things are at super middleweight still.
As for that undercard:
Robert Helenius once looked to some eyes (including those of yours truly) like he was the gravest threat to the Klitschko brothers' dominance of the heavyweight division — which is not the same as saying anyone ever would've picked Helenius over Wladimir or Vitali. But that guy has evaporated. Maybe it started with a confidence-deadening "win" over Dereck Chisora, maybe the injuries he blames for that shaky performance have slowed him down. But against Michael Sprott, admittedly one of the higher quality journeymen in the sport, Helenius looked flat, or slow, or emotionally fragile. He won on the scorecards with relative ease, and he finally threw a lot of punches compared to his oft-anemic pace, but Sprott also had him in more danger than he should've for a would-be Klitschko conqueror, let alone anyone who would be likely to beat another top-10 heavy. Maybe Helenius can be "that guy" again, but this wasn't proof that he could. It was nearly the opposite.
Groves, meanwhile, is simply staying busy for the time being, after switching promoters yet again. Fighting for the second time this month, Groves made easy, two-round work of Baker Bakarat. Groves had already shown top-10 stuff at 168, so the jibber-jabber from Epix commentator/promoter Lou DiBella that this somehow was evidence of Groves belonging among the up-and-coming names at 168 was nonsense. (DiBella, by the way, was often quite good behind the mic. But he failed to disclose that he promotes some of the guys he was chatting up, and got stuck at times in a grumpy pattern from which he could not be dislodged. Still, there's potential there if Epix is looking for another regular commentator.)