Arena Box, Universum battle over Felix Sturm

Middleweight titlist Felix Sturm has been offered $25 million to sign with Arena Box, but Universum isn't going to just let him walk. (Photo via www.sportgate.de)

Middleweight titleholder Felix Sturm has been offered $25 million to sign with Arena Box, the promotional company run by Ahmet Öner. Sturm last fought under the Universum banner, but is part of an attempted mass exodus from the company. Zsolt Erdei, like Sturm, is attempting to leave the company, and Sergiy Dzinziruk has already done so.

Sweetening the pot is Öner's connections with Top Rank in America, the promoter for reigning middleweight world champion Kelly Pavlik. Pavlik-Sturm was discussed earlier this year, with HBO "low-balling" the fight in an official offer.

Meanwhile, Mark Vester and Thomas Schlabe report that Universum feels they still have Sturm under contract until 2012, and they've warned TV networks and promotional companies to back away or face legal action.

Sturm (33-2-1, 14 KO) last fought in July, beating Khoren Gevor via a highly-debated decision in Nuerburg. The 30-year old has held some form of recognized world title at 160 pounds essentially since 2003, with brief hiccups coming in his very disputed loss to Oscar de la Hoya in 2004, and a TKO loss to Javier Castillejo in 2006. His slate of opponents has often been criticized, but he is a money machine in Germany and in a weak division, presents the top Americans with a better challenge and likely more money even in the States than most potential opponents do. Should Pavlik retain his championship on December 5 against Paul Williams, Pavlik-Sturm could be revisited.

Right now, though, it looks like Sturm is going to be caught in the middle of an ugly promotional war. Öner is one of boxing's shadier characters, with a long list of enemies and plenty of money, and Universum is even shadier when it comes to the promotional tactics they employ. I'm sure it'll shake out over the next six months or so, but I wouldn't expect to see Sturm back in the ring any time soon.

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