Hassan N’Dam could face Sam Soliman after Sturm rejects title shot
Hassan N’Dam will have to look for another opponent for his vacant IBF middleweight title match after Felix Sturm announced his intention to campaign at 168 pounds.
The four-time middleweight titleholder used his Twitter account to reveal his plans: “I will not fight at middleweight !!! That time is over.”
According to FightNews, Sturm’s manager, Roland Bebak, says that Sturm is instead angling for a shot at WBO super middleweight titleholder and fellow German transplant Arthur Abraham. A request for comment from Bebak was not returned.
The news doesn’t surprise N’Dam’s manager, Gary Hyde, who had been waiting for five days for word from the Sturm camp.
“As we expected, Sturm has turned down the fight against Hassan N’Dam,” the Ireland-based Hyde told RingTV.com. “We hope that the IBF will tell us soon that one of their top 10 fighters has accepted to fight Hassan so that we can begin negotiations.”
The IBF has now turned the ball over to unbeaten Englishman Billy Joe Saunders, who is the next contender at No. 4. The sanctioning body has given Saunders until February 12 to accept the fight.
Saunders, however, may be preoccupied with a fight on the undercard of WBO middleweight titleholder Andy Lee versus Peter Quillin in New York after agreeing to step aside so Lee could defend against Quillin instead. Given Saunders would be the mandatory challenger to the winner of that fight, it seems unlikely he would accept cash to bypass a title shot, negotiate for a fight on Lee-Quillin undercard and then accept a title fight with another sanctioning body.
At No. 5, Canada’s David Lemieux is currently embroiled in a promotional tug-of-war between Yvon Michel and Golden Boy Promotions.
That could leave the No. 6 contender, Sam Soliman, who lost the IBF 160-pound title to Jermain Taylor in October, as the next available challenger. Taylor was stripped of that title last week following two gun-related arrests that required him to undergo evaluation at a mental-health facility.
Soliman has already informed the IBF that he has recovered from the knee injury he sustained in the loss to Taylor, Hyde says.
The 30-year-old N’Dam (31-1, 18 knockouts), who is rated No. 6 by THE RING, is currently in Moscow sparring with Dmitry Chudinov, who will face Chris Eubank Jr. on Feb. 28 in London.
N’Dam held the WBO title for a brief period after being elevated from interim to full championship status shortly before sustaining his lone defeat to Peter Quillin.
The process of awaiting word from the remaining contenders could take up to 15 days, Hyde says, after which both parties would engage in a purse bid to determine promotional rights.
Hyde estimates that in a best-case scenario a bout could happen in April, with the worst-case scenario being in late May. Whom N’Dam fights isn’t as much a concern as moving along the process, Hyde insists:
“I believe that [N’Dam] would beat everyone in the top ten. I’d be happy with anyone in the top five. It doesn’t matter. I know where we’re at with Hassan N’Dam. He’s in the best frame of mind and condition of his life. He’s going to win the world title again, regardless of who they put in front of him.”
Ryan Songalia is the sports editor of Rappler, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and a contributor to THE RING Magazine. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.