BY MICHAEL WOODS
For a few rounds things looked, if not bleak, then less than stellar for IBF middleweight champion Arthur Abraham. He was fairly flat, and his corner began exhorting him to get down to business and show some measure of aggression and tenacity against foe and former sparring partner Mahir Oral at the Max Schmeling Hall in Berlin on Saturday.
It took a while for The King to stir and find his rhythm, but when he did, Oral was no match for Abraham’s precision punching. The champion retained his belt with knockdowns in the fourth and sixth, and a surgically efficient tenth, in which he knocked Oral down three times, forcing the loser’s corner to throw in the towel.
The end came at 1:23, via TKO, for Oral, who performed with greater skill and guts than anyone could have possibly expected.
The win gives Abraham another chip or two in possibly targeting Kelly “the Ghost” Pavlik, the Universally Recognized World Middleweight Champion from Youngstown, Ohio. However it seems more likely that he will head north to 168, as making 160 is a dreadful chore for the Armenian-German.
Afterwards, Abraham said that he will take the big fight, in whatever division makes the most sense—though he is leaning towards moving up.
“I will fight in America,” said King Arthur, “it’s my dream.”
The IBF champ Abraham (age 29; 159 ½ pounds; from Armenia, living in Germany) came in with a 29-0 record while “The Lion” Oral (age 29 also; 158 ¾ pounds; of Turkish descent, lives in Germany) was 25-1-2 entering.
In the first round of his tenth title defense, King Arthur held a high guard. Yet to be knocked down as a pro, Oral looked to pierce his defense with a one-at-a-time jab.
The two men had sparred, five years ago, for the record, but Abraham has since separated himself from the pack. Oral and Abe both held themselves erect, in Euro style, in a solid first round. In the second, Oral looked to tag Abe’s sides. Both men fought in a contained manner—no mad rushes or psycho flurries in this one. Oral made contact with a right before the bell and it was fair to say he’d surprised all with his effectiveness early. After the round, the Abraham corner demanded more fire. In the third, Oral again came out the aggressor. Was Abraham having a flat night, or would he get cookin’?
In the fourth, Abraham did manage to bring the heat. He moved in, got in his opponent’s face and put Oral down with 40 seconds to go, off of a left hook preceded by a few solid rights. A long right almost did it again and things began to look dismal for Oral, who looked as though he may not make it out of the fifth.
Oral went down again in the fifth, though it was merely a stumble, from which the contender emerged to defiantly stand his ground once more against King Arthur, who seemingly came out flat in the sixth. Until, that is, the 1:02 mark, when he dipped to the left and came up with a right that sent Oral tumbling into the mat. In the seventh, Oral continued to hang tough with Abraham, looking to hit with wide tosses. In the eighth, Oral did well to shrug off a nasty right hand. In the ninth, Abraham had his way and still Oral chugged forward. In the 10th, a left hook put Oral on a knee. The ref looked hard and long at the challenger. He took a knee after a right to the body. Again, he rose. And again he was dropped, this time with a left hook to the body. He was up again, defiant and courageous as ever—but mercifully his corner threw in the towel.