|Pittman plans Sturm ambush
Interview By Anthony Cocks, Site Editor (April 2, 2008) Doghouse Boxing
This Saturday night undefeated Australian Jamie Pittman 16-0 (7) takes a major step up in class when he challenges reigning WBA middleweight champion Felix Sturm 28-2-1 (12) for his world title in Dusseldorf, Germany.
The 26-year-old southpaw from Gosford, New South Wales, has been immersed in an intense training camp for the past thirteen weeks, racking up 120 rounds of sparring with last year’s Contender winner Sakio Bika alone.
But victory will be no easy task for Pittman. Despite producing a host of world class middleweights over the years including Tony Mundine, Les Darcy and Dave Sands no Australian boxer has every won the coveted 160-pound title. And for the superstitious amongst you, no Australian boxer has ever claimed a world title on German soil.
Pittman, however, insists that all the pressure is on Sturm.
“I don’t feel any pressure that we’ve never won a title in the division,” explains Pittman. “But those guys did Australia proud, particularly Tony [Mundine], going all the way to [Carlos] Monzon’s own country and fighting him there, which is similar to what I’m doing.”
On the surface it may appear that Pittman has had a quick and easy road to a world title shot, but the likeable ‘Mr Business’ has been plying his trade for years in the unpaid ranks and remains one of Australia better amateur boxers
in recent times.
Fighting in the singlets Pittman amassed an impressive record of 111 wins from 137 fights, winning three Oceania titles and captaining the Australian boxing team at the 2004 Athens Olympics. This resume compares favourably to fellow former Olympian Sturm, who went 113-9 in the unpaid ranks and challenged for his first world title in just his 19th professional fight.
Just as the then 24-year-old German came of age when he stepped in the ring to challenge Hector Javier Velazco for the WBO title in 2003, Pittman expects to announce his arrival on the world stage at the Burg-Waechter Castello on Saturday night.
“I’ve come a long way in boxing, a lot of people didn’t even think I’d make the Olympic Games, so there’s no real pressure on me,” says Pittman. “I’ve only had 16 fights and I’m a big underdog going in to the fight, so all the pressure is on him. I’m going into his country and fighting him in front of his fans, so I just feel pumped and I feel relaxed and I feel like I’m ready to go and get my dream.”
The opportunity to challenge Sturm came somewhat out of the blue for Pittman, who enjoys a lofty ranking in both the WBA (#13) and the WBO (#6) thanks largely to the PABA, WBO Asia Pacific and WBA Pan African regional titles he owns. From a promotional standpoint, there is also the added intrigue that the last time Pittman boxed as an amateur he lost a hotly disputed 1-point decision to eventual bronze medallist Lukas Wilaschek at the 2004 Olympics.
“I’ve got a very European style and I got ripped off to a German at the Olympic Games,” says Pittman, “so I guess promotional-wise and they had a voluntary defence against anyone in the top fifteen and looking at my record they perceived me as not much of a risk to them either.”
But Pittman promises to be no easy mark for the German, who has lost some of the shine he gained by losing a disputed decision of his own to boxing’s Golden Boy, Oscar De La Hoya, back in 2004, after going 3-1-1 in his past five fights. At 6-foot-1 Pittman is a lanky left-hander with a high punch output who can fight just as effectively off the back foot as he can moving forward. No walk in the park in any man’s language.
“I’ve changed my style of the last 13 weeks, it’s second to none,” says Pittman. “People who have watched me fight before will see the difference in the way I fight. We’ve put down a great game plan and that game plan is to fight similar to the way [Joe] Calzaghe did against [Mikkel] Kessler and Jeff Lacy. That’s to keep up a high workrate, working and in and out punches and not caring if the punches land solidly or not, just as long as they land. And while I’m punching him, he’s going to find it hard to punch me back.”
Pittman has left no stone unturned in his preparation, poring over numerous tapes of the 29-year-old titleholder and taking note not only of his fighting style, but also his demeanour outside the ring.
“I’ve got thirteen video tapes on Felix and personalities come into the sport as well,” explains Pittman. “I watch his facial expressions at his press conference on YouTube and to be honest, looking at the weigh-in for his last fight and the press conference, I really don’t think he’s as hungry as he used to be. I’m younger and hungrier than anyone and I want this more than anything.”
Pittman has even taken it one step further, carting around a life-size cardboard cut-out of Sturm to remind him of the challenge ahead.
“I take him to every single training session and to bed of a night,” says Pittman. “I always get found talking to him.”
Just don’t suggest he’s getting friendly with his Sturm doppelganger.
“Nah, nah, nah,” laughs Pittman, “definitely not. I always talk bad to him. I’ve got a roommate who boxes as well and he always walks past and says ‘who are you talking to?’ and I say ‘Felix’, so we have a bit of a laugh. The last thirteen weeks all I’ve thought about when I’m brushing my teeth or having a shower is him.”
In recent years Germany has earned a reputation as a country where a foreign fighter needs a knockout just to get a draw. Whether this perception is right or wrong, it’s certainly something that plays on the minds of most visiting boxers.
But Pittman believes that regardless of fighting in the champion’s hometown, he has the workrate and the style to impress the judges sufficiently enough to leave them with no choice but to award him rounds.
“I think with my style, because I’ve got a very upright, European, southpaw style, I think I can influence the judges by boxing well and competing with Sturm,” says Pittman. “Over there they sort of find Felix Sturm like [Anthony] Mundine, they love him and they hate him. So if I can influence the crowd that I’m there to win and that I’ve come to fight, I’m sure I can influence the judges as well.”
To Pittman a victory would mean much more than just a world title belt. It would also afford him the opportunity to present a positive role model to other Aboriginals.
“That’s the main pressure,” admits Pittman. “Everyone worries about the current champions in the sport and the current amateur superstars, but I want to go deeper, not just in boxing but into other sports like soccer.
“I want to be a role model for all Aboriginal kids whether they want to be a businessman, a sportsman or whatever. We’re knocked a fair bit in the public for being lazy and not working and stuff like that, so I want to be a good influence by showing that if you set a goal, you can achieve it. I feel pressure on me in that way because I want to follow Anthony’s [Mundine] dreams because he is such a good role model.”
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