Boxing
German-born Sylvester climbing the European charts
Lyle Fitzsimmons

By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor


Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - He's lost on the big stage alongside names like Williams, Martinez and Pavlik, but German-born Sebastian Sylvester is nonetheless building himself a middleweight dynasty in Europe.

The 30-year-old native of Greifswald captured his country's top international prize at 160 pounds in just his 12th pro fight, before trading it in for the IBF?s intercontinental bauble five fights later.

Tours of possession with the European and WBA intercontinental belts followed over the subsequent four years before Sylvester came up short in his first challenge for a world belt - losing a wide decision to WBA champion Felix Sturm in Oberhausen, Germany in November 2008.

Undaunted, the 5-foot-7 1/2 right-hander returned less than a year later and walked away a world incumbent after downing Giovanni Lorenzo for the vacant IBF title at Jahnsportforum in Neubrandenburg.

Two defenses have followed at the same venue in a now 13-month reign - the first via 10th-round TKO of late substitute Billy Lyell on Jan. 30 and the second in a 12-round draw with veteran Russian Roman Karmazin on June 5.

Sylvester makes defense No. 3 on Saturday at Stadhalle in Rostock, Germany, where he'll take on fellow German and one-time failed title challenger Mahir Oral.

"This is a big fight in Germany as Oral is well known for his brave but losing effort to Arthur Abraham," said Scott A. Shaffer, an attorney for the fight's promotional outfit - Sauerland Event.

"It was Abraham's last fight before the Super Six and last appearance as a middleweight. Sylvester is coming off a close and tough fight versus Roman Karmazin, but he is a very popular fighter."

The fight features an interesting subtext, with Sylvester as an ethnic German while Oral is also German, but of Turkish descent. Also, the two reside in cities just 143 miles apart, a geographic rivalry similar to U.S. sports battles between New York and Philadelphia (94 miles) or Boston (217).

A win for Sylvester would likely position him for a rematch with Karmazin or an initial date with ex-IBO champion Daniel Geale. Those two men will fight Sunday in Australia for the right to become the IBF?s mandatory challenger.

"Sauerland likes to keep Sylvester very active, but also he gets cut pretty easy, so it is hard to look beyond one fight for him," Shaffer said. "If Karmazin wins the eliminator, it will be a big fight in Germany as the first fight was very close and exciting.

"Sylvester fell behind early, but rallied back and I think he would probably admit that in the ninth or 10th round he had Karmazin hurt and should have finished him off, but instead let him off the hook and got a draw. My guess, knowing that Sylvester has a very determined personality, is that he would prefer to face Karmazin over Geale next."

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WEEKEND'S BEST BET The 9,200-plus mile trip knocks me out of on-site viewing, but the weekend's best card nonetheless looks to be the one set for Sunday at the Olympic Park Sports Centre in Homebush, Australia.

Topping the show is the aforementioned middleweight matchup of former IBO 160- pound champion Geale and former 154-pound belt-holder Karmazin over a scheduled 12 rounds.

Geale held his share of the middleweight crown for 17 months from 2007-09 before dropping a reed-thin split decision to Australian countryman Anthony Mundine in Brisbane.

Now 29, he's fought twice since, shutting Samir Dos Santos Barbosa out over 12 rounds last October before an 11th-round stoppage of Kariz Kariuki in June.

Karmazin, who toppled Kassim Ouma for the IBF junior middleweight title in 2005 before losing it to Cory Spinks a year later, was turned aside for the IBF title with Sylvester in June.

One judge scored the match, 117-111, for Karmazin, while another had it nearly opposite at 118-111 for Sylvester. The final card was even at 114-114.

Karmazin is ranked third by the IBF at 160 while Geale is two spots behind at No. 5.

In the show's other 12-round bout, recent IBO lightweight champion Leonardo Zappavigna faces another former IBO belt-holder, South Korean slugger Ji Hoon Kim, in an IBF 135-pound title eliminator.

Zappavigna, unbeaten in 24 pro bouts with 16 knockouts, won the IBO title with a 12-round decision over Fernando Angulo on March 6 in Rancho Mirage, Calif. He?s fought once since, stopping Billy Zumba in two rounds in an over-the- weight bout on July 22 in Australia.

Kim won the IBO share of the junior lightweight title when he stopped Zolani Marali in nine rounds in Kempton Park, South Africa 13 months ago.

He won two subsequent fights at lightweight, but dropped a wide verdict to Miguel Vazquez for the vacant IBF lightweight title on Aug. 14 in Laredo, Texas.

Kim is ranked third at lightweight by the IBF. Zappavigna is rated ninth.

Meanwhile, a pair of eight-round features in Homebush will include former four-time title fight loser Shannan Taylor against once-beaten Junior Talipeau at super middleweight, while two-time IBO welterweight title challenger Robert Medley takes on Jason LeHoullier at junior middleweight.

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TV TOPICS (Some fights may not be televised) SATURDAY FOX Espanol - Cartagena, Colombia Raul Garcia (28-1-1) vs. Luis De la Rosa (14-0-1) Jesus Geles (10-1-1) vs. Omar Soto (15-5-1) Daulis Prescott (20-0) vs. Jose Carmona (10-0) William Urina (15-0) vs. Genilson Jesus Dos Santos (19-0) Alexander Brand (10-0) vs. Manuel Banquez (6-1-1) Oscar Escandon (8-0) vs. Elvis Garcia (9-7-3) Daniel Lomeli (18-2) vs. Ever Garcia Hernandez (12-27-1) Darley Perez (16-0) vs. Ernesto Vasquez Batioja (14-10-1)

Lyle Fitzsimmons is a veteran sports columnist who's written professionally since 1988 and covered boxing since 1995. His work is published in print and posted online for clients in North America and Europe. Reach him at fitzbitz@msn.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/fitzbitz.

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.

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