AHEAD of the Arthur Abraham-Gilberto Ramirez WBO super-middleweight title fight this Saturday (April 9), Boxing News caught up with Abraham’s handler, Kalle Sauerland. As well as discussing Abraham, the Germany-based promoter also provided an update on the George Groves-Martin Murray negotiations.
You won the purse bids for the Abraham-Ramirez fight, but instead of staging the bout in Germany, you agreed to a spot on the Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley III bill in Las Vegas. Why was this?
It was something that Arthur wanted to do. We didn’t push him into it. We won the purse bids and we were going to stage the fight in Germany, but Arthur wanted something that would challenge him, so we negotiated a deal [with Ramirez’s promoter, Top Rank] that worked for everybody. If you look at the WBO rankings from last year, Martin Murray was probably the toughest available challenger to Arthur, and Arthur took that fight as a voluntary defence [in November]. No disrespect to Ramirez, but we don’t even know if he’s up to Murray’s level at the moment. We’ll find out on Saturday night. He’s a big lanky guy, but I just hope he doesn’t turn out to be the next Andre Ward or something! You never know. I’ve come over to America and had a few bad ones in the past, such as Mikkel Kessler against Ward. Hopefully not this time.
Some observers have suggested that Ramirez’s southpaw stance could cause Abraham some problems. Is that a concern for you?
Listen, Arthur has got more experience than any active super-middleweight. The southpaw thing is not of any concern to us. We’ve known all along that he’s a southpaw – we didn’t just find that out today! So Arthur has had a lot of time to work on things and prepare. He’s been training with southpaws – a couple of British guys, a Russian kid and a French kid. It’s all good.
Abraham is 36 years old now. How much longer do you think he has left in the sport?
Well, he’s just renewed his contract until 2018. He says that he wants to box for three more years. We’ll take it fight by fight. Arthur’s not exactly the most athletic of fighters, so he doesn’t rely on speed. He hasn’t taken much punishment in his career too, although he’s given a lot out! I think he can stick around for a long time still. Compared to other super-middleweights, he’s a smaller guy, but that doesn’t really mean anything. At middleweight he used to bully people. He was without a doubt the number one middleweight on the planet, knocking people out in brutal fashion, left, right and centre. Suddenly, up at super-middle, he was coming up against people who were a head taller than him, so it took time for him to adapt.
You mentioned Martin Murray earlier. There have been rumours that he could face your fighter, George Groves, in the summer. Are you confident that this all-English match-up can happen?
I’m hoping it will, because we’ve got an agreement in principle with [Murray’s promoter] Eddie Hearn. We’re not looking past David Brophy [who Groves fights this weekend in Greenwich], but at the same time, we’ve got a June 25 date pencilled in at the O2 Arena [for a possible Groves-Murray clash]. We’re ready to go, so it’s down to Murray. He wanted a tune-up first, which is fair enough. I don’t think there’s any bigger fight for him at the moment than Groves. It’s a fight that will excite people. I’m hoping we can make it a world title eliminator of some sort, as they’re both world-class fighters.
And back to Abraham, if he does get through the Ramirez test, who would you like him to meet next?
I think the Felix Sturm fight is the biggest one out there, but I don’t think Sturm would take it – I can’t see it. I think world title unifications with James DeGale or Badou Jack are both big fights, but we’re not looking past Saturday.