Like a lot of Anne Arundel countians who travel to Atlantic City to try their luck, Chuck Sturm of Glen Burnie is hoping the swinging doors at Harrah's Marina will swing open in his favor tomorrow night.
Sturm won't be worried about the roll of the dice or the cards on the blackjack table, but rather the guy standing in front of those doors.
His name is Vinnie Burghese and Sturm will duke it out with him in a 10-round junior welterweight (140 pounds) bout that those of us back here can watch live on Home Team Sports via SportsChannel.
Sturm vs. Burghese is the main event on a show set to begin at 9 p.m.
on HTS. It will be Sturm's first national TV exposure, and his biggest payday since turning pro in 1985.
According to his manager/trainer Frank Gilbert of the Loch Raven Gym in Baltimore County, Sturm will take home somewhere in the neighborhood of $3,000.
"The most Chuckie ever made for a fight was about $2,000, so this will be his biggest ever, and if he wins, the big door swings open to bigger fights," said Gilbert, who credits East Baltimore boxing legend and trainer Mack Lewis for introducing him to Philadelphia promoter Russell Peltz and laying the groundwork for this golden, but deserved, opportunity.
"If Chuck loses a close fight, it shouldn't hurt us either, but we're going to win," Gilbert said. "He's really ready and the determination and intensity is there for this one."
It better be because the former Old Mill High state wrestling champion is not fighting any dog. Plus Sturm, 25, who has a 22-2-1 record with eight knockouts, is fighting Burghese (20-2-1) practically in his Philadelphia back yard.
"Yes, Chuck may have to knock him out to win," said Gilbert, who like Sturm, doesn't have a lot of faith in the Atlantic City judging system for out-of-towners.
"I question whether we will get a fair shake, because they tend to look toward their local fighters, but Chuckie has won three of his last five fights by knockout."
Sturm's last scrap was July 21 in Washington. That night he KO'd Darryl Richardson in the fifth round of a lightweight bout (135 pounds). He has been ranked as high as 12th by the U.S. Boxing Association in the lightweight division.
Tomorrow night he steps up to 140 pounds, but Gilbert doesn't see that or the fact Sturm's schedule was curtailed by a truck accident back in February as problems. Sturm's left elbow was injured while driving a truck for Murph Fraley's construction company, and he had a half-inch of bone shaved off during surgery.
The injury has not affected Sturm's performance in the ring, but it has limited his activity. He's had a few fights since his nearly three-month recovery, but Gilbert said, "I just wish he could have had three more fights because Chuck is better when he stays active."
Sturm, who developed quite a local following at the Max Kisner dinner and boxing shows beginning back in 1987 (25 to 30 people, including his dad, Charles, are expected to trek up to Atlantic City tomorrow night), is confident he can get the job done despite his inactivity since the accident.
"I'm not worried about that, my left elbow feels good," Sturm said from the Glen Burnie apartment he shares with his biggest fan and wife, Tracy.
"I've trained as hard for this one as I have for any other fight. You don't want to over-train and I haven't."
Sturm and his camp of Gilbert, Jimmy Hines and Norman Sharp -- the corner trio he fondly calls "my eyes" -- agree that Burghese is like looking in the mirror. It could be like shadow boxing.
"He comes straight in and fights a lot like I do. I've got to watch his head and elbows," said Sturm.
Gilbert said it's a matchup of two strong-willed warriors who don't quit, aren't used to losing and are in tip-top shape.
"I see the first four to five rounds as a clash of the wills and the final five as a clash of the skills, and that's where Chuck has the edge," Gilbert said.
"There is no question that Burghese has fought better competition, but Chuck is determined, and the step up to 140 is no problem at all. He had to fight a lot of lightweights at La Fontaine Bleu just to have opponents.
Believe me the extra weight is no problem for Chuck."
Both of Burghese's losses found him on the canvas, semi-knocked out by the No. 1 world junior welterweight contender and former International Boxing Federation champion Vinny Pazienza and No. 5-ranked Johnny Rafuse.
"Burghese packs a good punch. He's never been completely knocked out," said Gilbert. "He's gone down for the count, but was on his feet at the end in each fight. The fights were stopped but he's never been totally out."
Gilbert said Pazienza, who took Burghese out in the sixth round, overwhelmed Burghese with his hand speed, and Rafuse was like a loose cannon who didn't stop firing until Vinny went down. Rafuse got Burghese in round nine.