A 'Pit Bull' returns to the ring Chuck Sturm's 19-month layoff to end with Thursday fight in Glen Burnie

June 21, 1992|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Staff Writer

Tracey Sturm takes pride in the delicious meals she serves her husband, Chuck, despite their often-conflicting schedules. So, it's small wonder she had trouble digesting his idea of an appetizing snack last week.

"You should have seen it," she said, crinkling her nose. "He mixed a banana, raisins, cottage cheese and ice cream. It was disgusting."

"It was frozen yogurt, not ice cream," Chuck said, as if altering the final ingredient would change her opinion.

Chuck Sturm, the truck driver -- his usual vocation -- may not have been as tempted to spoon such a concoction into his system, but Chuck Sturm, the boxer, didn't think twice. The nutritional benefits are part of his preparation for Thursday night's comeback fight at Michael's Eighth Avenue in Glen Burnie.

Sturm, 27, will headline the six-fight card put together by Round One Promotions when he battles Tony Ruthledge, 32, of Ohio, in a scheduled eight-round lightweight bout. This will mark Sturm's first action in the ring since November 1990, and his first appearance in the county, where he is revered by local boxing fans, in almost three years.

"We need Chuckie here to build up boxing in Anne Arundel County. He's one of our strongest draws," said Carl Harding, owner of the Harding/Lowry gym in Pasadena, where Sturm sweated through a one-hour, 10-minute workout Thursday evening. "I just hope everything goes well for him and he can keep boxing."

He isn't the only one.

Tracey worries about her husband's health, especially the right eye that caused his long layoff following a controversial 10-round loss to Vinnie Burgese in Atlantic City -- a bout that netted Sturm's largest paycheck at $3,500. His blurred vision, which began two months before the Burgese fight, was attributed to nerve damage, but the problem has subsided.

"Oh, I'm 100 percent," he said, when asked about his physical condition. "I'm in shape and ready to roll."

"I just hope for the best," Tracey said. "I had somebody talking negative to me the other day, and it just sounded so terrible. I try not to think about that. He's just got to use his best judgment. He has to make the decision, and I'll support him."

Sturm, a two-time state wrestling champion at Old Mill High School, began training two months ago after being cleared by doctors and the Maryland State Athletic Commission to resume his boxing career. He does most of his sparring at a Loch Raven gym, but makes the shorter commute from his Pasadena home to the Harding/Lowry facility to work out.

He tipped the scales at nearly 160 pounds back in April, but since then has gotten his weight down to the desired 135. He says the girth came off "pretty easy," and you need only to watch him for a short time to understand why.

Donning a thick blue sweat shirt and spandex biking shorts, Sturm enters the Harding/Lowry gym -- a converted garage that holds a ring and has a timer mounted on one wall -- laces up his shoes and begins shadowboxing.

For six rounds. Without breathing heavily.

Occasionally, he buries his fists into a heavy bag that hangs from a steel beam above the canvas. Even during the one-minute intervals between rounds, his hands are never idle. And neither are his feet, as he stalks around the ring, bobbing his head and swiping at an imaginary opponent.

"He's one of the most well-conditioned boxers I've ever seen in the state of Maryland," said Harding, sitting nearby. "I've never seen him get into a ring and look like he wasn't prepared. I've seen him fight 10-round fights and fight the 10th round just like he did the first."

Then Sturm (22-3-1) leaves the ring and moves to an other heavy bag. Wearing red gloves, he begins jabbing lightly, then increasing the speed and volume of punches until the gym echoes from the impact of leather upon leather and the accompanying grunts. He hasn't lost the sounds that emanate from a boxer.

And he hasn't lost his love of the sport, even if it doesn't always treat him fairly.

"It's in my blood," he said. "It's something that you really can't explain. It's the competition, it's that drive to be somebody. When it comes to the fire and the excitement for the fight, that hasn't changed at all. I still have that."

Another couple of rounds are burned off, and Sturm re-enters the ring along with a novice boxer named Don Weiland. Wearing headgear and a mouthpiece, Sturm tells the 21-year-old Ferndale resident to "relax, we're just going to work." He proceeds to slip more punches than he throws, confounding an exhausted Weiland for two rounds.

As the bell rings signaling an end to their sparring, Weiland closes his eyes, tilts back his head and grimaces as he attempts to catch his breath. Sturm thanks his partner, removes his mouthpiece and refuses an offer of water.

Looking at the clock, Sturm is happy to see that only 50 minutes have passed since he walked into the gym.

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