Sturm is putting on the Ritz Truckin' fighter makes big time

August 10, 1993|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

Boxing at the Ritz. Black ties and tails. Tickets priced at $1,500 and $1,000. And a World Boxing Organization lightweight crown at stake.

That is the glitz awaiting Baltimore boxer Chuck Sturm at the Ritz-Carlton in Aspen, Colo., Dec. 28, when he will challenge the winner of September's WBO mandatory title match between champion Giovanni Parisi of Italy and challenger Tonito Rivera of Puerto Rico.

Sturm, 28, has spent most of his nine-year professional ring career fighting on small club shows at Teamsters Hall and in the Glen Burnie area.

But now, he has been introduced to the other side of boxing's spectrum, rubbing elbows with jet-setters and millionaires who are putting together the charity show to benefit the Aspen Youth Center.

"It was like stepping into another world," said Sturm, from Millersville, who supplements his modest boxing income by working full-time as a truck driver on the Eastern Shore.

Boxing is equally foreign to Aspen residents and the celebrities who frequent the slopes in ski season. Town historians say the last boxing match there was staged in 1900.

It took promoter Don Elbaum, who held a number of fights in Maryland and managed former welterweight king Simon Brown, to reintroduce boxing to Aspen.

Backed by Paul Steinberg and attorney John Capack, Philadelphians who journey to Aspen in the winter, Elbaum sold the town on using a fight card as a fund-raising vehicle.

"We're only selling 600 tickets in the Ritz ballroom," said Elbaum, "but the whole town got behind this. A sellout should gross over $600,000, and the area youth will reap the rewards.

Sturm (28-3-1), who earned $1,000 for winning an eight-round decision over Glenn Randolph at Michael's Glen Burnie on May 8, is expected to earn at least $10,000 for his first title shot.

The WBO is the least known of pro boxing's four major sanctioning bodies, but it has gained more acceptance in recent years with the naming of Jose Torres, the former light-heavyweight champion and New York boxing commissioner, as its president.

English middleweight Chris Eubank is the best-known WBO champion. Tommy Morrison won the vacant heavyweight crown by outpointing George Foreman.

"For me, it represents a world title," said Sturm, who began boxing as an amateur at age 8, but later developed into a high school wrestling champion at Old Mill. "I'm really busting my butt in training. I don't care if I fight Parisi or Rivera. I know I'm going to win."

Sturm has had a number of physical setbacks as a fighter. Injuries to his elbow and shoulder caused lengthy layoffs, and a retina problem kept him sidelined for 18 months.

"All that's behind me now," said Sturm, who is managed by Frank Gilbert and trained by Jimmy Hines at the Loch Raven Optimist gym. "I'm feeling 100 percent. I've worked too long and hard for anything to stop me now."

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