DUESSELDORF, Germany -- Sam Soliman of Australia defeated former WBA champion Felix Sturm by unanimous decision in their IBF middleweight title eliminator on Friday.
Sturm sent his opponent on the canvas in the second round with a swinging right but Soliman somehow got up, and improved as the bout went on.
"I landed the clearer punches but I can't tell what's in the judges' heads," Sturm said.
The judges awarded it 116-111, 114-113, 114-113 to the 39-year-old Australian, who will next fight compatriot Daniel Geale for the IBF title.
Sturm clearly dominated the early rounds but then found it harder to deal with Soliman's awkward, crouching style.
"He was very hard to fight but you can't anything about it," Sturm said. "Now I'll spend some time with my family and see what happens next."
There was a moment of confusion as Michael Buffer announced the judges had awarded it to Sturm, only to correct himself as the German and the crowd were celebrating.
Soliman improved to 42-11 with 17 KOs, while Sturm, a German of Bosnian descent, dropped to 37-4-2 (16 KOs) on the day after his 34th birthday.
It was Sturm's second consecutive defeat after losing his WBA title to Geale in September. His previous loss was in 2006 to Javier Castillejo of Spain.