OBERHAUSEN, Germany -- IBF middleweight champion Daniel Geale of Australia defeated Felix Sturm on a split decision to take the German's WBA title in their unification bout on Saturday night.
Judges Stanley Christodoulou and Dave Parris both scored the bout 116-112 in favour of Geale, while Eugene Grant gave it 116-112 to Sturm.
"The judges scored it that way, you have to accept it. That's boxing," Sturm said. "Geale punched more, I landed the cleaner hits ... he boxed superbly, gave all he got."
Geale also won his IBF belt on a split decision in Germany, and he was making his third defence of the title he won by beating Sebastian Sylvester in Neubrandenburg last May.
The 31-year-old fighter appeared more active throughout, ducking and evading Sturm's heaviest blows though the defending WBA champion managed to deliver some of his powerful left jabs.
Geale was left with a small cut after the second round, while Sturm had a cut under his left eye from the eighth.
Sensing a close decision, both fighters stepped up the pressure in the final round, which ended in a flurry of punches.
Geale raised his arm as the bell sounded on a bout that could have gone either way. The decision was greeted by a chorus of whistles from the partisan crowd.
"Felix has been a world champion for a long time. It was a tough fight," said Geale, who improves his record to 28-1 with 15 KOs.
Sturm, a German of Bosnian descent, drops to 37-3-2 with 16 KOs after the 33-year-old's first defeat since 2006, when he lost to Javier Castillejo. He won the WBA title back from the Spaniard the following year and successfully defended it 12 times, each time in Germany.