- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Middleweight titleholder Sebastian Sylvester and cruiserweight titlist Steve Cunningham will both get an early start to their 2011 campaigns.
Sylvester will make his fourth title defense against Mehdi Bouadla (21-3, 10 KOs) of France while Cunningham will put his belt on the line against mandatory challenger Enad Licina in the co-feature of a card in Neubrandenburg, Germany, on Jan. 22, promoter Sauerland Event announced Monday.
Germany's Sylvester (34-3-1, 16 KOs) is coming off an October title defense in which he dropped countryman Mahir Oral three times en route to a lopsided decision victory.
"I look forward to fighting in Neubrandenburg again. It is like my second home and I intend to
deliver my fans another exciting evening," Sylvester said. "Bouadla is a strong and
aggressive fighter, but together with my coach, Karsten Rower, we will find a way to beat him."
It will be the second fight for Philadelphia's Cunningham (23-2, 12 KOs) since signing with Sauerland Event, which promotes several top cruiserweights and hopes to eventually match them in a tournament. In his first fight for the company, Cunningham stopped Troy Ross in the fifth round in June to regain the vacant belt he once owned.
Licina (19-2, 10 KOs), a native of Serbia living in Germany, became Cunningham's mandatory challenger with a decision win against Felix Cora Jr. on Nov. 13 in England.
"I'm looking forward to getting back in the ring," Cunningham said. "I'm working hard to win and retain my title on Jan. 22. I still feel the world hasn't seen the best of Steve Cunningham yet. I'm expecting a hard fight from Licina. I know he'll come prepared."
Said Licina: "Every world champion is beatable. Cunningham is a strong fighter but I have spotted some weaknesses and we are going to exploit them."
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter.