Ronald Hearns gets title fight on Feb. 19
More than two decades after boxing great Thomas Hearns last held a portion of the middleweight title, Ronald Hearns, his son, will have a chance to bring a 160-pound belt back into the family.
Ronald Hearns will challenge Felix Sturm for his title Feb. 19 in Stuttgart, Germany, promoter Lou DiBella told ESPN.com on Thursday.
"We've agreed in principle on the terms and we are exchanging the paperwork," DiBella said of his deal with Arena Box promoter Ahmet Íner, who works with Sturm's own promotional company on his fights. "We hope to have it signed by Saturday."
Among his many world titles, Thomas Hearns won a vacant middleweight belt by knocking out Juan Domingo Roldan in the fourth round in 1987 before being upset on a third-round knockout by Iran Barkley in his first defense in June 1988.
Now Ronald Hearns will get a middleweight title opportunity despite a thin resume.
"It's a tremendous career opportunity for Ronald," DiBella said. "It's a shot at a title his father once held so proudly."
Hearns (26-1, 20 KOs), 32, had limited amateur experience and didn't turn pro until he was 25. He suffered an upset loss to Harry Joe Yorgey when he was knocked out in the ninth round in March 2009. But Hearns has rebounded by reeling off five consecutive victories, although none against a top contender.
Sturm, 31, of Germany, will be making his ninth title defense. Sturm (34-2-1, 14 KOs) fought only once in 2010, winning a dominant decision against New York-based Giovanni Lorenzo of the Dominican Republic on Sept. 4.
DiBella knows Hearns, who will reap a six-figure payday, will be a significant underdog.
"I think that Sturm is extremely talented. We all know that, but he's been around for a long time," DiBella said. "He's not a huge puncher and Ronald can really punch, so it's a great opportunity for him. It's an opportunity he won't get here [in the United States].
"If Ronald can go to Germany and do well, even if he loses, he can come back here bigger than when he left. He'll go there and give it everything he has against one of the best middleweights in the world."
DiBella also promotes Sergio Martinez, the lineal and recognized middleweight champion. He has talked with Sturm's camp about a possible fight with Martinez in 2011 if he beats Hearns and Martinez retains his title in a fight being planned for March 12.
DiBella said two other fighters he promotes, former welterweight titlist Kermit Cintron and Peter Manfredo, were both considered for the fight with Sturm.
However, DiBella said Cintron, who fights at junior middleweight, was not interested in moving up to middleweight because he prefers to remain at 154 pounds or drop back to the 147-pound welterweight division, where he would like to fight titleholder Andre Berto, who is also promoted by DiBella.
Manfredo could not accept the fight with Sturm even if he wanted it because he is already locked into a Jan. 14 fight against Daniel Edouard on the second card of ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights."
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter.