BERLIN - Australia's Daniel Geale was crowned the new unified IBF and WBA middleweight world champion on Saturday night following his split decision win over Germany's Felix Sturm.

The 31-year-old Tasmanian took the unification bout when the three judges scored the fight 116-112 to Sturm, then 116-112, 116-112 to Geale, who claimed the German's WBA middleweight title in Oberhausen, west Germany. "Of course, I expected him to be strong, Felix is a good champion, it was a tough, very hard fight," said Geale who beat Germany's Sebastian Sylvester in May 2011 to win the IBF title. "I have been improving with every fight and I am just so happy to have come here and done this. Everyone has given me lots of great support, without these guys I wouldn't be here. I hope we can have a rematch, that was a great fight."

This was the 28th win of Geale's 29 fight career with a 2009 split-decision defeat to compatriot Anthony Mundine his only loss. It was Sturm's first defeat since he suffered a 10th-round technical knock-out in July 2006 against Spain's Javier Castillejo and was his first defeat after 13 defences of his belt.

"I have to accept the decision, that is boxing," said the 33-year-old German who suffered the third defeat of his 42 fight career. "He did well on his side, he boxed awesomely and gave his best and I simply have to accept it. It's a bitter defeat, but I had my chances. I had a few people backing me, (Manchester City striker) Edin Dzeko flew here to support me. I hope to have a rematch, we'll see."

Sturm started strongly, landing some telling punches in the opening two rounds, one telling head shot in the second round opened up a cut on the side of Geale's head, but the Australian finished the third round strongly. The Australian used Sturm's high guard to land several body shots and a heavy right at the end of the round.

Sturm used his jab well, but the fourth round ended with a flurry of punches from both fighters. After Sturm was strong in the fifth, with a series of jabs and upper-cuts, Geale upped his work rate in the sixth to land several shots. However, there was little to separate the pair by the halfway stage.

Geale boxed more aggressively in the seventh, landing a good head shot late in the round, while Sturm landed a heavy head shot at the end of the eighth. Sturm impressed in the ninth with a series of head, body shots, but the German was rocked by a good combination by Geale midway through the tenth, which fired up Sturm to come out firing for the 11th.

Geale had more in reserve for the final two rounds and he landed some solid shots, leaving Sturm's face marked by the last bell as the final count went his way.