In an intriguing middleweight match-up IBF #1 Sam Soliman is looking to consolidate his position as the top contender to unified champion Jermain Taylor’s throne with a victory over WBC and WBA #1 Ronald ‘Winky’ Wright on December 10th at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Photo © German Villasenor
The winner of the Soliman vs Wright fight will become the mandatory contender to the winner of the WBC/WBA/IBF/WBO title rematch between Taylor and former longtime middleweight kingpin Bernard ‘The Executioner’ Hopkins that will take place a week earlier on December 3rd.
Soliman, who was in negotiations to fight former WBA middleweight titleholder William Joppy on the Taylor-Hopkins undercard, has instead found himself a more formidable opponent in often avoided former unified junior middleweight champion Wright, 49-3 (25). And that’s just the way the 31-year-old Melbournian likes it.
“I’ll fight whoever is the best fighter out there mate,” said Soliman, who defeated rugged Ecuadorian Fernando Zuniga in temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius in July this year in his last bout. “I’m going to give it everything I’ve got and do Australia proud. I feel like I’m the last of the Mohicans and that’s not a bad thing because I know that I don’t crack under pressure and I never have before, so I’m sure I won’t this time. I watched his last ten fights and I’m prepared for anything he’s got.”
After years of being avoided by the best fighters in the game and ignored by fight fans around the world, southpaw Wright finally came into his own with back-to-back decision wins over three division champion ‘Sugar’ Shane Mosley. In his sole fight at middleweight Wright repelled the challenge Felix Trinidad with surprising ease in May of this year, forcing the Puerto Rican legend into a second retirement after the humiliatingly one-sided loss.
“I just have to be on my game on the day,” said Soliman, 31-7 (12). “Anyone who isn’t won’t beat Winky. That’s how good of a fighter I believe Winky is. I think he’s best fighter in the game pound-for-pound and Mayweather himself is under Winky.
“If you’re not on your game, Winky will find a way to beat you before the end of the twelve rounds.”
Soliman, who has a professed love for fighting southpaws, was in fine comic form when asked how he plans to get through Wright’s notoriously tight guard.
“I’ll resort to kickboxing I think,” laughed the former feet-and-fist fighter. “I’ll find a way to do it, throw a couple of kicks.
“Every fighter has something of a guard and I’ve always gotten through it before, so there’s no reason why I can’t get through this one.”
While many fighters prefer to follow the low risk, high reward path to the championship, Soliman is adamant that the only way you can call yourself the best is by fighting and defeating the best.
“My favourite thing about this fight that will build it up to be as big as it’s going to be is the fact that it’s the best fighting the best,” said Soliman. “And that’s what boxing is all about. That’s what boxing was about before and that’s what I want to bring boxing back to today. The best fighting the best, no building up records, no hand picking opponents, it’s not all politically motivated and about money. The best fighting the best for the right to fight the champ. And that’s how it should be, that’s how it should always be and that’s how it should stay at the end.”
It’s a refreshing attitude to have in boxing’s current climate, but Soliman insists that it can’t be any other way.
“At the end of the day it’s common sense,” continued Soliman. “It’s not like ‘should we think of it that way or shouldn’t we?’ If you don’t view it that way then you don’t know what are you thinking about? Not much at all. And at the end of day that’s what boxing is all about.”
While Soliman had Hopkins winning the first fight with Taylor by a point, he admits that he doesn’t care who wins the rematch as long as he gets to face the winner.
“If Jermain won and I fought Bernard I’d be shattered,” explained Soliman. “If Bernard won and I fought Jermain I’d be shattered. I don’t see how you can look in the mirror and say you beat the man when the man is not the real champ.
“Yet some people don’t think like that. Alot of fighters out there just want to make their buck and get out. Other fighters just want to beat whoever they can to get to the top and then get out as soon as they can. And then there’s the ones who have the passion to be the best and who want to look in the mirror after beating the champ and congratulate themselves.”
It’s obvious what category Soliman fits into.
* LATE NEWS: It is now being reported that Jermain Taylor has vacated his IBF middleweight title ahead of his rematch with former champion Bernard Hopkins on December 3rd in Las Vegas, Nevada. With Soliman already signed on to fight Wright a week later, it looks like IBF #2 Kingsley Ikeke could be fighting for the vacant title against an opponent to be named. If the IBF want to retain some semblance of credibility the only move they can reasonably make it to sanction the Wright versus Soliman fight for their vacant title. Anything else would be a farce.
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