Dogfight: Wright vs. Soliman
 By Coyote Duran and Anthony Cocks (December 12, 2005)  
Tonight former undisputed junior middleweight champion Ronald ‘Winky’ Wright, 49-3 (25), continues his middleweight campaign when he takes on unheralded Australian Sam ‘King’ Soliman, 31-7 (12), on HBO Championship Boxing from the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut. The winner will secure the mandatory contender position in the WBC, WBA and IBF rankings. While Wright has earned the right to be recognized as one of the best fighters pound-for-pound on the planet, the little known Soliman remains a dark horse and long shot outsider to win the fight. Does Soliman really have a chance or will this fight turn into another textbook Winky Wright clinic? Coyote Duran and Anthony Cocks examine both fighters’ formline going in to the fight.

Coyote Duran: Instead of asking yourself why former Undisputed World Junior Middleweight Champion Ronald ‘Winky’ Wright is facing sturdy Egyptian-Australian Sam ‘King’ Soliman, ask yourself, ‘Why not?’ Soliman’s a tough customer who’s lost but has never been stopped. It’s a good test for Wright, a serious challenge for Soliman and, at the very least, it’s an eliminator for the IBF middleweight strap (for what it’s worth).

Now ask yourself how Winky’ll beat him Saturday night.

Don’t just up and declare that Winky’ll win because the alliteration seems right. Any fool can say that. Don’t take the cheap way out. At least not until you’ve got statistical evidence to back up the claim. What better place to start than with records?

Compare Wright to Soliman. Wright hasn’t lost in six years. He hasn’t necessarily faced a murderer’s row of opponents since losing a disputed decision to Fernando Vargas but the strides he’s taken in less than three years since have covered a lot of ground. Not like anyone needs the reminder but besides unifying the 154-pound weight class and schooling former pound-for-pound entrant Shane Mosley in the rematch, Wright spanked Felix Trinidad like he stole something (while sporting the most Goddamn painful-looking boil I’ve ever seen in my life on his neck all night!) and at a minimum, turned decent fringe contenders like Angel Hernandez and J.C. Candelo into has-beens. If that’s not enough, Wright’s the cat that only the rarest of the brave want to face and conquer because beating Wright is an accomplishment of its own. It’s as good as winning a belt, if not better.

Oscar De La Hoya ducked him (no matter how many various reports claim he wants to fight Wright now) and it sure looks like Bernard Hopkins wasn’t real hot about taking on the Floridian southpaw in the first place. Look at it this way: since Wright made the decision to vacate the 154-pound World title, the middleweight division got just a little more interesting. And it had nothing to do with the last two World Middleweight Championship fights.

Looking at Soliman’s record, you can see that the cat’s seen some action. He’s not what you’d consider a knockout artist but neither is Wright. There’s also a lot to be said about location and Soliman’s seen the best that Australia (Great Britain and Japan as well) can offer but that limits you when your next opponent fought twenty of his forty-nine opponents on foreign soil to put a good meal on the table, get a little face time with fans and make a name.

Opposition itself is somewhat dicey (since we’re going there) and the evidence never lies (says CSI’s Gil Grissom… and you know I believe him!). Wright became solid in the last two-and-a-half odd years and Soliman? Well, he beat (and was beaten by) Raymond Joval, a guy who still wound up being called the ‘best middleweight in the world’ if you believe the IBO, and knocked out some guy named ‘Moechrody’ (who the hell is ‘Moechrody’?!) who lost every single fight of his career (all eight) although he received two regional title shots (in his first and last fights!). Oh, I forgot. Soliman also lost to the same Ray Joval as well as Anthony Mundine. You know, the same Mundine that got knocked out in ten by feather-fisted Sven Ottke?

Now, mind you, my assumption of a victory for Wright, in this instance, in based on records alone. It’s no way foolproof. But I do believe it’s a telling template. Soliman is a distance guy and tough as concrete, knowing how to close the show when necessary and I think the same will apply in this fight in pertinence to distance. Wright’s too brilliant a tactician to allow Soliman the ops to slip into a tight defense and go to work. Sure, Soliman’s known to stay busy and keep sharp (brotha fought five times in 2003 and seven in 2004!) but that’s only proven that he can beat cats like Moechrody… OK, I’ll give him Nader Hamdan, too.

Records aside, Soliman’s expecting the wrong Wright on Saturday night if he thinks he’s in for a boring distance fight where he’ll come out looking like the busier, face-first fighter. Winky can hurt you and shake you if you’re not prepared and, at the least, jab you silly. Add the new plot twist of Wright suffering from a cold and you’ve now got a delightfully complacent opponent in Soliman who believes Wright is an easy mark to be had. I’m sorry. Wright’s come this far and he wants his middleweight props, and how. Combine that with Soliman’s penchant for keeping his hands low and you’ve got a guy who’s asking to be popped by a cute scorer.

Look for a runaway (but very entertaining with spirited input on behalf of ‘The King’) unanimous decision by Winky Wright over twelve rounds. Wright won’t score a KO and with a loss, Soliman still stays in the middleweight contention mix, thus possibly setting up a rematch down the line with the man who beat him. Next time, it’ll be for Wright’s World Middleweight Championship.

Sorry, Ant. You know I love ya.

Anthony Cocks: Platonic love aside, I’ve got to respectfully disagree with you there Coyote. Soliman remains one of the most dastardly difficult fighters on the planet to face, a riddle wrapped in an enigma neatly packaged in a perfect conundrum (yeah, I used the word ‘dastardly’… what of it?!). Forget what Winky brings to the table; this fight is going to be all about Soliman imposing his will.

Wright’s two wins over Shane Mosley are deceptive at best. Vernon Forrest already beat the tar out of the Sugarman twice and consensus opinion suggests that he hasn’t been the same fighter since. His only win in his four fights prior to facing Wright was a 7 round to 5 victory over Oscar De La Hoya that the majority of pundits feel he didn’t deserve. Wright’s only other signature win was a shutout decision over Felix Trinidad, who had had only one fight since retiring in 2001 after being owned by Bernard Hopkins.

Looking back through the Winkster’s resume, his next best wins have come against perennial contenders Bronco McKart, Angel Hernandez and J.C. Candelo. Every time Winky has stepped up his level of competition he has lost; Julio Cesar Vasquez and Fernando Vargas outpunched him, while Harry Simon outhustled him.

Sam Soliman fits into the Simon category. One of the fittest fighters in the game, Soliman trains like a demon whether he has a fight lined up or not. It’s this extreme level of fitness combined with his relentless workrate, punches from angles and awkward style that makes Soliman a very live underdog going into this fight. It also doesn’t hurt that Sammy has a particular predilection for fighting southpaws.

There’s no need to bring up Soliman’s early career record when eked out an 11-7 record in his first eighteen fights. At the time Soliman was self-managed fighter who lived by the triple-A creed: anyone, anytime, anyplace. Even a cursory glance at his record reveals a guy who was not afraid to jump from light middleweight to cruiserweight in the space of just one fight, even it meant weighing in with weights in his pockets.

Soliman’s coming of age occurred in 2001 when he faced a then red-hot Anthony Mundine. Based in England at the time, Soliman took the fight on five days notice and jumped on a long haul flight to Australia to fight eight pounds above his natural weight class for short money. In an entertaining scrap Soliman was unlucky not to get the nod from the judges after applying relentless pressure to Mundine for twelve fast-paced rounds.

In July last year Soliman reversed a previous close decision loss to Raymond Joval with a twelve round shutout of the technically adept Dutchman. It was a complete performance from Soliman, who dropped Joval with a cracking right uppercut in the fourth and continued to dominate down the stretch. Yet despite the one-sided nature of the contest, Soliman barely got out of second gear.

A lot has been made of Winky’s uniquely difficult style. But Soliman has a style that is equally as difficult to decipher and any presumption that the 32-year-old Australian will struggle with Wright’s defensively adept game is rendered moot by his own enigmatic attack.

Over the past couple of years I’ve had the pleasure of watching Soliman go through his paces in the gym on numerous occasions. Melbourne Cup Day 2004 stands out in particular (that’s the first Tuesday of November for those of you who don’t follow the international horse racing circuit). In a phone-booth sized ring Soliman worked through 13 rounds with undefeated power puncher Johnny Walker, underrated super middleweight Stewart Moller, veteran campaigner Heath Stenton and an amateur kid whose name escapes me. None of these guys could hit Soliman with a handful of rice. Speaking to Soliman after he finished up, he told me that he had already sparred six rounds that morning, making it a total of 19 rounds for the day. This was just four days before he was scheduled to fight Diego Castillo.

At 34-years-old and after 15 years in the pro ranks it’s fair to say that Wright is on his last legs and Soliman’s persistent attack will expose his faded star. If you can still get onboard at odds above 5-1, I would suggest that you do so and ensure yourself a Merry Christmas. On Saturday night the changing of the guard in the middleweight division will continue.


© Copyright / All Rights reserved: Doghouse Boxing 1998-2005