1. Dec, 2016

The surprise packet

The Age : Author Stathi Paxinos

Sam Soliman is out to prove he is worthy of fighting the great
Ronald Wright, Stathi Paxinos reports

SAM Soliman and his entourage are well aware of the comments that are coming out of America about his fight against Ronald "Winky" Wright. Descriptions such as "obscure" and "unknown" Australian have filled boxing websites when talking about Soliman, even though he has held the No. 1 contender position in the International Boxing Federation middleweight ranks for more than a year.

Wright, regarded as one of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the world, has described the match-up against Soliman as a let-down after his demolition of marquee fighters Shane Mosley (twice) and Felix Trinidad. The best he has reportedly been able to summon up about Soliman is that "this dude" had to be a "good fighter" because he is the IBF's No. 1 contender.

Wright is looking for a shot at the winner of the Jermain Taylor and Bernard Hopkins world title rematch and he has to go through Soliman on December 11 to get it by adding the IBF ranking to the corresponding status he holds with the World Boxing Association and World Boxing Council. Otherwise, the story in America goes, Soliman would never have been deemed worthy of getting into the same ring as the American superstar.

All this is music to the ears of the Soliman camp. The 32-year-old Australian has the same world title aspirations, and led by trainer Dave Hedgcock and manager Stuart Duncan, they have been defiant in the face of such dismissive attitudes. Hedgcock, in particular, is not averse to the grandiose in holding his ground against the ridicule from America, claiming Soliman can not only take Wright but that he could also beat former undisputed middleweight king Hopkins, who ruled the division for a decade, and his conqueror Taylor.

"I think pound for pound, (Wright) is the best in-form fighter in the world at the moment, but he's not as good as Sam Soliman," Hedgcock said. "Sam Soliman will beat Winky Wright. We could have taken someone else and just had another fight, but we took Winky Wright because Sam wants to fight the best.

"We're going over to his home town, his promoter is putting the show on and once again, we've got the odds stacked against us. That's the way we like it because this kid lifts for the occasion. The more danger we are in, the more dangerous he is."

Hedgcock said former kick-boxing champion Soliman's awkward style - where he keeps a high work-rate and throws punches from non-traditional angles - would confuse and frustrate Wright and would not let him dictate terms like he did against Mosley and Trinidad.
"He's going to be taken into uncharted waters with us," Hedgcock said. "He's going to have someone in front of him who he hasn't had in front of him before and I think with Winky Wright, we are going to force him to make mistakes because he is going to have to fight a little bit differently to combat Sam.

"He can box a boxer, fight a fighter and he can brawl a brawler and he can do it all in the one day or all in the one round and that's the beauty of Sam Soliman," Hedgcock said.

"His mental preparation is as good as his physical preparation and he's a very, very determined young man and you have to be to push yourself to the areas he pushes himself in."

Soliman, who has not lost in his past 19 fights since his 2001 loss to Anthony Mundine, is also upbeat.

He has been thereabouts in the rankings for a while, but without drawing power in America has found himself languishing at the top of the heap without gaining a world title shot.

"It's been a long-time, long-time dream coming," Soliman said. "I love it, I wouldn't be in it if I didn't love it.

"I've got a great team. I never had a team like this work with me in my earlier part of my career . . . it's made the biggest difference in my performances."

Fellow Australian middleweight Shannan Taylor, who will be fighting for the lightly regarded International Boxing Organisation title against champion Raymond Joval on November 27 in Melbourne, said Soliman could win but questioned whether Soliman, who has a poor knockout ratio (only 12 of his 31 wins have come by stoppage) has the power to disturb Wright, who is regarded as one of the world's best defensive fighters.

"When you're not on your game, he can beat you. He can't punch . . . but he just keeps coming from angles like you wouldn't believe," Taylor said.