Talk Boxing with fight fans at the KO Boxing Forum.
The last time we saw middleweight Sam Soliman in a boxing ring, he was celebrating his biggest career victory, having unanimously outpointed Bosnian-German Felix Sturm in the latter's own backyard of Dusseldorf, Germany. Aussie Sam had just put forth almost certainly the finest performance of his career, recovering from a heavy second round knockdown to outspeed and outmanoeuvre Sturm. All this at the ripe old age of 39.
That fight took place in February of this year and was an elimination bout for the IBF middleweight title which, at the time, was held by Soliman's fellow countryman, Daniel Geale. With that victory, an all-Australian battle for the title lay in wait for Sam, along with a very healthy payday. Unfortunately, the walls came crashing down on Sam's joyous celebrations when, about a month after the fight, stories appeared that Soliman had failed a test, taken before the fight, for performance enhancing drugs. By then negotiations had already started with the Geale camp to make the aforementioned match.
Soliman was subsequently suspended for nine months by the German Boxing Board, but was so incensed by the way that the testing had been carried out that he appealed to the IBF to investigate. The IBF did so and eventually exonerated him from blame and stipulated that he would retain his number one ranking with their organisation. Sam still holds that ranking today. This not being enough for Soliman, he is even now challenging the German board's decision and has instructed German lawyers to act for him in his fight to restore his reputation. That situation is also still ongoing.
The fact that Soliman had just put the second consecutive defeat on Felix Sturm's record could be very relevant to the behind the scenes shenanigans that took place in the weeks following the fight. Sturm is a huge draw in Germany and makes a lot of money for a lot of people. Defeat to Soliman would have knocked him out of the picture, perhaps permanently. Following the positive drugs test, the result was changed from a Sturm loss to a no contest and Sturm lived to fight another day. Of course, surprise, surprise, he is now set to challenge the new IBF champion Darren Barker in Stuttgart this coming Saturday. All of this does not augur well for Barker's chances of escaping from Germany still wearing that belt. Nothing more needs to be said about this episode, other than that it is a perfect example of how economics rule the sport.
Now to the present day and Soliman, 42-11 (17), makes his return to the ring against a fellow Aussie - no, not Geale, but Les Sherrington, 33-6 (19), at The Melbourne Pavilion, Victoria, next Wednesday, 11 December. The belt on the line in this middleweight fight is the PABA, a WBA-affiliated Pacific title which carries with it an automatic top-15 ranking with that organisation. The victor will therefore open up a potential opportunity with that governing body. However, bearing in mind that their champion is Gennady Golovkin, perhaps the IBF version is the safer route after all!
Soliman, a pro since 1997, has been fighting in top class since the year 2000, when he won and then lost the Commonwealth middleweight belt. His opposition has been of a consistently higher class than Sherrington's, with his ledger showing matches against major belt-holders Winky Wright, Sakio Bika, Anthony Mundine and Felix Sturm. He won and lost against Bika and gave Wright a really difficult night when they fought in a world title eliminator in 2005. Wright was still a major force in the sport at the time. As stated above though, possibly Soliman's best performance came last time out against Sturm when he looked down and out in the second round but came back to box rings around his opponent and leave Sturm looking completely bemused.
Sherrington, on the other hand, has never boxed at top world level. His best opponents to date are probably local rivals Shannan Taylor, Jamie Pittman and Nader Hamdan and, even then, the wins over Taylor and Hamdan came when they were both well past their best. Not only that, but five of Sherrington's six defeats have come inside the distance, with him having suffered several knockdowns along the way. He was stopped way back in 2006 by the once-promising Pittman, (who also challenged Felix Sturm for the world title) and in Sherrington's last defeat, in May 2011, he was stopped by a fighter with a 7-24-1 record. Les could not continue that night due to a broken fibula, but he had sustained this injury whilst being knocked down in the first round.
Since returning to the ring following that defeat, Sherrington has scored six consecutive victories, although the opposition has been poor to say the least. Not an auspicious record then. Certainly not good enough to challenge a world class operator like Soliman. Sherrington holds a number eight ranking with the WBO, but bearing in mind that this is the organisation that has just made Alex Leapai mandatory challenger to Wladimir Klitschko, their rankings should be taken with a pinch of salt. Sherrington is ranked 31 in the world by Boxrec and this would seem to be a fairly accurate assessment of his real status in world terms.
Soliman is clearly a top 10 fighter and, following the Sturm fight, there is nothing to suggest that he is remotely on the slide, even at his current age of 40. Indeed, he is likely to be spurred on by the events which overtook him in Germany and will be fighting with his back against the wall. He knows a defeat at this stage of his career would signal the end of him at top level. Therefore, expect Sam's ringcraft, speed and movement to be far too much for Sherrington and to garner for himself a wide unanimous decision victory.
If Soliman is at one end of the age spectrum in Australian boxing, the undercard features two of the country's rising young starlets in Damian Hooper and Cameron Hammond. Both of these up and comers boxed for Australia in the London Olympics last year and represent the vanguard of the new batch of hopefuls coming through in that country. Many of the top luminaries in Australia are at the veteran stage, with Soliman, Anthony Mundine and Danny Green all fast approaching the end of their careers, so a lot is resting on the shoulders of these two.
Hooper, 21, is currently 5-0 (5), but suffered the indignity of a knockdown in the first round of his last fight before storming back to win by stoppage in the second round. He faces a 36-year-old Thai who has been stopped in five of his last six fights. Expect Hooper to continue that trend. Big things are hoped for from the Aboriginal-origin light-heavyweight. Hammond, a bit older at 24, is also 5-0 (3), and boxes at light-middleweight. He also has Thai opposition and, once again, his opponent has suffered five stoppage defeats in his last six fights. As with Hooper, Hammond will boost his record with another stoppage win.
Both of these fighters have signed promotional agreements with Hatton Promotions in England and it is hoped that British fight fans will get to see them fight live sooner rather than later.