SAM Soliman’s journey to the IBF middleweight title was something out of a Hollywood film script.
Fights on the road on short notice, fighting out of his weight division, a failed albeit overturned drugs test and winning the title in Germany against a fighter he had already defeated.
The journey as the champion starts this week when Soliman defends his title against former undisputed middleweight champion Jermain Taylor at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Just under a decade ago, Taylor, 36, was considered as the lineal middleweight champion, having dethroned future Hall-of-Famer Bernard Hopkins in a remarkable performance over two fights, winning both on points.
Since then, Taylor (32-4-1, 20 KOs) has had mixed success, most notably a run of four losses in five fights, with three of those going by knockout. Following his loss to Arthur Abraham – a twelfth round knockout loss – Taylor was diagnosed with a brain bleed.
Since then, he has responded with four consecutive wins, which Soliman highlights as the real gauge to his ability going in their fight.
“A true champion never really loses his stripes,” said Soliman in an exclusive interview with Aus-Boxing. “After winning his last four fights and going through what he went through – he has defied the critics.”
“But he must remember I have done this with my last ten fights and against higher calibre opponents.”
Soliman (44-11, 18 KOs) will look to put his name into the unification title mix, with possible fights in the pipeline against unified WBA/IBO titlist Gennady Golovkin as well as WBC middleweight champion Miguel Cotto.
Despite his age, Soliman, 40, is able to understand and acknowledge his story and sees his rise to the title as part of his motivation to stay on top and is wary of the threat that the clearly underestimated Taylor represents.
As he did in the build-up to his title win over Felix Sturm, Soliman has worked extensively with undefeated Melbourne-based prospects Jake Carr, Zac Dunn and Michael Zerafa.
“My journey has been like something out of a movie. It has added a spark to everything I do in the square ring.” Soliman continued. “It is hard to look past a four-time undisputed world champion who has just come off four wins.”
“The harder I work in the gym, the easier it makes work for me in the fight, as it is in any sport. We had two undefeated young guns to spar with here in Pop’s gym in the Bronx as well as the young talented guys I’ve been sparring in Melbourne. I’m ready.”
For Soliman, a win over Taylor would serve as bitter sweet revenge, as Soliman was the mandatory challenger for Bernard Hopkins’ IBF strap for several months – only to be pipped at the post by Taylor – who ironically beat Hopkins and is now challenging Soliman.
In true workmanlike fashion, Soliman treats Taylor with respect, but at the same time will take solace out of a win, which in his eyes is a long time coming.
“For me, it’s payback time.”
Photo: Provided/Team Soliman (SS Promotions)