Sam "The King" Soliman, the IBF's mandatory challenger at middleweight, faces off against big-punching Colombian Diego Castillo tonight in a scheduled ten-round bout from the University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba, Australia. Also on the Blue Corner Promotions card are Michael Katsidis, Jason Pearce, Danny Bellart, and Colin Wilson. Boxingtalk.com caught up with Sam as he finalized his preparation for the Castillo bout. You wont want to miss hearing what Boxingtalk's #6 rated middleweight had to say.
Soliman has fought tooth and nail his entire career to get where he is today as the IBF number one ranked contender to undisputed world champion Bernard Hopkins (although WBC mandatory Howard Eastman appears to have a quicker path to Hopkins). While many fighters who attain such lofty heights begin their careers guided by powerful promoters who engineer a less than strenuous early fight schedule, Soliman came up the hard way. In just his second pro bout he fought for the Australian cruiserweight title and knocked out opponent Peter Kinsella in twelve. Two months later, in his third pro fight, Soliman faced tough Kevin Kelly for the Commonwealth and Australian light middleweight crowns, losing a unanimous decision. The next fight was three months after that when Soliman went back up to cruiser to defend his title but lost it to Adrian Bellin.
That kind of gonzo matchmaking and weight jumping typified Soliman's early career and it wasn't until he beat Neville Brown for the Commonwealth middleweight belt in 2000 that he settled down into some type of stability. Soliman has stayed at middle except for three fights a division higher, including a controversial split decision loss to future world champion Anthony Mundine in 2001. Since that time Soliman has won fifteen straight bouts, over opposition such as Nader Hamden, Eric Teymour, Sean Sullivan, Satoru Suzuki and Sakio Bika and picked up the IBF Pan Pacific and the OPBF middleweight titles.
With the guidance of manager Stuart Duncan and recently, promoter Dan Goosen, Soliman became the IBF's number one contender at middleweight by posting a win over Raymond Joval in a rematch from his loss to the Dutchman almost four years ago. Now, the Australian faces Diego Castillo, 21-2 (18), a heavy handed thirty year old from Cali, Colombia.
Castillo has campaigned for most of his career as a welterweight, winning Colombian title but came up empty when attempting to obtain the WBO Latino crown against tough journeyman Jose Rosa Gomez. The Dominican knocked out the previously unbeaten Castillo in four, sending the Colombian into a two year hiatus. When he returned in April of last year, it was at light middle, pounding out a two round stoppage from hapless Over Esquivell. Just one month later in May of 2003, a career making opportunity came in the form of a showdown with former world champion Javier Castillejo for the WBC interim title. The massive step up in class proved too much for Castillo who never made it out of the first round and has been inactive ever since.
Soliman doesn't know much detail about his opponent for this evening but is aware of Castillo's attention getting record. "All I know about Castillo is that he has eighteen knockouts in twenty one victories," said the man also known as "The Ghost" for his uncanny ability to not get hit. "That's not too bad, is it? Everyone is asking me why I would fight someone with that high a knockout ratio when I'm the number one contender. If anyone examines my record, I've fought everyone in many different weight divisions and never had a problem. None of them have ever hurt me by landing a punch, so why should this be any different? Without trying to sound too cocky or overconfident, I believe that if you train to the point of true one hundred percent fitness, it doesn't matter who is up in front of you. You can't lose the fight, assuming you have the abilities to win it (laughs)!"
While Soliman has his sights set on Castillo, the fight he really wants is the one every other middleweight in the world lusts after as well; Undisputed Middleweight Champion Bernard Hopkins. One advantage Soliman does have over many other hopefuls is his number one ranking IBF but knows that the Philadelphian wonder is nearing the end of his career and may choose not to face him. "Everyone I've fought has been a good opponent," he said. "But people tell me that I won't be able to set the incredibly high pace I've pulled off against those fighters if were to face Bernard Hopkins. Well, the fighters I've fought have been anything but handpicked and if I can set that pace with them then I will be able to do that pace with Bernard Hopkins, no problems. I won't be shattered if at the end of the day Hopkins decides he's not going to fight me as I'm a thirty year old, busy punching guy who's very awkward and difficult to hit. If he doesn't fight me then I'll just fight another top contender. God works in mysterious ways."
In particular, Soliman would like the chance to face a few other top middleweights for very different reasons. "I'd like to get my revenge against Howard Eastman, the current European, Commonwealth and British Champion, (Soliman lost a close fight to Eastman in 2000) and that's personal," remarked the Australian. "Felix Trinidad has added some things to his game since his layoff and I see him as being a more difficult opponent than Hopkins. Trinidad beat Mayorga by setting a breakneck pace for a long time and I think that if he would have fought that way against Bernard, there may have been a different result. He sort of sat right in front of Hopkins and gave him too much respect and that's why Bernard stopped him."
"One guy I don't want to give an opportunity to is Jermaine Taylor. We chased him how many times? And he's found an excuse every single time and he's just done the same thing with Howard Eastman. Eastman should've gotten that fight against Taylor but instead Taylor's people went for William Joppy. I don't think Jermaine deserves the right to fight me for my number one position. Same thing with Anthony Mundine, I'll make him wait if I get to be world champion. I know it's not Jermaine's fault because I know he'd fight me tomorrow, he'd fight anybody tomorrow. It's his management that's been protecting him, hiding him in cotton wool. For that reason I think that when Jermaine does get in the deep end, he'll get cold feet because he's never been there before."
Sam Soliman is on a mission to become the middleweight champion of the world and won't rest until he makes that a reality. "I'm going to do in this fight what I did with Joval, and that's sit down on my punches early instead of just throwing a thousand shots like I normally do and winning on points," he said. "I think Joval is a class above Castillo in experience and toughness though, and I don't think Castillo will be able to take the same amount of punishment as Joval did. But then again, never underestimate anyone with eighteen knockouts in twenty one victories! Right now I want to win this fight and then go on to get a chance to fight for the world title but apart from that, I'm getting married on December 14th and that's the only thing better than being number one in the world! So, if anyone reading this is in Melbourne, Australia on December 14th, come on by and I'll set a few more places at the reception (laughs)!"
Boxingtalk.com would like to thank Sam Soliman and Stuart Dunkin for making this article possible.
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