Though ranked as the top IBF world contender, he came into last Saturday night’s HBO-televised WBC Middleweight Title Eliminator bout as a relative unknown here in the United States and a substantial underdog to the very popular and highly skilled Winky Wright. As the waning seconds of the 12th and final round wound down with punches flying in from all angles, the appreciative capacity crowd at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, stood on its feet and began chanting his name over and over: “Sammy”! “Sammy”! Sam “King” Soliman was an unknown no more.
It was a scene eerily reminiscent of the film “Rocky IV” when the Russian crowd, who came to support their seemingly indestructible ring icon Ivan Drago, ended up chanting the indefatigable American’s name as he began to rally against the Russian giant, eventually knocking him out. But, while he ended up on the short end of a close, but unanimous decision by the three judges scoring at ringside, Melbourne’s Sam Soliman ultimately may have won a lot more than he lost. He won over the live audience, a world television audience, the skeptics who questioned the legitimacy of Soliman as a world middleweight contender, and the respect of the man who many experts feel is the top middleweight in the world.
“Sam came in and gave a great fight like he said he would,” Wright (now 50-3, 25 KOs), who can relate to Soliman’s desire to get a big opportunity, acknowledged. “We both have traveled a long road to get here and I told him I’d give him his chance like Shane (Mosley) gave me.
And while Soliman (31-8, 12 KOs) and his promoter, Dan Goossen, appreciate the opportunity Wright provided, it appears that Wright is not anxious to afford Soliman a rematch any time soon, if at all.
“Look at his face and look at mine,” Soliman offered the standing-room only media throng at the post-fight press conference, pointing to the swelling under and sunglasses on Wright’s eyes.
Without question Soliman’s stock rose dramatically off his performance against Wright. At the press conference, Goossen opted first to propose the rematch to Wright; one which he strongly feels his fighter earned.
“I don’t want to say he (Sam) was robbed,” Goossen stated, hoping to sway Wright into relating to Soliman one more time. “I’d like to get Sam a rematch with Winky. I’m sure Winky remembers his close loss to Fernando (Vargas) and he didn’t get a rematch he felt he had earned. I don’t think there is another middleweight out there who can beat these two.”
Goossen takes some issue with the way the fight was scored in the middle rounds, which were weighed heavily in Wright’s favor. It was clear from CompuBox numbers that Soliman was clearly throwing many more punches than his opponent (1,260 to 652 in all). While a large number of these shots were being blocked by Wright’s gloves and arms, Goossen feels that while these were overlooked in the scoring, they had a telling effect on the fight’s closing rounds, as Soliman poured it on in the 11th and 12th while Wright’s hands were visibly lower from the toll these unscored punches had taken. Soliman’s plan was to hit elbows, arms, shoulders, anything to open up Wright. These punches should have been scored. Much like the way the late world heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano used to wear down his opponents before taking them out.
Goossen also pointed out something he claims to have never witnessed in all his years in boxing.
“Winky is a big, strong middleweight. He actually came into the ring 11 pounds heavier than at the weigh-in. Meanwhile on fight night, Sam weighed in a pound less than at the weigh-in. I’ve never seen that.”
If Wright chooses to go in another direction and avoid a rematch with Soliman, Goossen would like to secure a world middleweight title fight against Jermain Taylor, who holds the WBA, WBC and WBO belts.
“Sam wants to fight the best,” Goossen insisted. We saw the fight against Winky, as an opportunity to showcase Sammy’s talent against one of the top fighters in the world and garner a much bigger audience and payday, despite what many people believed was a walk-over fight for Winky. What started out as Mission Impossible, ended with thunderous chants of Sammy, Sammy, Sammy.
Mission Impossible; Accomplished!!