Many will be dismayed to read the brand new announcement that the IBF has named Jermain Taylor as titlist Sam Soliman’s next opponent. Taylor, many will groan, is a shopworn fighter who shouldn’t be cleared to fight at all, and is in obvious danger of becoming a pugilistic dementia victim.
On top of issues with Taylor’s decline and health, some fans will also wonder what Sam Soliman is doing with the red title belt around his waist. The Egyptian-Australian won the belt basically by virtue of being in the right place at the right time.
Soliman out-pointed Felix Sturm in February 2013, when Sturm was already in decline and had been getting by under his native Germany’s propensity for stinky rulings. In a pattern familiar to anyone who follows boxing in Germany, Soliman’s points win over Sturm was declared invalid by German authorities when he tested positive for the stimulant methylsynephrine in proceedings widely regarded as suspect.
Sturm’s loss became a No Contest, and the German went on to fight Darren Barker, fresh off winning the IBF belt from Daniel Geale in a squeaker of a fight. Barker suffered a dislocated hip in the fight, so the bout was stopped giving Sturm an easy win and his fourth stint as a middleweight titlist. Sturm’s first defense was to go back and fight Soliman again. Fighting busier and rougher, Soliman out-pointed Sturm by an even wider margin than the first time around, and this time the German authorities didn’t interfere.
Now back to Jermain Taylor: perhaps there is some merit to the argument that he should find a new career and preserve his health, but working from the practical reality that the former World Middleweight Champion has been cleared to fight and is pursuing a boxing comeback, he could do much, much worse than a title fight with Sam Soliman for the IBF’s middleweight strap.
Let us recall two salient facts. First, Taylor’s career only came unglued when he went up to 168 lbs and got mixed up with bigger, badder punchers. Moving back down to 160 lbs suggests his chin might hold up better, thus preserving the contents of his skull.
Second, Taylor has had a decent comeback over some tough journeymen (Caleb Truax in particular is looking more and more like a middleweight gatekeeper), and Sam Soliman is no world beater. Nor he is a big puncher. The Australian is 40 years old, five years older than Taylor, and has a lot of boxing miles on his body. More to the point, Soliman is the kind of good fighter who loses whenever he meets another name opponent, or at least he did until he met a Felix Sturm who was clearly past his best.
Ultimately, Soliman is the weak spot in the middleweight alphabet title picture. Whereas Taylor would be a serious underdog against Miguel Cotto, Gennady Golovkin or Peter Quillin, against Sam Soliman I give him even odds. Far from being a slaughter waiting to happen, Soliman vs. Taylor could turn out to be a pretty good match-up.
The real worry for those concerned about Taylor’s future is what might happen if his competitive spirit should get the better of his business sense, and he should find himself in a unification fight with Cotto, Quillin or, worst of all, Gennady Golovkin. In this instance, winning the fight, and the title, could be worse for Taylor’s long-term health than losing.