Winky’s Wright on, but Sam Soliman wins the night
By Alex Pierpaoli
originally published 12/13/05 on KOFantasyBoxing.com
If December third’s less than thrilling Jermain Taylor-Bernard Hopkins rematch was for the Undisputed Middleweight Championship, then one week later Mohegan Sun held the All-Action version of that same 160 pound division when Winky Wright bested Sam Soliman over twelve rounds. Billed as a title eliminator to determine the undisputed middleweight challenger, Sam Soliman was only the second 160 pounder that Ronald “Winky” Wright had ever faced in a career most consider qualifies him for the number two spot pound-for-pound in the sport; second only to Pretty Boy Floyd Mayweather. Wright, coming off his dominating victory over Felix Trinidad in May, looked to show his stuff and stay active versus the born and bred Australian, Sam Soliman. Though battling a chest cold, Winky Wright used crafty boxing and superb defensive skills to turn back the spectacular effort put forth by the unheralded dynamo, Soliman. The result was pure adrenaline for nearly five thousand fans at Uncasville, CT’s Mohegan Sun Arena on a week when the state was just feeling the icy grip of winter.
Entering the ring Sam Soliman looked almost orange in complexion, tanned no doubt by the Aussie sun, and at the opening bell he blazed out his corner with a fighting style that was downright nuclear in its intensity. Hurling punches with both hands, Soliman banged shots against Wright with furtive starts and burst like a high-energy neutrino run amok.
Soliman swarmed Wright, attacking his body with wild hooks while Wright tried to establish the jab. In the early going Wright had trouble keeping Soliman on the outside and in position for his jab that was sure to control the pace and set the tone of the beating to come. But Winky Wright’s style is measured, methodical; and Soliman’s speedy volume offense kept Wright reacting to what was coming at him instead of setting down the foundation for his own assault.
In the middle rounds Winky seemed to be slogging through the mucus of his chest cold while he covered up and the Australian dynamo wailed at his shoulders, elbows, forearms, neck. But Winky was still winning rounds with hard, well-placed counterpunches and a nearly impenetrable defense that rendered much of Soliman’s attack harmless.
But the lack of damage done didn’t seem to bother Soliman. The Australian was a little furnace, the engine that would if he could, and he poured it on over the distance, surviving when it seemed he shouldn’t be capable and giving back at least in spit and spirit if not in blood spilt or damage done.
Winky bent that little waist in half several times with hooks and straight lefts to the guts of Soliman that looked to be beyond the limits of endurance. Will, effort and the sheer magnitude of his presence in the moment of the event itself kept Soliman on his feet and punching like crazy. He might have been fighting one of the world’s best but he came to Connecticut to win there was little doubt of that.
It looked like serious trouble for Soliman in the tenth when Wright connected with chopping hooks to the head and body that hurt Soliman badly but never put him down.
Soliman, perpetually hurling himself at Wright, cracked his head against the jaw, face and brow of Wright many times in the fight and in the eleventh it looked as if the mild-mannered Winky Wright finally butted him back behind a well placed left hand.
A defensive genius, Winky Wright picked his shots and counter punches from a covered-up, crab or mollusk like defense posture with gloves up high by his ears, elbows in tight to his waist; his arms serving as a protective barrier covering face and frame. Soliman hammered at him for thirty six minutes and never tired of trying to break through Wright’s protective shell.
The great Felix Tito Trinidad submitted and went quietly under Winky’s assault in comparison to smiling Sam who fought his heart out for 36 minutes, even when it looked like his lungs were burning or his head was swimming, Soliman held up under the pressure of fighting one of the very best in the world.
Even in the last few seconds as Soliman hurled and flailed both fists at Wright and Winky sent straight armed missiles at his chin while the Aussie’s ordinance went off harmlessly against Wright’s arms and shoulders. The crowd rose to their feet several times as Soliman absorbed a rally from Winky only to fire and keep firing right back at him.
When the decision was announced it was unanimous in favor of Winky Wright. Judge Melvina Lathan scored it 115-113, Judge Duane Ford tabbed Winky by a score of 117-110 and Judge Tom Kaczmarek had it 115-112.
For Wright the win was a little bittersweet because the fans just didn’t seem to recognize his mastery of the energetic foe. Winky Wright’s record is now 50-3 (25), while King Sam Soliman heads Down Under with a record of 31-8 (12).
Next, Winky Wright clearly deserves a shot against Middleweight Champion, Jermain Taylor, but Taylor’s management seems more interested in a stay busy, showcase type opponent for the Champ’s next defense after the two difficult bouts with Bernard Hopkins. It is understandable that Taylor’s management would want an opponent like Felix Sturm rather than Winky Wright, another crafty veteran that will likely be the favorite when a Taylor vs. Wright match-up is made. At the post-fight press conference Wright’s promoter, Gary Shaw addressed the idea of waiting around for Taylor in no uncertain terms.
“If we want boxing to be the sport that needs to grow and we don’t want to kill ourselves then champions need to fight champions and the best have to fight the best,” said Shaw. “Winky Wright is probably the best hundred fifty-four, sixty, sixty-eight pounder and maybe seventy-five pounder in the worldﾅWinky Wright is the mandatoryﾅAnd there’s no escaping.”
Sam Soliman was gracious but confident in his abilities when he took a turn to address the assembled media after the fight.
“I loved coming here, I enjoyed it…It could have been anyone’s fightﾅI believe I have the best team pound for pound in the sport and I’m going to prove to the world I’m the best boxer pound for pound.”
And the newly tabbed undisputed challenger was also very complimentary of Soliman’s effort and the fight they’d both been through.
“First of all I wanna say you know Sam came in and gave a great fight.” Wright began. “He told everybody that this was gonna be a great fightﾅHe’s very awkwardﾅLike he (Soliman) said we both traveled a long round to get here and I knew he wasn’t gonna give up easy. He came out throwing a lot of punches, I thought he’d wear down in the later rounds, but he kept the intensity up. I take my hat off to himﾅHe takes a helluva shot. I hit him with some great body shotsﾅ”
The card’s main supporting bout saw Detroit, MI’s Rico Hoye pitted against Derrick Whitley of Holyoke, MA. Hoye prevailed over the distance in a fight that looked a lot closer than the unanimous decision called by the judges. Hoye looked uninspired throughout the fight and finally stepped up the pace in the final round as if he thought he was behind on the cards. The shorter, stockier Whitley was able to lunge in and score effectively with power shots through much of the bout while Hoye was unable to take advantage of his own physical tools of height and reach to keep Whitley off. Rico Hoye is now 19-1 (14) while Derrick Whitley falls to 23-24-3 (11).
In other fights, Hartford, Connecticut’s unbeaten junior featherweight Mike Oliver took on Mexico’s Gilberto Bolanos. Bolanos, a wiry, large-framed journeyman, gave a far better effort than his 10-9-1 record suggested. Oliver fought his way through the last two rounds mostly on guts as the larger Bolanos seemed able to tire Oliver out by the last minute of each three minute frame by grabbing and tugging on the Hartford fighter when the two got in clinches. But Oliver toughed it out and beat Bolanos with skilled boxing and despite losing a point in the third for a low blow. Mike Oliver remains unbeaten at 11-0 (5), while Gilberto Bolanos drops to 10-10-1 (10).
Nigerian born Akinyemi Laleye stayed undefeated on the undercard with a victory over Lewis Robinson in what was second only to the main event in terms of action on the night. Robinson, the consummate Philadelphia fighter, rumbled right back in response to the aggressive crowding style of Laleye, but over the four round distance the heavier-handed Nigerian prevailed by split decision. Laleye improves his record to 3-0 (1) while Robinson falls to 2-1-1 (1).
Anthony Russell beat William Bailey over four less than thrilling, sloppy rounds. Russell had difficulty keeping Bailey off of him in the second but got back behind the jab and stayed busy enough to keep Bailey on the defensive to the finish. Russell is now 10-1-1 (2) and Bailey is 4-7-1 (2).
In the first bout of the night, heavyweights Sherman Williams of Vero Beach, FL out pointed William Perryman over four uninspired rounds. Williams clubbed at the durable Perryman, but was never able to hurt or stun him. At times in the bout Perryman threw bolo punches and even attempted an Ali shuffle, though the tactics didn’t help him when the decision came. Sherman Williams is now 27-10-2 (15) while William Perryman drops to 9-10 (7).
In other action on the card, Jose Rodriguez improved to 3-0 (1) with a unanimous decision win over Anthony Abrams who drops to 1-3; and Carlos De Leon Jr. and Ted Muller fought to a six round draw. De Leon Jr. is now 13-1-2 (10) and Muller carries a record of 16-5-2 (6).
The night’s one and only knockout saw Hartford’s Tony Grano flatten Tim Gulley in the first round with a big right to the belly. The shot crumpled Gulley and left him in a heap near his corner where he was counted out. Gulley didn’t seem interested in fighting his larger more aggressive foe from the start. He turned his back twice and was warned for the tactic by the referee just before he was struck with the finishing blow from Grano. Grano is now 2-0 (2) while Gulley is the exact opposite, 0-2.
Send comments or questions to Alex Pierpaoli at: KOFantasyBoxing@gmail.com