Q&A: Sam Soliman
Boxing’s ultimate road warrior Sam Soliman looks to make a successful first defense of his IBF middleweight crown when he faces Jermain Taylor in a special edition on ESPN2 on Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
Soliman (44-11, 18 knockouts) has made a career fighting behind enemy lines. He won the title in late May when he traveled to Germany where he unseated then champion Felix Sturm and is determined to repeat that trick this time in Biloxi, Mississippi.
“I’ve done a lot of travelling and that’s why I’m not going to get shell shocked come fight time and get cold feet, I’ll be pretty good to go,” Soliman told RingTV.com on Monday afternoon. “I won’t get overawed fighting in the other guy’s hometown. I can’t see that being a huge advantage like it would be if he’d fought a guy with half the amount of fights and experience. He can’t call that a good advantage considering I’ve done it so many times before.”
The Melbourne-born fighter came up the hard way, regularly fighting in his opponent’s back yard. “King” Soliman lost close decisions in fights he believes he won, but that only helped galvanize him.
“It was good to have the patience, persistence and perseverance in order to get that crack (at the title) one more time,” he said. “If something didn’t go my way I just said one more time (laughs) until I did get a crack. I finally got a crack at it and (my) patience paid off.”
The hugely experienced Soliman who turns 41 in November, is the oldest fighter to ever win a version of the middleweight title. He has taken part in close to 500 professional rounds and is currently the only Australia-born boxing world champion.
Here’s what Soliman had to say when RingTV.com spoke with him on a variety of subjects including achieving his goal of becoming world champion, his life in Australia and Wednesday’s title fight against Jermain Taylor.
Anson Wainwright – What are your thoughts on fighting Taylor?
Sam Soliman – I’m really excited. He’s the former undisputed world champion so it’ll make for a good fight.
AW – You‘ll have seen him fight many times, what do you see as his skills?
SS – He’s long, he’s tall, he’s got good reach. I’m going to nullify that. I’m excited about the fight.
AW – I was a guest on the Australian radio show ‘KO Boxing’ and the hosts mentioned that you and Taylor were scheduled to fight back when he was world champion?
SS – Yes, nearly a decade ago. It’s ironic that we’re gonna go at it now after we were originally going to go at it. I was the IBF number-one contender to fight for the title and Jermain stepped in front of me and fought Bernard Hopkins (who he beat) and defended it against Hopkins because they had the rematch clause which meant I had to wait again. By then I gave up waiting and fought Winky Wright and lost a close decision.
Everyone said ‘You’re 34 years old now maybe you should take a different avenue in your career because how long can you go on for.’ I said ‘No I’m not going to stop until I get this shot.’ I climbed my way back up to number one after another eight years of boxing and got up there and this time took it with both hands.
Ironically, the guy I was trying to chase back then, now I’m holding the title and he’s chasing me.
AW – In your last fight you beat Felix Sturm for the IBF title. Tell us about that fight.
SS – I’d been waiting to get this shot. Fans of mine who have been let down over the years, every time I got the opportunity, something happened and got in the way of it, and so I had to leave no stone unturned every day of the week, every day through the whole 12-week training camp for that fight and when I did (get my shot) I won so convincingly that they gave me 10 rounds and him two rounds and the second time we fought one draw round and two rounds. I won 20 out of the 24 rounds with one draw round.
AW – Did you feel extra motivated to beat Sturm in the rematch having gone through a myriad of issues after the first fight?
SS – They weren’t going to stop me doing what I love to do and that’s boxing. Their plan of attack was to get me out the way and win the world title, which they did. They expected me to stay out the way which I didn’t let happen.
I spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to get my ‘B’ sample of the urine sent to America where it was tested negative to prove that I was clean. I obviously came back in again and they couldn’t do anything about it. I was hungrier than the first time. You’d never think I could be hungrier than the first fight being that I waited for a world title for 23 years. It was payback time.
They tried to put me through what they did and failed miserably.
Now it’s about the damages caused because of it. I went through an expensive case and I’m trying to get some of the money back.
AW – A week ago, you were appointed the ambassador to the Legacy of Hope Foundation, which is a project Nelson Mandela embarked on to build a children’s hospital in Johannesburg (South Africa). Can you tell us about the project?
SS – One of the top two things that happened in my boxing career. Nelson Mandela was a big fan of boxing and giving me the opportunity to be an ambassador and make a difference and continue his great legacy is priceless. It’s something so surreal and I’m gonna be hitting two birds with one stone while I’m here. Being that I’ve been offered the opportunity as the ambassador here in America and I’m also going to be defending the world title against Jermain Taylor.
AW – You were born and raised and still live in Melbourne, Australia. Could you tell us about your younger days growing up there?
SS – I’d get home from school and go to the gym and train, come home again and my parents would be like go upstairs and do your homework. They wanted me to get a good education.
After about my 16th win, I was undefeated as a kick boxer. I finally convinced them to come to a fight, after I won the fight my father jumped into the ring and told everyone ‘I told everyone my son is the best out there, no one can touch my son.’ He was very proud. He’s passed away now but he was around for a lot the glory times. He absolutely loved his boxing.
AW – Prior to turning pro in 1997 you were actually a kick boxer. What can you tell us about that?
SS – I’m a former kickboxing champion. I love the sport but you can only take so many kicks on the chin and I had to give it up after many years of fighting, doing kickboxing and Thai boxing, with eight weapons coming at you, two hands, two legs, two knees and two elbows. I thought what’s an easier sport than kickboxing? And then next thing I came to was boxing. I think having two things (hands) coming at you is easier (laughs).
It’s something that I loved to do, kickboxing. I was able to make the transition and become the first to successfully make the transition and become an IBF champion.
[Editor’s note: Other former kick boxing champs have gone on to win major belts in boxing, including the IBF title, such as former IBF featherweight beltholder Troy Dorsey and former IBF cruiserweight titleholder James Warring.]
AW – What are your thoughts on the middleweight division?
SS – Very exciting division. I couldn’t be happier. (Miguel) Cotto, who I’m a big fan of, I think he’s a brilliant boxer and is the WBC champion. (Gennady) Golovkin is the WBA and IBO world champion. Then you have so many great names out there. Daniel Jacobs at the moment is destroying (people) in the middleweight division. There are some really good scalps ahead of me but my mind is on defending my title successfully so I can be looking at those names next.
AW – What do you like to do away from boxing?
SS – Australian football is my favorite, it’s on par with boxing. When the football is on and the boxing is on, unless it’s a friend of mine boxing, I’ll always be watching the footie.
I’ve got a friend of mine Rory, he’s footie crazy too, we’ve always got a footie in our hands. We like to have a kick of the footie after training so I take the football with me wherever I go.
I like to play table tennis. It’s good for the reflexes, its good fun. I play Australian cricket. It’s not an American sport. I love sport. I play a lot of sport. It’s a good thing having a five year old boy who I can kick a footie with when he gets a bit older, I’ve already started him. It was his birthday last week and I missed it, it was tough.
AW – You do some social work also?
SS – It’s great, I’ve been working for a team called Choices. It’s a campaign that we’ve worked on with school kids all over Australia. We did 24 schools last year and 28 the year before that. For the last four or five years now we’ve been going from school to school, sometimes doing two or three schools in a week. Then have a couple of weeks off and go again. It’s been really good because we talk about the choices that are going to make a difference in your future and sacrifices that equal success in these choices and making good choices in your life and it’s about every day being a good (kid) and having a good future. These kids are between the ages of 15 and 17; that’s usually when there’s peer pressure and you have to make the choices that make a difference.
AW – Lastly do you have a message for Taylor?
SS – Keep your hands up and everything will be fine.