By Jake Donovan
Ahmet Öner, president of Arena Box Promotions, reached out to Boxingscene.com Monday evening to clear the air regarding his current status with heavyweight contender Odlanier Solis.
A recent report suggested that Solis’ recent hiring of attorney Gaby Peñagarícano was the first step towards breaking free from Arena Box. Solis last fought in May, scoring a 12-round decision over Konstantin Airich in his lone fight since an anticlimactic 1st round injury TKO loss at the hands of Vitali Klitschko in March ’11.
Solis’ handlers were in negotiations for a December 22 showdown with Tomasz Adamek, a bout which would have aired on NBC. Adamek and Main Events opted to move in another direction when negotiations stalled, instead coming to terms for a rematch with Steve Cunningham.
The breakdown in negotiations fueled speculation of tension between Solis and Öner, but the promoter insists that such rumors lack any shred of validity. Even further from the truth is the threat of a possible defection.
“Solis has a promotional contract. I am and will stay his promoter,” Öner insists. “Gaby is his advisor. They met through Cotto. I know Gaby for a very long time, even longer than I know Solis. I am in contact with Gaby, we talk every day. I know that he is working with Solis from the first day on.”
Peñagarícano is a lawyer by trade and best known in boxing circles as an adviser for Miguel Cotto and Tim Bradley among others. He joined Solis’ team in September – while the Cuban heavyweight was in discussion with Adamek’s camp - and even brought him to Cotto’s training camp in Big Bear, Calif.
A deal was believed to reach for Solis to fight on free TV, but was removed from the mix after failing to sign the bout agreement in the specified time period. It wasn’t the first time Solis waffled on a fight offered to him, but Öner plans to stick by his fighter’s side through good times and bad.
“Solis refused to take some fights I had offered,” Öner admits. “For Adamek, (Solis’ side) tried to get more money but Kathy Duva needed to get a deal done fast and made the deal with Cunningham because she could get it done very fast. [H]e decided to gamble - and lost.
“We had other fights for him, too, in America and in Europe. I have fulfilled all my obligations. And Gaby is not working against me, he is working with me. Together we want to bring Solis back to his old strength and back to a world title shot. But Solis needs to focus on the sport, focus on training and get back into the ring.”
Speculation swirled of Solis following countryman and longtime stablemate Yuriorkis Gamboa, who broke free from Arena Box earlier this year but has yet to fight in 2012.
The two served together on the 2004 Cuba Olympic boxing squad, both capturing Gold medals. Two years later, they defected from the team while in Venezuela. Stops in Colombia and Miami came before eventually being cleared to relocate to Germany.
Solis made his pro debut in Germany under Öner in 2007 and – along with Gamboa – was fast-tracked towards the title stage. While Gamboa succeeded in his quest for alphabet hardware, Solis fell well short in his lone shot – the aforementioned loss to the elder Klitschko.
Just one fight has followed, with little hope for anything meaningful surfacing before year’s end. Still, it’s more than what Gamboa has going on, nor does Öner see any direct connection between the circumstances surrounding the fighters’ separate career.
“[I]t's a totally different situation from Gamboa,” Öner explains. “Gamboa was a superstar and a big name in the United States. I made him a star. I brought him to US TV. I made him world champion. I brought him to Top Rank, one of the best and biggest promoters.
“Then I got a good offer for good money and sold (his contract). And what has he done since? Nothing! He had no fight in one year. He is out of all rankings and people (are) start(ing) to forget him. Look where he was when I brought him up and look where he is now. For me, it was good business. For him, not. But it was his decision.”
Gamboa went AWOL earlier this year after bailing on a previously agreed upon showdown with Brandon Rios. The fight was to take place at lightweight, but Gamboa had a change of heart over the fight and his then-contractual terms with Öner.
The unbeaten featherweight eventually resurfaced in Las Vegas. He was one of the first to sign with TMT Promotions, a believed joint venture between Floyd Mayweather and 50 Cent that never quite got off the ground. Gamboa is now under contract with Mayweather Promotions, but with no fights lined up and inactive since a technical decision win over Daniel Ponce de Leon last September.
Still, Gamboa’s eventual ring return will be met with considerable interest based on what he’s so far accomplished. Solis’ market value is nowhere nearly as favorable, precisely why Öner is determined to get the heavyweight’s career back on track.
The addition of Peñagarícano is viewed by the promoter as reinforcement rather than as a deterrent.
“For Solis, it's different” Öner says of where he’s at career-wise compared to Gamboa. “Nobody will pay good money for him right now, but it would be stupid for him to work against me. I have my contract. Gaby… is a lawyer. He knows that Solis is (legally) bound to his contract. So we are working together very close. We are one team.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox