By Keith Idec
Odlanier Solis intends to take out 14 months of frustration on Konstantin Airich tonight.
Solis will box against Airich in a 12-round fight for the IBF Intercontinental heavyweight title in Pharr, Texas. Highlights from their fight will be televised as part of a Telefutura “Solo Boxeo” broadcast scheduled to start at 11 p.m. EDT/PDT.
For Solis, the relatively low-profile fight will mark his first action since he sustained a devastating knee injury in the first round of his heavyweight title fight against Vitali Klitschko in March 2011.
“I’m hungry to fight,” Solis said through his manager, Jose Perez. “I want to show that I’m the same man I was before and that I’m back.”
The 31-year-old Solis (17-1, 12 KOs) was considered more of a threat to Vitali Klitschko than most opponents the huge Ukrainian champion opposes before they fought for Klitschko’s WBC title in Cologne, Germany. Solis showed aggression, as well as an ability to land right hands and left hooks, in the first round, but blew out his right knee when it planted awkwardly as he absorbed a right hand from Klitschko (44-2, 40 KOs) that grazed the top of his head.
The Cuban defector couldn’t stand on two feet, couldn’t continue and Klitschko won their bout by first-round knockout.
“It was very hard,” said Solis, who weighed in for tonight’s fight at 267½ pounds, about 42 more than Airich. “You work all your life to get to a title shot. Not every boxer gets there, and when you get there something like this happens. It’s very hard, but that’s life. It is what it is.”
Solis spent nearly two months in a German hospital, where he underwent three surgeries to repair tears to the anterior cruciate ligament, the medial collateral ligament and the meniscus in his right knee. He returned to boxing training in early February following more than eight months of rehabilitation in Miami, where the 2004 Olympic gold medalist now lives.
He trained primarily in Orlando, Fla., for tonight’s fight because his trainer, Pedro Diaz, also works with Miguel Cotto. Diaz prepared Puerto Rico’s Cotto for his 154-pound championship loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. on May 5 in Las Vegas.
The 33-year-old Airich (23-5-2, 17 KOs), a native of Kazahkstan who lives in Germany, doesn’t figure to test Solis too much tonight. Airich has won six straight fights, but his last loss was a first-round knockout defeat against Tye Fields (49-5, 44 KOs) a year ago in London.
“He’s a really strong fighter,” Solis said of Airich. “He comes to knock you out.”
Solis hopes beating Airich and winning several additional fights later this year helps him land either a rematch against Vitali Klitschko or a shot at his younger brother, IBF/WBA/WBO champion Wladimir Klitschko (57-3, 50 KOs).
“You will have to ask them,” Solis said. “I don’t know if they will fight me or not. Either one of them will be sufficient.”
Perez said he wants Solis to return to the ring as soon as possible after tonight. Ahmet Oner, Solis’ promoter, is working toward a partnership with Main Events, the promoter of tonight’s card at Pharr Events Center.
Main Events, a Totowa, N.J.-based company run by Kathy Duva, has been showcasing heavyweights as part of its deal with NBC Sports Network. Main Events also has worked recently with the Klitschkos’ K2 Promotions for Vitali Klitschko’s 10th-round TKO of Poland’s Tomasz Adamek (45-2, 28 KOs) eight months ago in Wroclaw, Poland.
“[Solis will] be very active for the rest of this year,” Perez said. “We’re working with Kathy Duva. Ahmet and Kathy Duva and myself are trying to get him as active possible.
“We have a great relationship with Kathy. We have some fighters in common and we think she’s probably the most experienced promoter when it comes to heavyweights right now. Solis needs to stay active and he needs to get another shot. In our opinion, he’s the best heavyweight out there right now.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.