By Melissa Woods
WHEN the stooped figure with the grey beard and long-handled scythe passes through Melbourne shortly to oversee the transition from the old year to the new, he might stop by for a chat to boxer Sam Soliman.
Spar a couple of rounds with him, perhaps.
"The only thing stopping us now is Old Father Time - and there is no stopping him," Soliman's veteran trainer Dave Hedgecock said yesterday.
That's another way of saying that at the twilight end of one of the longest careers of any Australian boxer, it's now or never for Soliman, who turned 39 last month.
The world title he has been chasing all his life - for more than 170 fights, amateur and professional, kickboxing and Marquess of Queensberry - is now there staring at him.
All he has to do is reach out and grab it.
Stripped of the dodgy politics and broken promises that are such a feature of the fight game, the situation has shaken itself down.
In Sydney on January 30, Daniel Geale will put his IBF middleweight world title on the line against Anthony Mundine.
In Dusseldorf four days later, Soliman will fight German Felix Sturm, who lost the WBA and IBF titles to Geale in September.
The IBF have insisted that the winner of Geale-Mundine must defend the belt against the winner of Soliman-Sturm.
The obligatory hype is under way, with Foxtel interviewing Soliman in an atmospheric Brunswick gym yesterday to promote the fight, to be shown live on pay-for-view.
It is being billed as "a dream week" for boxing fans with much being made of Geale and Mundine both being indigenous athletes - with plenty of tension between them - and it could lead to successive all-Australian title fights.
There is probably a reason why Soliman has never won a world title in so many years of trying, so he will have his work cut out with this twin challenge.
But he has a few things going for him, not least that he is a popular figure and will have plenty of moral support.
"No one deserves a title shot more," boxing expert Barry Michael said yesterday.
Knowing how hard it is to get a decision in Germany his management have insisted on a neutral referee and judges.
Soliman is a non-drinker with an immaculately clean lifestyle who trains the house down and has always been one of Australia's fittest athletes. He looks in fantastic shape - as usual.
He will travel to London in the new year to complete preparations in the same time zone, leaving as little as possible to chance.
Of course, his age will be a factor.
But Hedgecock insists signs of decline become obvious in training and none have been detected yet.
Optimistically, Soliman claims he can win the title and defend it two or three times over two years.
Even if he loses, he has no plans to retire - unless he is knocked out, which would be a warning even he could not ignore.
Hopefully it won't come to that.Tags: Felix Sturm , Jose Felix , Sturm-Soliman , Sturm vs Soliman