By Brock Ellis
THE night was different, the town was different and the opponent was different – but for Sam ‘King’ Soliman, the story was all the same as he methodically broke down the Dominican-born and New York-based Giovanni Lorenzo in front of a bumper sell-out crowd at The Geelong Arena in an official IBF middleweight world title eliminator overnight.
Soliman, 38, not only outpointed and outboxed his younger opponent, but floored him twice in a vintage performance that will surely go down as one of his best in a professional career that has spanned over fifteen years and has amassed over fifty fights.
The well-travelled Lorenzo, 31, entered the fight as the underdog despite having put together some impressive performances on the road against very respectable opposition.
Lorenzo (now 31-5, 23 KOs) had challenged for the world title three times, losing competitive decisions against Felix Sturm and Hassan N’dam N’Jikam for versions of the WBA middleweight title and was outpointed in controversial fashion for the IBF middleweight title against German Sebastian Sylvester – who has since been dethroned by Daniel Geale.
The opening rounds of the fight were fought tentatively as both fighters looked very cautious early on. Lorenzo was eager to earn control of centre-ring, while Soliman (now 42-11, 17 KOs) fought predominately on the back-foot and in typical fashion was more than willing to engage from whichever stance he landed on.
As the fight progressed, it became clearer and clearer that Soliman was just that little bit too slick for Lorenzo – who grew frustrated at his inability to land cleanly. Lorenzo’s best moment came midway through the sixth round, where he was able to tag Soliman with an overhand right but was unable to land anything else of significance for the remainder of the fight, let alone the round.
Simply put, Lorenzo was out of his depth against a fighter who many thought due to his age would be on the decline, but instead witnessed a true master-class in a virtuoso performance that will be remembered for many years to come.
Soliman very nearly closed the show in emphatic fashion when he floored Lorenzo twice in the final round. By this time, chants of “Sammy” were filtering throughout The Geelong Arena as it became a mere formality that Soliman had finally earnt his second-shot at the middleweight championship.
At the conclusion of twelve rounds, Soliman was announced a unanimous points winner by scores of 118-109, 118-108 and 117-110.
“All I can say is that Giovanni was tough,” an ecstatic Soliman said post-fight. “We worked so hard putting all this together and I just want to thank everyone for coming out tonight.”
Soliman’s manager David Stanley also showed his appreciation for the Geelong faithful, who turned out in record-numbers to witness Soliman earn his second tilt at a world title.
“I know we said this was going to be a one-off, but we want to bring the world title to Geelong,” said Stanley. “We’re hoping that Daniel Geale can beat Felix Sturm, so we can have an all-Australian world title fight.”
With the win, Soliman has now become the mandatory challenger for the IBF middleweight title. Soliman will challenge the winner of the IBF and WBA middleweight unification battle between German poster-boy Felix Sturm and Australian battler Daniel Geale.
Follow Brock Ellis on Twitter @brockellis01