By Adrian Warren
Veteran boxer Sam Soliman (42-11, 17KOs) has received a lucrative but risky birthday present which could jeopardize his chances of fighting a fellow Australian for the IBF middleweight title.
The No.1 ranked IBF contender, Soliman has signed to fight former champion Felix Sturm (37-3-2, 16KOs) in Germany on February 2.
Soliman's manager David Stanley said the IBF granted champion Daniel Geale an exemption to fight Australian compatriot Anthony Mundine instead of his charge, provided the winner of that bout in Sydney on January 30 makes a mandatory defence by May 2.
Victorian Soliman could have waited for that opportunity, but that would have meant going just over eight months without a fight.
Instead he has opted to fight fourth-rated Sturm, who lost his WBA Super title to Geale in Germany in early September.
Geale was stripped of his WBA Super title for fighting Mundine instead of that organisation's standard WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin.
The contract to fight Sturm came through on Soliman's 39th birthday last Tuesday.
Stanley confirmed it would be one of the most lucrative purses of Soliman's career and recognised they were risking his mandatory entitlement by fighting Sturm.
Soliman's last fight was a title eliminator points win back on August 24 against Giovanni Lorenzo, a man Sturm has also got a decision against.
"It's about the ring rust," Stanley said.
"Sam is a professional boxer as well, so it's a good fight in terms of good prizemoney for Sam.
"Sam knows what he's doing, he's putting his number one mandatory entitlement up, but obviously Sturm has got a steaming desire to get back at Geale."
Soliman is likely to head to Europe three weeks before the bout.
He may spend part of that final preparation period training in either Britain or the Netherlands before heading over to Germany.