By Jake Donovan
Just winning is no longer good enough for Odlanier Solis, not as far as his critics are concerned. The former gifted amateur and 2004 Olympic Gold medalist as massively underperformed thus far as he approaches six years in the pro ranks.
The irony in the statement is in the ambitious matchmaking that came early in his career. Solis was fast-tracked to contention, along with stablemates and fellow Cuban defectors Yuriorkis Gamboa and Yan Barthelemy, all of whom turned pro in Germany in 2007.
More than half of Solis’ pro career thus far has taken place in Germany, and to where the heavyweight contender returns on Friday, March 22. Awaiting him will be unbeaten Norwegian heavyweight Leif Larsen (17-0, 14KO), marking Solis’ second fight since the lone loss of his career.
However, it is that very loss – along with shoddy conditioning and a questionable work ethic – that continues to define his career. Solis suffered a knockout loss to Vitali Klitschko – two years ago this past Monday – when torn ligaments in his knee disallowed him to fully recover from a knockdown blow late in the opening round of their heavyweight title fight.
Solis has fought just once since then, a 12-round points win over Konstantin Airich last May in Texas. The win was hardly one for the time capsule – it was decisive, but also saw the heavyweight at a near-career fattest 267½ lb.
A shot at redemption was offered with an opportunity to face Tomasz Adamek last winter, a fight that would have landed him national TV exposure on NBC. Instead, he passed on the fight and has since grown stale on the sidelines.
Needless to say, Solis has a lot to make right, to which he truly embraces his homecoming.
"It feels good to be back in Germany", said Solis. "I started my pro career over here and still have lots of friends in Berlin. In my last fight in Germany I suffered a bad injury when challenging Vitali Klitschko. But now me knee is well again. I am ready to go and want to prove that I am the best heavyweight fighter in the world."
Little more than bragging rights and a regional title are at stake this weekend. Recent photos have suggested that Solis is putting in a far greater effort during training camp. It’s a positive first step on the road to redemption.
The ultimate goal is alphabet hardware around his waist. Solis is confident that plenty of time still exists to realize his goal of conquering the heavyweight division. How long it will take to get there depends on those in position to give him another swing at the crown.
"Ask the Klitschkos,” Solis quipped when asked for a time frame. “I'm ready when they are."
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, Yahoo Boxing Ratings Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox