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Prizefight Preview – Sam Soliman vs. Jermain Taylor


Welcome back to the Prizefight Preview!

Boxing is a funny sport when it comes to the opponent known as Father Time. For every blue chip prospect that fizzles-out before they see 30 candles on a cake, there’s a late bloomer who doesn’t reach their peak until they’ve got silver hair and a couple of kids in college. Regardless of which road was taken, one clean shot against the right opponent on the right night can place that fighter into the spotlight that they covet.

This Wednesday night, ESPN brings us an intriguing crossroads title fight, as one of the brightest stars of the early millenium will attempt to recapture the spotlight against a seasoned veteran who just recently discovered it for the first time. When Jermain Taylor steps through the ropes to challenge Sam Soliman for his IBF middleweight strap at the Beau Rivage Casino in Mississippi, shiny belts and bright lights will be on the line, as well as the boxing legacies for two brave athletes who each may just have one more run at the top of the division left in them.

So which guy is better equipped for that run? This is the question that has been bouncing around in one writer’s head for weeks now…along with a few others….

What does Taylor have left in the gas tank? Are the lightning-reflexes back? Can he connect with his patented bow-and-arrow, jab-cross combo with regularity? Can he take a solid punch on the kisser and keep coming forward?

There are also plenty of questions surrounding the new champ; can Soliman put together two great wins in a row? Can he get inside of the jab and land effectively? Does he have enough power to keep Taylor at bay? How will he deal with the speed disadvantage?

The downfalls of Jermain Taylor (32-4-1, 20 KO’s) have always come against opponents with monster right hand crosses who applied constant pressure. While Soliman is an offensive workhorse who does his best damage on the inside, he has never shown a great deal of punching power against elite boxers. On the flip-side, Soliman (44-11, 18 KO’s) has traditionally had difficulty with classic boxers who establish a consistent work-rate from the outside, and Taylor tends to stick to 2-punch combos at center ring before tying-up on the inside.

These factors provide us with a fascinating style clash, where somebody will have to take the initiative to impose their style, while also making adjustments on the fly in order to react to the punches coming in return.

While we may have a good idea of what to expect from Soliman at center ring, Taylor’s gameplan will likely set the tone in regards to the geography of the contest. If he moves side to side effectively and scores wi the jab, it could be an easy night at the office. If the action starts to get rough inside, Soliman could steadily break Taylor down

While my heart lies with the American Olympian, the boxing brain is definitely leaning towards the champion in this contest. Soliman hasn’t lost in over six years, and may in fact have just reached his boxing prime. Taylor hasn’t scored a significant victory since his 12-round decision win in ’08 against Jeff Lacy, who was unquestionably a 1-dimensional boxer.

While I expect both men to have their moments early in the action, Soliman’s superior conditioning and savvy in-fighting should prove to be the difference in the championship rounds. While this may not end up being the most aesthetically-pleasing affair, it should be competitive throughout, potentially with a wide range of various tallies on the scorecards.

One way or another, a competitive world title fight, on free TV, on a Hump Day, is a rare treat that we should all embrace. Set the DVR kids!

PREDICTION: Sam Soliman by 12-round split decision


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