Can't blame Sam Soliman, can you, for choosing to go with the vastly lesser fearsome option, in Jermain Taylor, nearly a decade past his prime, instead of taking a date with the grinning assassin, the man quick with a grin and a KO-shot to your chin, Gennady Golovkin.
The Aussie Soliman (44-11) is 40, turns 41 in November, and holds the IBF middleweight strap.
Taylor, by virtue of his name, still boldface even if his skills have faded and his medical history is enough to give pause to anyone and everyone with even a minimal base of knowledge of his career, obtained a title crack against Soliman, who beat Felix Sturm in May (UD12) to gain the strap.
Certainly, it doesn't hurt that he is advised by the most powerful man in boxing, Al Haymon, the man whose presence is felt everywhere, but whose physical presence, and interaction with the press and the public is the total opposite. (My point being, we never do get to hear from Haymon about how and why decisions get made from his end…and, I dare say, I sometimes wonder of other people get blamed for decisions and moves that come from his cell phone.)
Taylor, who turned 36 on Monday, beat JC Candelo last December (TKO7), and Raul Munoz via KO2 in his previous outing, in October 2012. He defeated Twitter giant Caleb Truax, now also a Haymon fighter, via UD10 seven months before that, after starting a comeback with a TKO8 win over club fighter Jessie Nicklow in December 2011. The comeback came about after Taylor stepped away from the game for medical reasons, specifically the bleeding in his brain which came about from punishment taken at the hands of Arthur Abraham in October 2009. That KO12 loss was the second straight last-round stoppage loss in a row for the Arkansan; he was stopped by Carl Froch in April 2009.
Soliman was near the top of the target list for Team Golovkin in a thin-picking middleweight division. After it became clear they couldn't lure Miguel Cotto or Canelo Alvarez to the table, Soliman was offered the opportunity of meeting Golovkin. It was considered, his advisor, attorney Kurt Emhoff said, but the more lucrative, and presumably, less risky scrap with Taylor spoke louder to Team Solimon. Smart and common sensical move by Emhoff–he knows Solimon has been at this since 1997, and but of course dollars make mucho sense when calculating paths to take. As he's told media, Emhoff recognizes that you hold your breath when you watch Taylor now. But, the advisor said, he feels better that JT has been seen by docs at the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic, and an ace neurologist in Nevada.
One element of this that I couldn't figure out what the implication that I see floating around that Soliman chose more moolah for a fight which will run on ESPN, not known for their generosity in meting out purse packages, and not HBO, which isn't as cheap. I spoke to Golovkin promoter Tom Loeffler, of K2. “Solimon was one of our choices since he had the IBF title,” he said, when I asked if Solimon was the first choice among Plans B, “and we made a significant offer to them, but Taylor is naturally the easier fight.” And about that rumor that the offer to Solimon to fight Golovkin was inferior to the purse to meet Taylor? “I'm not at liberty to say what it was, but they matched our offer and if someone can fight Jermain Taylor instead of Triple G, they will take that route, for the same price.”
Soliman fights Taylor on October 4 at Foxwoods in Connecticut.