On December 17th Cuban heavyweight sensation Odlanier “La Sombra” Solis (currently ranked no. 2 in the WBC world heavyweight ratings) will face No. 1-ranked Ray “The Rainman” Austin in a final elimination bout to determine the mandatory challenger for WBC world heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. This match will be co-promoted by Don King Productions and Ahmet Öner’s ARENA Sports-Promotion.
Solis, a multiple world amateur champion (junior champion 1999, senior champion 2001, 2003, 2005) from Havana (Cuba) who holds amateur wins over Felix Savon, WBA champion David Haye and former world champion Sultan Ibragimov, defected from the Cuban national team in December 2006 along with featherweight superstar Yuriorkis “El Ciclon” Gamboa and former amateur standout Yan Barthelemy. All three had won Olympic gold medals 2004 in Athens and left their team at a training camp in Venezuela while preparing for the Pan-American Games..
They finally resurfaced in Hamburg, Germany, where they signed long-term professional contracts with young, upcoming promoter Ahmet Öner and his ARENA Sports-Promotion. Over the last three years Solis impressed fans and experts by winning all of his 16 pro-fights so far with 12 wins inside the distance. His knockout victims include former world title challengers Monte Barrett (TKO 2) and Carl Davis Drummond (TKO 3) as well as prospects Kevin Burnett (TKO 8) and Chauncy Welliver (TKO 9).
The Cuban has resided in Miami since October 2008; the eliminator fight against Austin will be his first appearance at the 20,000 seats American Airlines Arena. “I thank Ahmet for making this possible”, states Solis. “He brought me to where I am. It’s a long way from my first pro-fight at the ARENA gym in Hamburg to the biggest venue in Miami. Ahmet made this happen along with legendary Don King, of course, who I also thank for giving me this opportunity. I feel blessed to have such a strong promotional team supporting me. I hope that a lot of Cuban fans will show up and support me in this important fight.”
In Miami, “La Sombra” (“The Shadow”) was reunited with his former amateur coach Pedro Luiz Diaz Benitez who trained the Cuban National Team for 15 years. After defecting from Cuba Diaz also made himself a name in the pro ranks working with light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal and rising middleweight star David Lemieux. It was Öner who brought Solis and Diaz back together in 2009.
“I have always worked with excellent fighters at the amateurs as well as at the pro ranks. I have seen the best boxers in the world and worked with some of them as well – and I can tell you one thing: Solis got what it takes to become an all-time great at the pros just as he was as an amateur”, says coach Diaz. “His speed, power, technical and tactical abilities are the best in the heavyweight division today. He has extraordinary potential and we will make sure that he shows that in his upcoming fights. In addition to that he has the mind of a champion. His thoughts are only focused on success. This is very important because he not only shows focus and determination in training but he also brings his self-confidence to the ring to dominate any opponent in the world.”
Together, Solis and Diaz are looking to shock the boxing world by first beating Austin and then dethroning heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko.
“My time has finally come”, says Solis. “When the WBC officially announced that the winner of my fight against Austin will face Vitali within 100 days I knew that I would fulfill my dream and become the first-ever Cuban world heavyweight champion. I have been calling out the Klitschkos since turning pro in 2007. So far they did all they could to avoid fighting me. Now Vitali has no place left to hide. He tried to sneak out of his obligation again to fight me once I beat Austin. But he failed. I will be the man to end the Klitschko’s reign.”
Solis started training camp in Miami right after the WBC decision at their 48th World Convention in Cancun on November 4. “Now I know what I am working for”, states Solis. “I will do exactly the same thing at the pros which I did for years as an amateur: Beat all elite fighters in the world to prove that I am the best and crown myself champion.”
During training for the Austin fight, Solis will do about 100 rounds of sparring with high-quality sparring partners. Promoter Ahmet Öner brought in his fast-rising German heavyweight prospect Erkan Teper. Teper, himself a former amateur standout who won the silver medal at the 2008 world military championships, arrived in Miami on November 17th only five days after scoring an impressive 36-second-knockout victory over experienced Alexander Kahl in his second pro-fight. At 6’5’’ the fast and hard-hitting German stands almost the same height as Ray Austin (6’6’’). (Teper will also appear on the Dec. 17 card)
“It’s a great honor for me to train with a world-class fighter like Solis this early in my pro-career”, says Teper. “I know Solis from the amateurs. I have never seen a fighter as talented as him. Still I will do my best to give him good work and a lot to think about in sparring.”
On Nov. 26, another strong sparring partner arrived to work with Solis: Former world title challenger “Fast” Fres Oquendo. “As far as Solis’ sparring partners are concerned we are looking for the perfect mix”, says promoter Ahmet Öner. “It is important for him to do some rounds with fast, young, hungry guys like Erkan and then again face experienced veterans like Fres Oquendo. We’ll make sure that Odlanier gets the best possible preparation in order to blow away Austin. After that’s done we are all looking forward to the big showdown with Vitali!”
One thing that has always been brought up in Solis’ professional career was his weight. For his last fights “La Sombra” weighed in at around 270 lbs. The 6’1½’’ Cuban currently carries around 265 lbs. “Pedro Diaz promised me that Odlanier will enter the ring at 250; I don’t understand all the fuzz about the weight issue though”, says Öner. “Heavyweight boxing is not about how much weight you’re bringing to the scale – it’s about how you move and use your body in the ring. Everybody who watched Odlanier’s pro-fights so far knows how fast and how strong he is. He keeps coming forward and never runs out of gas. You need power if you want to bang with the big boys. His weight will be no issue in the Austin fight whatsoever.”