Photos by Sumio Yamada
JORGE SOLIS vs MONTY MEZA CLAY
Aggressive and busy Monty Meza Clay ventures into Mexico on Saturday night when he meets hometown fighter Jorge Solis in an IBF featherweight title eliminator in Guadalajara.
This is Meza Clays first fight at featherweight although he has boxed in the junior lightweight division. His trainer, Tom Yankello, once told me that he believes Meza Clay will hold a strength advantage over anyone he meets at 126 pounds. He said that Meza Clays punch output in the gym has been astonishing.
I was unable to speak with Yankello before this fight but his brother, Mark, tells me that Meza Clay has had excellent preparation and will of course be putting pressure on Solis. He said that Meza Clay has had good sparring with an unbeaten boxer named Mike Strauss, who is as tall as Solis and is considered to have a similar style.
Solis, 29, is the more experienced of the two boxers. His only defeat came against Manny Pacquiao in a 130-pound title bout two years ago, when he was overpowered in the eighth round after having had some success with right hands in the earlier rounds. Pacquiao was too strong for him, though, and Solis moved back down to 126 pounds after the fight.
Ive seen several of Soliss fights in addition to the one with Pacquiao. I was at ringside when he fought Humberto Soto in Las Vegas in September, 2004, a three-round no decision. Solis had an excellent opening round but suffered a cut over the right eye after a clash of heads. Soto seemed to be coming on strongly, and he dropped Solis with a left hook in the third. The ringside doctor ruled that Solis was cut too badly for the fight to continue, but I had no doubt that Soto would have won.
In another of Soliss fights that I saw he easily outboxed the tough-looking veteran Hector Marquez in Tacoma. Solis was putting his punches together nicely in that fight and I noted that he showed excellent movement and a lovely left hand although he was meeting a journeyman type of opponent who was made to order for him.
When Solis outpointed the tough but limited Miguel Roman last May he boxed stylishly, using the jab, dropping in the right hand and hooking to the body against a shorter, pit-bull type of opponent. I thought he had Roman hurt in the eighth round.
In his last fight, in September, Solis was much too strong for Jorge Samudio, a Panamanian who turned away in surrender in the fourth round. Solis went forward in that fight, putting pressure on his opponent, and, once again, he was jabbing, hooking underneath and bringing in the right hand behind the jab.
Solis, then, would have to be considered the superior textbook boxer in Saturdays fight. Meza Clay, though, can counterbalance this with his pressure and workrate. Just 5ft 2ins tall, Meza Clay will have to get past Soliss jab, get inside and keep his hands pumping. If he can do this, he has a great chance to win.
I thought that Meza Clay was very impressive when overwhelming Eric Aiken in six rounds last February, but he was meeting a weaker opponent. Aiken had been badly stopped by Thomas Mashaba in South Africa in his last fight, and he couldnt keep Meza Clay at bay. Meza Clay bobbed under punches, jabbed on the way in, banged the body and at times switched to a southpaw style. When Meza Clay got hit he shook his head in the that didnt bother me manner. I made the note that Meza Clay produced non-stop pressure.
Solis, though, is a much more difficult proposition than Aiken. I would say that Solis is now boxing at the top of his form. I think he will be seeking to get in the jab and right hand as Meza Clay comes to him, trying to time the chunkily built Pennsylvania fighter for hard, clean shots.
This is the sort of fight where Meza Clay could pile up points by being busy while Solis is likely to enjoy supremacy whenever he has the room to get the shots off.
Meza Clay beat up Aiken on the ropes, but Solis has good footwork and it will not be easy to keep him penned in.
This is a fascinating fight and it is a shame there will be no American TV coverage.
Meza Clay has had almost all his fights in Pennsylvania or neighbouring West Virginia. His only loss was a game defeat against the bigger and stronger Edner Cherry in a lightweight bout in Florida, when he was stopped in the last round. He is half-Mexican on his mothers side but he will be in hostile territory. I know that Meza Clay has trained diligently, but he has never previously boxed at 126 pounds and he will need to maintain his fast pace for round after round if he is to win. If Meza Clay slows down it will give Solis a much better chance to start picking him off. Solis has been the more active fighter, too: Meza Clay has been in the ring just once a one-round win over Hector Lizarraga in the past 11 months.
I make this a very competitive fight but I give a slight edge to Solis. With the hometown crowd behind him, I think he can box his way through some anxious moments to win a close decision. Meza Clay is going to be difficult to discourage, though, and I wouldnt consider it a big surprise if he won.