SYLVESTER, SIMON make weight. / Photo: Sauerland Event
BERLIN, June 27
Graham's Odds: 
Sylvester -300; Simon +250
Over 11.5 -160; under 11.5 +140

After extending Arthur Abraham for 12 tough rounds in March, Philadelphia middleweight Lajuan Simon is back in Germany on Saturday to meet Sebastian Sylvester in a 12-round IBF elimination bout.

I think it’s fair to say that Simon surprised a lot of people with his performance against Abraham. Although beaten — and his camp is not disputing the decision — he gave Abraham plenty to think about and even had the champion holding on from a left hook in the eighth.

Abraham was known to have struggled to make weight for the fight. Was it a question of Abraham not being at his best that night, or did Simon finally come into his own as a fighter at the age of 30?

Simon’s manager, Dave Escalet, has no doubt that his man showed the boxing world what he is capable of doing in a big fight, and he feels that Simon can improve on this performance and come out of Germany with a win on Saturday.“I think Lajuan has a great shot of winning, if the judging is fair,” Escalet said over the phone from Scranton, PA, before flying out to Berlin this week.

“Hopefully the judges will be fair and impartial. If you look at the Arthur Abraham fight objectively, the scores were way, way off in that fight. The German writers didn’t give Lajuan credit for fighting a great fight, they wrote about Abraham having a tough time making the weight. You ask Abraham, he even said it at the [post-fight] press conference, he said Lajuan Simon is going to be a world champion at 160. So he realises it, because he was in there with Lajuan. It wasn’t that Abraham had a bad day, it’s just that Lajuan is much better than people think he is. 

“All the fighters in Philadelphia he spars with tell you Lajuan’s not an easy fight for anyone. Abraham didn’t knock him out — and I thought we had Abraham hurt twice in that fight. In the eighth round, Abraham was out on his feet. All that saved him was experience. He held on very tightly. 

“Abraham is the best fighter at 160, and Lajuan fought him neck and neck. I just want people to start giving Lajuan his dues, because he is one of the best 160-pounders and we’ll fight anybody.

“Styles make fights, it’s going to be a good fight and a close fight, and Sylvester is one heck of a fighter, but as long as the judging is fair I believe we’re gonna win. Lajuan has a great opportunity to win this fight. Styles make fights and I think we have the style, and the Abraham fight gave Lajuan more confidence because he knows he belongs with the best 160-pounders in the world. The one good thing is, Lajuan fought that big fight in Germany and the crowd probably won’t affect him as much — he was a little nervous going into a foreign land. After the fight we were surrounded by German fans — they’re great fans over there — and they appreciated the great fight that Lajuan put up against Arthur.”

Sometimes, a fighter can be brought to a higher level by a creditable defeat — Jean Pascal showed this when, after a brave and very competitive loss to Carl Froch in Britain, he gave a career-best performance in his thrilling win over Adrian Diaconu last week. Can Simon do something similar? I give him a good chance.

Sylvester is a strong fighter with an excellent left jab, but he is just a bit short of the absolute top class. We saw this in his fight with Felix Sturm last November. He started off well, but by the middle rounds Sturm was outclassing him a bit, and Sylvester was under considerable pressure towards the end of that fight.

Sylvester’s best win was his last-round knockout over Javier Castillejo, and although he suffered cuts he fought very well that night, using the jab, landing right hands, putting shots together and generally controlling the contest. He was, though, meeting a 40-year-old veteran and without wishing to detract from Sylvester’s gutsy and impressive performance there is a chance that Castillejo simply grew old in that fight.

The thing that concerns me about Simon is that he has struggled with ordinary fighters. He was taken the full 10 rounds by the limited Elco Garcia, he could win only by split decision over journeyman Levan Easley (one round on one card from ending up a draw) and he could only manage to scrape a draw against trial horse Darnell Boone.

I think that certain fighters sometimes box to the level of their opponents, though, and Simon could be one of those fighters. In a bigger fight, with a sense of danger, a fighter of this type can lift himself to a higher quality of boxing. This could be why Simon was able to give such a good account of himself against Abraham.

Sylvester has had difficult fights with boxers who are some way removed from the elite level. He struggled to win a split decision over Simone Rotolo, a lanky Italian who was able to outbox him in several rounds, and he had two very tough fights with the Finn, Amin Asikainen, losing the first bout, winning the rematch. I wouldn’t put Rotolo and Asikainen on a higher level than Simon. If Rotolo and Asikainen were able to fight Sylvester down to the wire, then Simon, I would suggest, can at least do the same. He has, I think, a good chance of pulling off an upset.

Sylvester has had some wars and he tends to get marked up facially, especially under the eyes. Simon seems to be the fresher fighter although he is a couple of years older than Sylvester. 

The two men are boxing for the IBF’s No. 2 rating, so the winner will be well-placed to box for the title when Arthur Abraham moves up in weight. The Sauerland Event team has done its part by getting Sylvester into position for his second chance at a world title. Now Sylvester has to do his part by going out and winning.

Logically, Sylvester should win. He looks the physically stronger man, he has fought a higher standard of opponent (prior to meeting Abraham, Simon had not fought anyone of any great merit) and there is the Berlin setting to consider.

Simon is probably close in ability to Sylvester, however, and he might have a bit more variety than the German fighter, who is a solid sort but perhaps a bit unimaginative.

Simon is what could be called an unfashionable fighter and he is not likely to get many more big opportunities. It’s now or never. If he is to pull off the upset he will have to fight the fight of his life. I have the feeling that he can do it.

Last Updated: 
June 25, 2009 - 11:02am