Photos by Sumio Yamada
VITALI KLITSCHKO TKO1 ODLANIER SOLIS
Now we have another heavyweight fiasco to join the list, with Odlanier Solis buckling from a cuffing right hand and injuring his right knee in his stumble to the canvas against Vitali Klitschko in Germany on Saturday.
For sheer disappointment and anti-climax, this ranks up there with some of boxing’s biggest flops. The ending that comes closest would be Michael Grant toppling from Jameel McCline’s left jab and breaking his ankle in a 43-second upset in Las Vegas. Klitschko vs Solis was on a vastly bigger stage, though.
It was not a happy first venture into the boxing business by the U.S. subscription TV network Epix.
The sad thing is that this shaped up to be an entertaining fight. Solis didn’t look overawed. He was moving and boxing quite well, although Klitschko looked in command as he moved forward menacingly, shooting out his “up” jab from the low-left-hand position and looking to drop in the right. Solis, though, was boxing a smart fight, looking to counter. Then, before the fight had really got started, it was all over.
I can understand the booing of the 19,000 crowd in Cologne. The right hand that caused Solis’s collapse did not look a particularly hard punch, although it caught Solis high up on the left side of the head and thus could, I suppose, have momentarily affected the Cuban boxer’s equilibrium.
Solis’s tottering steps indicated a certain scrambling of the senses, or maybe his knee simply gave way as he went to step out of range. It was all very strange, although we now know that Solis did indeed suffer serious damage to his knee.
There has been debate over exactly how hard Solis got hit, and we can only guess because we weren’t the ones taking the punch. Frankly, though, this looked like a cuffing right hand, not too far removed from Muhammad Ali’s so-called phantom punch that astonishingly sent the formidable Sonny Liston to the canvas in their1965 debacle.
Ali famously gestured to Liston to get up and fight, and Klitschko did something similar on Saturday. This has caused some adverse comment about lack of sportsmanship on Klitschko’s part. It also suggests to me that Klitschko was angry because he thought — before realising his opponent had genuinely suffered an injury — that Solis was faking.
I remember the debate about the Ali-Liston one-round letdown, with British heavyweight hero Henry Cooper commenting in the BBC-TV studio that Ali’s right hand looked like a “flick of the wrist”.
One of the most astute observations about that fight, I thought, came from my London pal Gerry Horgan, who was training amateur boxers at the time and who boxed as an amateur himself.
“Look,” Gerry explained, as I recall the long-ago conversation, “when you knock someone down you’re saying to yourself: ‘Please don’t get up!’ You don’t stand over the guy asking him to get up. Ali knewhe hadn’t hit Liston all that hard. When Sonny went down like that, Ali thought Sonny was taking the piss out of him.”
I suspect that Klitschko was thinking something along those lines when, in his initial reaction, he berated Solis.
Boxing fans have some idea what is happening in the ring. They know when a seriously hard blow has been delivered. That’s why, for instance, there was no booing in Dublin on Saturday night when Guillermo Rigondeaux blasted poor Willie Casey out of the fight in the opening round. The game but massively outclassed Casey had been hit by some cruel shots, body and head, and everyone could see that and understand it. This wasn’t the case in Cologne.