Often times in boxing, a superb, stellar, outstanding, almost otherworldly (you get the idea) amateur career does not in any way mean a fighter has a guaranteed great career as a pro. Classic case in point, the beautifully gifted Odlanier Solis. Cuba’s Solis, an orthodox fighter, this quite rare for the almost-always ‘wrong way round’ Cuban boxers, won just about everything there is to win at amateur level:
Olympic gold, gold at three World Championships, gold at two Pan American Games, with Solis beating, among others at amateur level, Felix Savon, Sultan Ibragimov, David Haye, Aleksandr Alekseyev and Kubrat Pulev.
But almost as soon as he defected from Cuba and began fighting out of Miami, Solis, finding the American dream, began to lose his discipline and gain a fondness for the fast-food, easy-living lifestyle (one story told of how Solis was stunned to find out how easily he could pick up a phone and, just like that, a McDonald’s would be right there for the eating).
As a hungry (the right kind, obviously) and determined amateur, Solis was a sleek, fast-moving, 200 pound boxing master. As a pro, Solis, though standing just 6’1,” routinely weighed well over the 250 pound mark. It was a terrible waste of talent. Solis, had he maintained his discipline, may have been a true great. We will never know. Consumed by the junk food he fell in love with, Solis basically ate himself out of a career, his once formidable skills deteriorating by the day.
It was on this day in 2011, when 30 year old Solis – unbeaten at 17-0 yet having looked less that special in pounding out wins over Chauncy Welliver and Ray Austin, while looking pretty good in taking care of Monte Barrett – got his one and only shot at a world title. Facing Vitali Klitschko for the WBC and Ring Magazine belts, Solis went down in one odd and embarrassing round in Germany.
Having got his weight down a little, but still not enough at 246 pounds, Solis was caught by a right hand to the head at the end of the opening round, and he went down heavily, clutching his right leg. Solis was obviously in distress and the fight was called. The critics tore into Solis, yet it was later confirmed that he had torn his knee. There was talk that Solis carried the injury into the ring with him, his team knowing full well about the problem.
Solis was ridiculed by all and his career was all but over. After surgery on his knee, Solis managed three so-so wins, before he lost back-to-back fights to Tony Thompson and an ever-ballooning waistline. His promoters tearing their hair out at his sheer lack of desire, Solis retired with a 22-3(14) record, this in 2016.
Maybe Solis could have been a world champion, maybe he could have been a great. As it is, it was Solis’ fate to become the ultimate heavyweight poster child for wasted talent. For squandered talent. So many fighters would kill for the kind of natural talent and skill “La Sombra” was blessed with.
What a shame.