Vitali Klitschko-Odlanier Solis fight set
Heavyweight titleholder Vitali Klitschko will make his mandatory defense against Odlanier Solis on March 19 in Germany. The contracts were signed on Monday, both camps told ESPN.com.
A purse bid had been scheduled for last Friday, but with the camps close to a deal they asked the WBC to postponed it, believing they would work out an agreement. They did over the weekend and it was signed Monday.
"We got the signed contracts now and we have a go for March 19 in Cologne," said Bernd Boente, Klitschko's manager. "I think that Solis is a very, very tough opponent. His fantastic amateur record speaks for itself -- three times world amateur champion and Olympic gold medalist. He is definitely one of Vitali's toughest opponents. I think it's a very interesting fight for the audience."
Said Klitschko, "I am very happy the deal is done. I have heard and read different quotes from Solis saying that I tried to avoid him. This is nonsense. There's a reason why I'm WBC champion and I am proud of holding the same title that Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis held. I will show inside the ring that I am the strongest heavyweight champion and I am 100 percent sure I will successfully defend my title. But I know Solis is a very tough opponent and I will not underestimate him."
Klitschko-Solis is the second Klitschko heavyweight title fight to be scheduled in recent days. Last week, unified champion Wladimir Klitschko, Vitali's younger brother, rescheduled a defense against England's Dereck Chisora for April 30. It had been scheduled for Dec. 11 before Wladimir suffered a torn abdominal muscle.
Solis (17-0, 12 KOs) was a 2004 Cuban Olympic gold medalist and later defected. He turned pro in 2007 and is based in Miami. He has been calling for a fight with Vitali Klitschko almost since the day Klitschko returned from an injury-induced four-year retirement to regain his old title from Samuel Peter in October 2008.
Solis scored a 10th-round disqualification victory against Ray Austin in title elimination bout in Miami on Dec. 17 to become Klitschko's mandatory challenger. The WBC had ordered at its annual convention that Klitschko would have to fight the Solis-Austin winner next.
Solis, 30, who is aiming to become the first Cuban heavyweight titleholder, is anxious for the fight and was not happy about Klitschko's negotiating tactics.
"This is not about money -- it's about respect," Solis said shortly before the deal was finalized. "The Klitschkos seem to think that I am just another opponent like the last tomato cans they cherry-picked so Vitali could easily beat them up. But I am not only the mandatory challenger. I have been the best amateur fighter in the world and I will prove that I am the best professional fighter as well.
"I am not interested in a couple of extra dollars. The only thing I want is to strip the world championship belt from Vitali. Klitschko shouldn't be afraid of losing money; he should only be afraid to lose his title. I will end his career."
Klitschko (41-2, 38 KOs), 39, will be making his sixth defense of his third title reign. He is coming off a shellacking of Shannon Briggs on Oct. 16. Klitschko battered Briggs and won a shutout decision. Briggs wound up in the hospital for several days after the fight.
Klitschko, 6-foot-7, 250 pounds, will have a significant height advantage against Solis, who is 6-1, 260 pounds.
"Solis was a very good amateur and is a very good pro, and I expect he will be the best guy he can be," said Shelly Finkel, Klitschko's adviser. "We'll see if it is good enough to offer a challenge to Vitali."
Boente said he has been in touch with ESPN boxing programmer Doug Loughrey to try to make a deal with the network to carry Wladimir's fight with Chisora and Vitali's with Solis under similar terms to the ones forged for previous bouts involving the brothers. That agreement was for a live stream on ESPN3.com followed by taped replays the following day on the main network.
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter.