FRANKFURT, Germany -- Former Olympic champion Odlanier Solis challenges WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko in Cologne, Germany, on Saturday with an unbeaten record and in his best physical shape in years.
The former Cuban standout defected to the United States a couple of years ago, and may pose the biggest challenge to the 39-year-old Klitschko (41-2, 38 KOs) since he faced Lennox Lewis in 2003. That was also Klitschko's last defeat.
Solis has won his first 17 professional fights after a decorated amateur career, including 12 by knockout. Many critics believe he's been overweight for most of those fights, but his trainers believe he's in the perfect shape to face the WBC titleholder.
"My boxer is at the ideal weight to beat Vitali Klitschko. No more, no less. Just enough," Pedro Luis Diaz said. "Solis' preparation has been designed and prepared, down to the smallest detail. Vitali does not know what kind of trouble he is in for.
"Odlanier is in the prime of his career."
That may be true, and Vitali Klitschko may be on the downward side of his career. But he sure hasn't looked as if he's lost a step the past few years.
The older of the Klitschko brothers has won his past nine fights, including six since he came back from a brief retirement. Only two of them went to the scorecards, and that was mostly because his opponents, Shannon Briggs and Kevin Johnson, were more concerned with making it to the final bell than they were winning the fight.
"Solis is one of the strongest opponents in my career," Klitschko said. "I can fight 12 rounds at a high tempo but the fight won't last 12 rounds. ... There are good amateurs from Cuba but it's different in the professional game."
The fight will be carried in the United States on the year-old premium cable channel Epix, which is hoping to use boxing as a way to drive subscriptions. It's the same tact that allowed HBO and Showtime to gain a foothold in the sport years ago.
Epix will air the main event on television and online, and also worked out a deal to show the fight on giant video screens in Times Square, in the heart of Manhattan.
It's a big opportunity for Solis, who weighed 246˝ pounds to 249 for Klitschko on Friday. Solis also will be giving away about six inches in height and several inches in reach.
"Solis knows this is the chance of a lifetime," said his promoter, Ahmet Oner, adding that Solis is more interest in the title than the money -- "unlike most of the recent opponents of the Klitschko brothers."
Lewis, the former heavyweight champion who will help call the fight for Epix, believes that Solis has the best chance to dethrone Klitschko in quite a while.
"He really needs to go to the body and come inside on Klitschko, and not get hit while coming inside, and also use his feet. He's stationary on his feet," Lewis said. "He has a tremendous history, it kind of reminds me of my own."
Still, Klitshcko doesn't plan on looking past Solis for an instant.
"I'm very excited and very happy to go inside the ring Saturday night," he said. "I want to say it's a very important fight for me. I've never fought against a guy who has so many titles as an amateur. He's an Olympic gold medalist, he's a three-time world champion, he's undefeated as a professional, young, hungry and very good as a boxer.
"It'll be a very interesting fight, it'll be a big battle, and I'm ready for that."