Sam Soliman booked a shot at world middleweight title glory by dispatching fellow Australian boxer Les Sherrington in ruthless fashion in Melbourne on Wednesday night.
After a nine-month ban from the sport, Soliman confirmed his status as the No.1 contender for the IBF middleweight belt held by German Felix Sturm with a technical knock-out of Sherrington in round nine at Flemington’s Melbourne Pavilion.
The 40-year-old Soliman was a warm favourite leading into the fight and started in more aggressive fashion by landing a number of jabs and dictating the pace of the bout.
Soliman (43-11, 17 KOs) landed far more blows and goaded Sherrington by rarely raising his gloves to defend.
With quicker feet and fists, Soliman first drew blood in round two and continued to land heavier blows with a broader range of attacks.
Despite giving away over 7cm in height and 5cm in reach to Sherrington, Soliman continued to be the aggressor through the middle rounds.
In the biggest fight of his career, Sherrington (33-7, 19 KOs) was not without his moments but too often found air with his punches.
In the eighth round, Soliman had Sherrington on the canvas before he rebounded to catch Soliman off balance and return the favour.
But a round later, as Soliman predicted, a succession of jabs and hooks had Sherrington’s trainer throwing in the towel.
It was Soliman’s first bout since a controversial no-contest result in a high-profile fight with Sturm in February in Dusseldorf.
While Soliman was judged the unanimous points winner, a drug test allegedly returned traces of a banned stimulant.
Soliman’s B-sample returned clean, leading the IBF to confirm his place as the No.1 contender for the middleweight belt, which Sturm has since claimed.
Soliman earns the fight as under IBF rules, Sturm must defend his belt to the No.1 contender within nine months.
In the interim, the title has passed between Australia’s Daniel Geale to England’s Darren Barker and back to Sturm again.