Dear Don King,
One of the feature notes in this week's Notebook from Dan Rafael focuses on the collapse of the Vitali Klitschko-Nikolai Valuev negotiations, which have been all but dead for a while now, with Valuev's side making ridiculous money demands. Klitschko manager Bernd Boente lays the blame not on Valuev promoter Sauerland Event, but on his other promoter, Don King. King apparently wouldn't budge on wanting $4 million for the fight -- yes, you read that right. And no, Valuev has never made that much for a fight. Ever.
The good news? Well, for one, we won't have to suffer through what would have been a truly atrocious "fight" between lumbering behemoth Valuev and the talented but also lumbering Klitschko, who says this is his final year as an active boxer.
The better news is that Klitschko is again showing a willingness to take top challenges from the sport's young guns. When he faced Cristobal Arreola last September, he gave him a lesson not just in boxing, but in how to handle yourself outside of the ring. We'll see soon if Arreola took much to heart. Then he turned right around and came back less than three months later to fight unbeaten Kevin Johnson, who would have been given a boxing lesson had he come to box instead of sight-see and just not get knocked out.
Now, Rafael says that the Klitschko camp is looking at Cuba's Odlanier Solis (15-0, 11 KO). Solis, 29, currently has a March 20 date set in Key West against Carl Davis Drumond, and was last seen in October knocking out Monte Barrett. Solis is a guy who makes Arreola look like a gym rat, as he's notably shorter than Arreola (Solis is a little under 6'2") but has also come in heavier and heavier over his last three fights, going from 253 to 256 to 262 and then finally 271 pounds against Barrett.
Say what you will about his conditioning, but you can't deny that Solis can box, he can punch, and he's very sound. He's made a pretty good transition to the pro game outside of the concerns about his dedication physically. He's a powerful guy and an accurate puncher, and if you still consider him a prospect, is the best heavyweight prospect there is.
The only hangup would be getting TV. Vitali did great HBO ratings against Arreola last year, as the two set the mark for HBO's most-watched live boxing event of 2009, and they thought enough of that to buy a tape delayed version of his fight with Johnson in December, despite Johnson having absolutely no name value whatsoever.
Right now, it seems like heavyweight boxing is at an all-time low in the States in terms of demand. Wladimir Klitschko's perfectly intriguing March 20 fight with Eddie Chambers has no American TV, with HBO, Showtime, ESPN and Versus all passing on the fight. Without American TV, Boente says Solis is too expensive.
But who does Vitali fight then? Alexander Povetkin is making no effort whatsoever to enforce his mandatory shot at Wladimir, and I doubt he's any more interested in fighting Vitali. Povetkin, simply put, has shown zero ambition since winning that title shot over two years ago. Ray Austin did win a WBC eliminator last October, but that fight won't happen. Nagy Aguilera, who beat supposed WBC mandatory Oleg Maskaev, is fighting Sam Peter on March 12.
The options are very limited, and Solis is about as attractive as it's going to get in terms of maybe giving us something new. He's not a retread contender with no hope. He's a guy who actually has the talent to get something done, and he's still fresh in the pro ranks. I genuinely hope this fight happens, but if it doesn't, at least I can take solace in knowing that Vitali-Valuev won't.