|Undefeated Jorge Solis hits the big time this Saturday when he faces Manny Pacquiao in San Antonio.
Solis (32-0-2) is the older brother of IBF light flyweight champion Ulises "Archie" Solis, a nine-year pro with a record marred only by two draws and a 2004 no contest with Humberto Soto. Soto is also the only top-level opponent Solis has ever faced; Nicky Bentz was a quality fighter for a long time, but was in the middle of his fall off the planet by the time Solis got to him, and there are several other rugged professionals that have their names on the Solis chart, but none are elite fighters, or even very close to that mark.
Manny Pacquiao has spent the last seven years destroying fighters, ever since his third round knockout loss to Medgoen Singsurat, aka Medgoen 3K Battery. And that was when Pacquiao weighed 113 pounds, and before he truly developed into the fighter he is today. The Pacquiao that fought and lost valiantly to Erik Morales in 2005 is not the Pacquiao that put Morales' career firmly at the fork in the road with his two victories over El Terrible in '06. Even the Pacquiao that hammered Barrera and put Juan Manuel Marquez down three times in one round in 2003 isn't the Pacquiao we see now.
Pacquiao now is arguably the most lethal puncher in the sport today, pound-for-pound. As a super featherweight, there are few in the division that truly have any real shot at beating him -- perhaps only Marquez or Venezuelan knockout machine Edwin Valero could really give Pacquiao a fight.
Why Jorge Solis? Because Pacquiao needed a fight, and everyone else was busy, tied up in promotional wrangling with Top Rank and Golden Boy, or simply not the guy to be given to Pacquiao on a silver platter right now. So, we get Solis.
It's too bad that all of the coverage of Jorge Solis' first real big-time fight is that he has no chance in hell of beating Pacquiao. All the scouting reports have been the same. He's a tall, lanky fighter at 5'10", similar to a vintage Diego Corrales. He's got a solid right hand and a good jab, and he studies his opponents thoroughly, which makes him good at adjusting on the fly in a fight.
The bad news is that he reportedly lacks good footwork, which is dollars-to-donuts likely to get him clobbered at some point. Combine it with a case of nerves, and it could be very early into the fight.
The best chance that Solis has, probably, is an unprepared Pacquiao, who hasn't trained like this is a big fight, or like Solis is an opponent he should be afraid of. Face it -- Solis probably isn't. But any fighter with skill can pull an upset, and if Pacquiao isn't focused (which is continually a question as we head into every single Pacquiao victory), then we could see something crazy happen.
Obviously, Solis will need to use his reach and stay outside on Pacquiao, whose blistering and furious combinations are likely to overwhelm anyone, let alone someone who hasn't been in this type of fight before. No one is saying that Solis isn't tough, or that he can't punch. But being a pretty good fighter doesn't often get you a win over a great fighter, and Pacquiao has legitimately become a great fighter in addition to being a powder keg and one of the most exciting guys in the sport to watch, which he had been for years.
The other thing he could do? Run. Seriously. Run Pacquiao ragged. If Pacquiao indeed skimps on training, then tiring him out may be the way to go. Steal a round here, steal a round there, use the long jab, and wear him down. It's not possible to wear Pacquiao out by letting him punch himself out, because all that's going to accomplish is Solis being punched out. Frankly, running and jabbing may be Solis' best option. Unfortunately, his supposed lack of footwork probably plays against that.
Solis is trying to do what several of his countrymen -- some serious warriors and heroes -- have not been able to accomplish, outside of the last brilliant night of Erik Morales' career. Pacquiao has become to Mexican fighters what MMA's Wanderlei Silva once was to his Japanese counterparts. He's become an executioner of sorts, a villain that chops down every hero put in his path. Jorge Solis has had his number called. On Saturday night in the Alamodome, we'll find out what he's made of.