04.08.07 - By Tony Nobbs: World title challengers Sam Soliman and Sakio Bika are the two Australian boxing fighters who made the final cut for the third series of “The Contender." Sixteen super middleweights , a crop of young pro's and seasoned vets will battle it out with a cool US $750,000 grand prize at the end of the rainbow.
Article posted on 04.08.2007
The full list of Contenders is:
-Max Alexander (26, Camden, NJ, 14-1, 2 KO's)
-David Banks (24, Portland, Ore, 14-2-1, 2 KO's)
-Sakio “The Scorpion” Bika (28, Sydney, Australia, via Camerron, 22-3, 14 KO's)
-Henry ”Sugar Poo” Buchanan (28, Capital Heights, Md,14-1, 1 KO's)
-La Farrell Bunting (27, Las Vegas, Nev,16-3-1, 16 KO's)
-Jaidon “The Don” Codrington (23,New York, NY 16-1, 12 KO's)
-”Macho” Miguel Hernandez (32, Chicago, Il, 20-5, 10 KO's)
-Wayne ”Lights Out” Johnsen (29, Lyndhurst, NJ, 16-1, 9 KO's)
-Donny The Savage” McCrary (24, St Joseph, Mo, 23-5-2, 13 KO's)
- “Lightning” Lee Ralston (25, Buffalo, NY, 16-2,9 KO's)
-Danny “The Bronx Bomber” Santiago (34, Ocal, Fla, 29-3-1, 19 KO's)
-Paul Smith (24, Liverpool, Eng, 20-0, 12 KO's)
-”King” Sam Soliman (33, Melbourne, Australia, 33-9, 13 KO's)
-Brian Vera (26, Austin, Texas, 14-0, 9 KO's)
-Rhoshi “The Great One” Wells (30, Las Vegas, Nev, 18-2-2, 10 KO's)
-Rubin “Mr Hollywood” Williams 31, Detroit, Mich, 29-2-1, 16 KO's).
As well as the two “men from Down Under”, Santiago, Williams and Wells (an Olympic bronze medalist from '96, but inactive since '05) have fought for world titles.
Coaches for this series are ex two division world champion and trainer of the year Buddy McGirt and veteran Pepe Correa, who trained Sugar Ray Leonard (the series' host and boxers mentor), Lennox Lewis, Maurice Blocker and Simon Brown.
Dave Hedgecock trained Soliman, who was stopped in nine brutal rounds by Anthony Mundine for the vacant WBA “regular” 168 lb belt in March, has some rated scalps such as Bika, Raymond Joval, Fulgencio Zuniga, Nader Hamden and Nevile Brown, as well as a close loss to Winky Wright as well as Anthony Mundine and Howard Eastman (back in '01) and is a former IBF number one, a four division Australian champ from middle to cruiser and a Commonwealth title holder at 160 lb.
Sam's manager Stuart Duncan said “There were other offers available. I could have put Sam in a world title bout with IBF middleweight champion Arthur Abraham in Germany. I knocked that back for this chance. From a managerial point of view this makes more sense. He goes to Germany, loses a controversial decision, he doesn't get the big money and he's on the out, coming off a loss to Anthony Mundine. The short rounds will suit Sammy to the ground, with his constant punching, working off angles, it will take a few rounds for these guys to catch up with him. He he will be an excellent chance of taking out the series.”
Mark Pitts trained 2000 Olympian Bika fought Marcus Beyer and Joe Calzaghe for 168 lb belts and recently lost to Lucien Bute in an IBF eliminator in Canada.
His manager Angelo Hyder, one of the hardest workin' behind the scenes men in the business, reckons Bika and Soliman are the “ones to beat."
“It's destiny!” said Hyder. “Sakio wasn't right before that last fight. He almost drowned in the pool the day before that last fight (Bute). Mark Pitts had to pull him out. They tell us drowning is one of the greatest forms of exhaustion - the stress involved. Plus he got the flu. We didn't carry on over there , we copped it on the chin.
“He's had them hard fights, he's had good sparring, I know he can beat Sammy. That's the biggest threat. Who else is going to beat him?”
“Everything happens for a reason. If he'd won that last fight, we wouldn't have got this shot. He's ready to go."
Nader Hamden, Jamie Pittman and Les Sherrington were other Aussies that put their names forward to be part.
The series begins on September 4 with the live finale set to be aired in the USA on November 6.