By Tris Dixon
IT’S been a while since there was something new and utterly breath-taking in boxing.
You might point to the emergence of a special young talent, TV networks working together, promoters uniting or an elite fighter delivering a top-drawer performance against an equally proven or spectacular warrior.
It might be a night when brutality is shared between two heroes; blood fizzes like champagne for the hungry masses and everyone goes home electrified by the occasion.
It is rare that a new dawn emerges and fresh hope is breathed into this hundred-plus year old girl, who’s made to look pretty again to those who had grown used to her bad habits.
With some high-power help, Kalle and Nisse Sauerland began thinking about the World Boxing Super Series about four years ago.
The announcement of the first round of bouts on Saturday night set spines tingling in anticipation. Eight cruiserweights and eight super-middleweights will start a process of elimination in the autumn that will eventually see two kings crowned next May.
Over the last 12 weeks, the Sauerlands have been working with a shortlisted field of 25 fighters and their managers, agents, trainers and spokesmen. They’ve put their creative and multi-lingual talents through their paces having worked closely with the final 16 teams to deliver Saturday’s announcement.
“When we started to look at what weights we’d do we were pretty clear on the super-mids because we felt that covered the European bases,” explained Kalle.
“Then we looked at the American weight classes and the lower weight classes but then we looked at weights where we would get all four champs and we looked at the cruisers and thought the quality was just too good, where you’ve got a weight class of eight Golovkins or Kovalevs and not just one. We couldn’t turn that down.”
Sauerland has echoed words of one his partners in the venture, Richard Schaefer, when he said the plan is not to divide, conquer or dominate boxing, but to help unite it for the food of the fans.
“Where it goes from here in the eco-system is it’s by no means about taking over the Top Ranks, the Sauerlands the Matchrooms, the Frank Warrens, the Golden Boys of this world,” he added.
“It’s simply about leasing out fighters and creating a product that everyone earns on. They’re good fighters, they’ll prevail. They don’t need to win it, they can just be great in it and great fighters make for great storylines and everyone knows that an ‘0’ at the end of your record, unless you’re absolutely sensational, is something these days that’s unrealistic if you want to be a great. So I think you will get storylines out of it and promoters will get their fighters back in much better nick. You want to see the levels these guys are taking it to. It’s insane.”
Sauerland, who’s spent the weekend with the 16 in Monte Carlo, says they are chomping at the bit.
The depth of the group at super-middleweight is not as rich as it is at cruiser – not many in world boxing are – but it will be of particular interest for fight fans in the UK, particularly if Chris Eubank Jr comes through his upcoming showdown with Arthur Abraham, as the winner progresses into the tournament proper.
He will join Callum Smith, George Groves and Jamie Cox as the other Brits and between Smith, Groves and Eubank there’s any number of mouth-watering permutations. Cox is the wild card. Groves selected to face him in the first round and while Cox maintains a stellar reputation from the amateurs, he’s not come close to duplicating that form in the pro ranks. This is his chance. If he doesn’t, it will be a very short event for him.
Regardless of that, Cox against any of the Brits, or any of the others for that matter, makes for better fare than fight fans have too often become accustomed to.
It is simple, though, the Sauerland brothers – this time in liege with Ring Star’s Schaefer – have created a survival of the fittest event. Think back to the Super Six, during which logistical lessons were undoubtedly learned, when the aforementioned Arthur wiped out Jermain Taylor in the opening round of the event and Andre Dirrell was never the same again after his post-bell knockout by Abraham. Abraham himself has not rekindled the form he had shown before his mauling at the hands of Carl Froch in the same tournament. The cream rises to the top, the weaker ones are destroyed. This time, however, they leave the event and are not thrust back into another high-risk bout.
It spells danger for the more experienced cruisers, Marco Huck and Krzysztof Wlodarczyk. They have spilled gallons of blood over the years and will likely shed more before this is done. They already have a high mileage, and to progress in this they will have to keep accumulate more. That’s probably, among other reasons, why many are pointing towards Oleksandr Usyk and Murat Gassiev as the more likely cruisers. Young, fresh and ambitious, they are three qualities Andre Ward brought to the Super Six in abundance – and look how that turned out for the American.
Part of the measurable success of the World Boxing Super Series will be how many stars it creates, or whether it can create one at all.
For now fight fans have a concept they can get behind regardless of promoter, affiliation or network. They can sit back and enjoy the fights. And that is how boxing should be.