By Terence Dooley
The recent WBO interim featherweight title fight between Carl Frampton and Nonito Donaire highlighted the fact that boxers don’t always have to hurl abuse, insults, and tables in order to hype up a fight. Frampton-Donaire was marketed on mutual respect, and the two men even met up after the fight to share a drink and swap stories, referring to each other as friends for life after getting to know one another over the duration of the build-up and fight.
Bad blood and hype does sell, and therefore has a place in boxing, but a recent trend has been to let the match-ups sell themselves, which is the tack that the World Boxing Super Series Chief Boxing Officer Kalle Sauerland has taken when promoting the fights that have taken place thus far as part of the tournament.
Sure, there was plenty of needle between George Groves and Chris Eubank Jr. before their February meeting in Manchester for the WBA Super World and IBO 168lb belts, but, in the main, Sauerland has overseen a tournament that relies on quality rather than controversy to get its message across. “I’m from a boxing family from the day I was put on this planet,” said Sauerland when speaking to BoxingScene.
“You meet guys like Henry Maske, who is university educated and an Olympic gold medallist, then you deal with other characters who have come from very tough upbringings, maybe have spent time in prison, and have no sort of social or classic education but are great guys.”
Sauerland believes that for all the so-called “fake” beef knocking around the sport, there are genuinely incendiary characters who always bring a bit of an edge. Unlike football, boxers do not have their personality media trained out of them, which Sauerland believes is a positive thing.
“I think so,” he answered when asked if boxing needs the odd outburst to maintain its unique edge. “I’m not going to condone Del [“Boy” Chisora] throwing a table at a press conference. It was a silly thing to do then equally silly of the other side to pick up and throw a microphone across a crowded room. Those things are not to be condoned, but they are not fake, not fixed, and are not done to sell seats—Del wasn’t on some seat and ticket deal.
“People also have to remember that it is not a team sport so these elements stand out more. Once again, we don’t encourage people to throw stuff or take chunks out of legs, but that is a by-product of where this sport comes from.
“I always say that, generally, boxers are better behaved than footballers for the simple fact that they have to train twice a day: two lots of blood, sweat, and tears every day. They are not under any obligation to do that, if you sign a boxer to a fight there is no clause saying they have to train. If they don’t and it is a proper fight they are going to lose—it is as simple as that.
“A Premier League footballer can party at a West End club, wake up the next day and train for a few hours and guess what, his day is done. If they don’t perform on the pitch the next weekend then who cares, they are backed up by 10 other players or dropped to the sub bench, but still pick up their 10 or more grand a week so it is a very different game.
“Fighters who party, normally after or between fights, will suffer. I know there are colourful autobiographies, but I’m not sure if half of the stuff really happened or is just there for the book. At a proper level you will get found out.”
Indeed, the two finals of the WBSS will feature Groves against Callum Smith in London, and Oleksander Usyk against Murat Gassiev, with fight dates being worked on and the next tournament already in the works. Both finals will feature mutual respect and should be the cherry on the cake of a series that has captured the imagination of boxing fans and pundits alike.
Please send news and views to @Terryboxing.