Evander Holyfield's The Real Deal Sports and Entertainment and Lee Baxter Promotions in association with Louisville Top Knotch and the World Boxing Council, are proud to announce that the semi-final round of The Jose Sulaiman World Invitational Tournament will take place on Saturday, August 25th in Toronto, Canada.
The second event in the highly-anticipated international welterweight tournament will see the quarterfinal winners face each other in co-main events when South Africa’s Chris Van Heerden (26-2-1) takes on Ghana’s Fredrick Lawson (27-1) and the USA’s Brad Solomon (28-1) faces Mexico’s Francisco Santana (25-6-1).
The undercard will feature tournament alternate, Russia's Sergey Lubkovich (8-0), English featherweight contender, Alex Dilmaghani (17-1) and a who's who of popular Canadian fighters including the return of 2x world title challenger, Dierry Jean (29-2-1), undefeated prospects, Kane Heron (11-0-1), Joshuah Lupia (3-0) and more.
After the tournament’s first round in April, which took place at the renowned KFC Yum Center in Louisville, Kentucky, the WBC positioned the 4 winners in their top 25 world rankings (Santana #14, Lawson #15, Van Herdeen #22, Solomon #23). The two semi-final winners in August will move up the ranks again and then go head-to-head later this year in the finals. The overall winner of the Jose Sulaiman World Invitational Tournament will be in a position to fight for the WBC Welterweight World Title in 2019.
Chris “The Heat” Van Heerden (26-2-1, 12 KO), the popular southpaw with a celebrity following has only been stopped once in his professional career, against one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world, Errol Spence. Since then the South African native has been on a 3 fight win streak and is already deep into his training camp at Wildcard West in Santa Monica, California.
"Adversity introduces a man to himself and I have come face to face with it. I know what I'm made of and now the semi-final is another step closer to becoming a champion again."
Frederick “General Okunka” Lawson (27-1, 21 KO) the power punching Ghana native now residing in The Bronx has over 20 knockouts and is eager to provide the tournament with it’s first stoppage.
"Ain't no stopping Team Lawson now, we're on the move. Nothing can change the course of my destiny. I respect Chris and his accomplishments but I'm just too strong and hungry for him. Watch me take him apart on fight night. General Okunka is coming to do battle and will surely prevail."
Brad “King” Solomon (28-1, 9 KO), the slick-moving and highly-skilled boxer hailing from Georgia, whose only professional loss came by a controversial split decision, feels another win in the tournament will prove to the boxing world he is the most overlooked and underrated boxer in the entire welterweight division.
"My ring rust is over. Be on the lookout for speed, quick footwork and fast hands this entire tournament. This is my opportunity to showcase my skills to the world."
Francisco “Chia” Santana (25-6-1, 12 KO) the battle tested veteran from Santa Barbara, California representing Mexico, did not make the initial 8-man bracket but an online fan vote earned him an alternate spot. After a fighter pulled out, Santana, who has taken world champions like Jermell Charlo and Sadam Ali the distance in all out wars, shocked the tournament's #1 seed and Olympic Gold Medalist, Feliz Diaz in what is an early candidate for upset of the year.
"I was coming off another robbery in a split decision loss. My promoter had dropped me. I couldn't find a fight. I took a full-time job on a ship to support my wife and little girl. I thought maybe my career was over. When I got in the tournament, I knew it was my last chance and I brought that mentality into the ring. I'm glad I am the underdog again because it fuels my fire. On August 25th you will see the best version of Francisco Santana yet. I am a man on a mission to win this tournament."
Besides the exciting action in the ring, the Jose Sulaiman World Invitational Tournament received glowing praise for the initiatives it’s taking to make long overdue changes in the sport in three distinct categories.
Judging & Scoring
To combat one of boxing’s biggest issues, inexplicable if not downright awful judging and scorecards, the tournament features 5 judges as opposed to the regular 3. One for each side of the ring as well as one judge who watches the fight on a monitor with no sound. Halfway through the fight, scorecards are announced to the audience and the fighters so everyone is aware of how the 5 judges are viewing the bout. The first round of the tournament did not have a single controversial decision in 5 back to back 10-round fights and several fights had distinct momentum shifts after the cards were announced at the half way point. The Real Deal Boxing also developed a standardized scoring system that is given to judges in advance which clearly defines the way a round should be scored to eliminate any subjectivity from the equation. Last but not least, any bouts that end in a draw immediately head to a 11th and final round that judges must give to one of the fighters.
A nearly universal request from fighters, fans and the entire boxing community, the tournament uses instant replay. In the case of a controversial or potentially wrong call, the incident in question is reviewed in between rounds, allowing officials to get it right every time. Instant replay helps assure the bout’s outcome and scorecards are never affected by a missed call, be it a slip ruled as a knockdown or a cut from an accidental headbutt ruled as punch or vice versa.
In the tournament's first round fighters were required to undergo a pre fight MRI and post fight MRI (on the following day of the fight) regardless of the bout’s outcome. In addition, The Real Deal Boxing has it’s own internal team of physicians to oversee the health and safety of all the fighters on their roster, helping to address the inconsistent medical standards brought on by differing requirements from each regulatory authority. The expense of these additional medical and safety requirements is covered entirely by The Real Deal Boxing.
It’s the type of significant changes the only 4-time heavyweight champion of the world, Evander Holyfield promised when he launched The Real Deal Boxing last year.
“I always said that if I ever threw my hat into the ring as a promoter, I would make it a priority to bring real change to the sport. The tournament is our first shot at doing just that and I’m very proud we’re not just talking about how to improve the sport, we’re actually making things happen.”
“These changes were never meant to be a gimmick or a publicity stunt. These are real initiatives that Evander and our team wanted to do to better the sport for the fighters and the fans. The unique setting of the tournament allows us to try out those changes in the course of 3 events and the results so far have been fantastic.”, explains Sal Musumeci, The Real Deal Boxing’s CEO.
“Now that we’ve proven it can work, several commissions have reached out to us to learn more and discuss how they can incorporate some of our initiatives. Our ultimate goal is to have all Real Deal events, not just the tournament, use these changes and we welcome all commissions and promotors to join us in the effort.", add Eric Bentley, COO of The Real Deal Boxing.
"We're aware these things take time and it's going to be process but now with round 2 of the tournament we can once again prove that adding things like additional judges, instant replay and post fight MRIs can help make boxing a better sport for the fans and the fighters. We're excited to partner with Lee Baxter Promotions, a fast-rising and like-minded promotional company who share the same excitement for the future of the sport as we do."
Toronto's Lee Baxter Promotions are putting the finishing touches on a stacked undercard of Canadian fighters to further add to the excitement.
“I made a promise I would continue to bring world class boxing to Toronto. Now with the help of Evander Holyfield and The Real Deal Boxing, the city will play host to a major international tournament. Toronto boxing fans can be assured that Canadian contenders, prospects and local rivalry clashes will be featured on an amazing undercard.", explains Lee Baxter, President of Lee Baxter Promotions.
As Holyfield sums it up, “We invite the entire boxing world to watch the semi-finals live from Toronto on August 25 to see not only four hungry welterweight contenders go head to head for the opportunity of a lifetime in a legendary boxing venue but also to see the beginning of long overdue changes in the sport we all love.”