The World Boxing Super Series hits a cruiserweight grand slam
When the “World Boxing Super Series” was comprised earlier this year and plans were announced to stage tournaments in the super middleweight and cruiserweight divisions, many – including this scribe – were a bit skeptical of such a venture. Yeah, tournaments are great, in theory, but are oftentimes much more difficult to organize in boxing (which is as fractured as they come) than in other organized sports that are under the auspices of one governing body.
Tournaments are also only as good as the participants involved.
Well, with that said, the cruiserweight bracket is absolutely loaded. If this were “March Madness,” the best known tournament in American sports, this is having North Carolina, Duke, Kansas, UCLA, Kentucky, Indiana, Louisville and Arizona in the “Elite 8.”
For so long, this division has been overlooked – and flat-out ignored in America for the most part – and it’s one of the reasons a tournament for this division made so much sense. Currently this weight class is deeper than the Atlantic Ocean, has fan-friendly fighters who were willing to face one another and weren’t making an inordinate amount of money that would preclude them from such a risk/opportunity.
And guess what? Comosa AG, which organized the World Boxing Super Series, was able to lure just about every single relevant 200-pounder on the planet to come aboard, save for perhaps Tony Bellew, who is now essentially a guy looking for heavyweight money.
At the draft gala (which can be viewed here), this past Saturday at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco, Monte Carlo, the top four seeds were afforded the opportunity to choose their first round opponents from the remaining four boxers in the tournament, which ended up being:
1) Oleksander Usyk vs. Marco Huck
2) Murat Gassiev vs. Krzystof Wlodarczyk (Gassiev, the IBF titlist had a mandatory against Wlodarczyk, so he did not have the option to choose his first round foe)
3) Mairis Briedis vs. Mike Perez
4) Yunier Dorticos vs. Dmitry Kudryashov
Yeah, not a bad fight to be had and, as you go down the list of possible fights, there may not be one (on paper, at least) throughout this tournament. Whomever comes out on top will be the undisputed cruiserweight champion of the world and the winner of the inaugural Muhammad Ali Trophy.
“To unify a division and spotlight a division that has clearly been underappreciated, even though the fights in the ring are always among the most exciting in the sport, irrespective of the division, that those four champions, if you look at the record – they are all undefeated. Most of their wins, the vast majority have come by knockout. So these are all big punchers, undefeated. I’m really excited,” said Richard Schaefer, the Chairman of the Americas for Comosa, who helped put this field together alongside fellow promoter Kalle Sauerland (the Chief Boxing Officer for Comosa).
Unlike “The Super Six World Classic” super middleweight tournament, this will be a straight, single-elimination tournament and will conclude at a rather quick pace. Schaefer explained to UCNLive.com, “The fights will take place; the quarterfinals will be in September and October and then the semifinals will be in January, February and the finals will be in May. So that schedule is set.”
Word is the cruiserweight tourney will begin on September 9 and each of the quarterfinal bouts in the World Boxing Super Series will be featured in successive weeks. As for where these fights will be staged, Schaefer says the venues will be based on logic. “We need to put fights where they belong and not just put them somewhere to put them somewhere,” stated the head of Ringstar Sports.
Sources say, in addition to the purses being paid out, the winners of these bouts will be paid million dollar bonuses for getting to the semifinals and escalating amounts for advancing further. Now that is truly “prizefighting.”
One of the big questions that has still yet to be answered is if the World Boxing Super Series will be televised in the States.
The super middleweight class isn’t nearly as stacked. The reality is the division doesn’t have the type of star power or talent it did back in 2009 when Showtime formulated the Super Six. Yeah, maybe it is the NCAA “National Invitation Tournament,” compared to the cruiserweight scrum but it will still provide an opportunity for a 168-pounder to become a real player in the division – along with the significant money he will have earned over three fights in nine months.
Here’s a look at the super middleweight pairings:
1) George Groves vs. Jamie Cox
2) Callus Smith vs. Erik Skoglund
3) The winner of Chris Eubank Jr.-Arthur Abraham vs. Avni Yildrim
4) Juergen Braehmer vs. Rob Brant
Here’s some quick notes provided by the World Boxing Super Series on the participants:
WORLD BOXING SUPER SERIES AT A GLANCE
Participants confirmed: 16 of 16
Number of belts: 7
Number of world champions: 5
Number of former world champions: 3
Number of undefeated fighters: 9
Combined record of participants: 398 wins, 16 losses, 275 KOs (not counting Eubank-Abraham)
Confirmed cruiserweights (8 of 8)
Oleksandr Usyk (12-0, 10 KOs), WBO world champion
Yunier Dorticos (21-0, 20 KOs), WBA world champion
Murat Gassiev (24-0, 17 KOs), IBF world champion
Mairis Briedis (22-0, 18 KOs), WBC world champion
Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (53-3-1, 37 KOs), former IBF/WBC world champion and IBF top-ranked challenger
Marco Huck (40-4-1, 27 KOs), former WBO world champion
Dmitry Kudryashov (21-1, 21 KOs)
Mike Perez (22-2-1, 14 KOs)
Confirmed super middleweights (8 of 8)
George Groves (26-3, 19 KOs), WBA “super” champion
Juergen Braehmer (48-3, 35 KOs), former WBA and WBO champion
Erik Skoglund (26-0, 12 KOs)
Jamie Cox (23-0, 13 KOs)
Callum Smith (22-0, 17 KOs)
Rob Brant (22-0, 15 KOs)
Avni Yildirim (16-0, 10 KOs)
Winner of Eubank (24-1, 19 KOs) vs. Abraham (46-5, 30 KOs)
Let the fights begin.
Anyone really surprised that Floyd Mayweather Jr. is having issues with the IRS? Perhaps his bout with Conor McGregor should really take place on April 15, 2018…Thought the addition of Usyk to the World Boxing Super Series was key. Here’s a guy rated as the top cruiserweight in the world and to not have him in there would have felt a bit incomplete…Big win for Thompson Boxing with Giovanni Santillan blasting out Sammy Valentin on Friday night in two rounds on Telemundo for the WBO NABO welterweight title…So Phil “Man of” Steele thinks Miami is a national title sleeper? I trust Steele…So is the official countdown on for “Game of Thrones” on HBO?…I know it’s just the summer league but this year’s NBA rookie class looks good…I can be reached at email@example.com and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.