Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Super 8 Heavyweight Tournament

There is no doubt that the sport of Boxing can be and often is a subject of much debate. Whether it be a subject of two top fighters in the same weight class potentially facing off or various subjects concerning the “Business” of the sport, there is always something to talk about. From time to time one subject that comes up with regard to Professional Boxing is the concept of tournaments.

Many Boxing fans are probably familiar with various tournament concepts that have taken place in the sport over the years. Tournament concepts such as the Heavyweight unification series in the 1980s, which determined an undisputed champion in the Heavyweight division at the time, or the similarly structured Middleweight unification series in 2001, which saw Bernard Hopkins emerge as the unified champion.

A unique concept that took place a couple years ago was known as the Super-Six World Boxing Classic, which showcased some of the elite fighters of the 168lb. Super-Middleweight division. There are however, other tournament concepts that have taken place over the years. Tournaments that are not staged over a period of time, but instead take place in a single day.

The first one-night tournament in Professional Boxing to the best of my recollection, in my lifetime took place on December 3, 1993 in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. The tournament, which was billed “The People’s Choice One-Night Heavyweight Tournament” was broadcast as a pay-per-view event in the United States. A tournament format that staged fights scheduled for only 3, three minute rounds featured two former world Heavyweight champions in Tony Tubbs and James “Bonecrusher” Smith as well as world-rated contenders Tyrell Biggs and Jose Ribalta.

After defeating three opponents including both Biggs and Ribalta in the quarter and semifinals, Tony Tubbs defeated Daniel Dancuta of Romania via three round unanimous decision in the finals to win the tournament. Although it was a unique concept, it would be several years before similar concepts in the sport would emerge. Some may remember a tournament concept known as “Thunderbox”, which took place in November 2002. Much like the tournament nine years earlier, “Thunderbox” was a one-night Heavyweight tournament. Eight Heavyweight contenders including former Heavyweight world champion Tim Witherspoon competed for $100,000. At the end of the evening contender Maurice Harris emerged victorious.

A more recent and arguably more successful adaptation of those concepts have been one-night tournaments held under the “Prizefighter” banner in the United Kingdom. As the tournaments that preceded PrizeFighter’s inception in April 2008, PrizeFighter features a single elimination format with fights scheduled for 3, three minute rounds. The success of the inaugural Heavyweight tournament has allowed the PrizeFighter concept to grow over the years, with tournaments taking place in various weight classes.

The  PrizeFighter series has also allowed winners opportunities to get into world title contention. The concept of PrizeFighter has been able to take the previous concepts of one-night tournaments in Professional Boxing to a higher level. The success of this series however, will soon be joined by a similar one-night tournament concept known as “The Super 8 Heavyweight Tournament” that will take place on June 4th at The Trust Arena in Auckland, New Zealand.

The tournament will feature eight Heavyweights competing for a $500,000 purse. All fights in this tournament will be scheduled for 3, three minute rounds. The participants for this tournament are former two-time Heavyweight world champion Hasim Rahman, former world title challenger Kali Meehan, former WKBF world Heavyweight Kickboxing champion Anthony Nansen, Alonso Buter, Brice Ritani-Coe, Hunter Sam, and features two previous winners of PrizeFighter Heavyweight tournaments Michal Sprott and Martin Rogan.

The opening round bouts are as follows:

 Hasim Rahman vs. Anthony Nansen:  Nansen, enters into this tournament as a replacement for former WBC Heavyweight world champion Sam Peter who had to withdraw from the tournament due to suffering a calf injury. Rahman (50-8-2, With 41 Knockouts) who has not fought in almost two years was stopped by top Heavyweight contender Alexander Povetkin in his last fight.

Although the three round format of this tournament does seem to ensure a quick pace and potentially has the ingredients for knockouts, one does have to wonder what the forty-one year old Rahman has to offer in this fight. Rahman appeared to have shown the signs of a fighter who’s best days were behind him when he fought Alexander Povetkin in September 2012 in a fight where he was stopped in two rounds. It will be interesting to see whether nearly two years out of the ring has recharged Rahman.

Nansen is the younger man by ten years. Nansen however, has only fought five fights as a professional boxer registering a record of (3-2, with 1 Knockout). Nansen’s record as a former world champion Kick Boxer of 26-3, with 11 Knockouts should be an indicator that he is a fighter who has experience and should be taken seriously. This is a fight where I believe it all depends on what Hasim Rahman shows up.

Alonso Butler vs. Brice Ritani-Coe:

Butler (30-2-1, 1 No Contest, with 22 Knockouts), a veteran of thirty-four professional fights would seem to have an experience edge over Ritani-Coe, (3-2-1, with 3 Knockouts) who has had only six professional fights. Under this type of tournament format however, it’s really a toss up and a lot of these fights may come down to who simply can land the first significant punch.

Martin Rogan vs. Michael Sprott: 

Martin Rogan (16-5, with 8 Knockouts) and Michael Sprott (40-21, with 11 Knockouts) arguably have the most experience fighting under this type of tournament format having both previously won separate PrizeFighter tournaments. Sprott however, may have more momentum coming in this tournament as he last fought in November 2013,  becoming a two-time PrizeFighter tournament winner. Rogan meanwhile, was knocked out in one round in his last fight by undefeated German contender Erkan Teper last November in Germany.

Kali Meehan vs. Hunter Sam: 

Meehan (38-5, 31 Knockouts), probably best known to American Boxing fans for his “Game” performance in losing a hard fought twelve round split decision to former WBO Heavyweight world champion Lamon Brewster in 2004 and then suffering a knockout loss at the hands of Hasim Rahman later that year, has an opportunity to potentially have a rematch in this tournament if both he and Rahman are able to advance in this tournament. Much like Rahman, Meehan enters this tournament having not fought in nearly two years.

Much like Rahman, Meehan comes into the tournament looking to rebound from a knockout loss in his last fight. It will also be interesting as will be the case Rahman to see what the forty-four-year-old Meehan has to offer. Meehan faces Hunter Sam (10-2-2, with 4 Knockouts) who has had fourteen professional fights and comes into the tournament riding a four fight winning streak.

Although some may have differing opinions as to what may be in store for whomever should emerge as the winner of this tournament, tournament concepts like this, the unification tournaments over the years, and even Professional Boxing tournaments that been showcased on reality TV shows all accomplish one important goal. All of the above create interest and have potential to be good for the sport.

With eight fighters, some looking for notoriety, and others looking for what perhaps might be their last chance to revitalize their careers and with $500,000 going to the winner, the Super 8 Heavyweight tournament does have some intrigue. No matter what happens on June 4th, I believe that the concept of the Super 8 should be looked at as a positive for the sport. 

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Froch vs. Groves: The Rematch

The November 2013 fight between three-time Super-Middleweight world champion Carl Froch and top contender George Groves is remembered by many for the somewhat controversial way that the fight ended.  Groves, who was undefeated in nineteen professional fights heading into the encounter, was making his first attempt at a world championship against a fighter who has been a cornerstone of the Super-Middleweight division for several years in Froch.

The quick handed Groves made his presence known almost immediately dropping the champion with a solid right hand in the closing stages of the first round. Groves’ timing, hand speed, and lateral movement were the story for much of this fight. Although Froch was able to rally in the second half of the fight, the opinion of most, this observer included was that the challenger was ahead in the fight as it entered the ninth round.

Froch was able to land a right hand that staggered Groves. The follow-up barrage by the champion caused Referee Howard Foster to stop the fight in controversial fashion. Although he was clearly staggered, Groves did not go down from the barrage and the stoppage was seen by most, including myself as early.

Some readers might remember my comments in the days following the first fight last November. Even though it was my belief that Foster stopped the fight early, it was clearly a case of a referee exercising his discretion. Despite my opinion that the fight was stopped prematurely, I did state that it was possible that Foster may have seen something in Groves’ body language that might have indicated that he was in trouble and prompted him to stop the contest.

The circumstances however, of which this fight ended has certainly left unfinished business between the two fighters. I concluded my thoughts last November by saying that although some may have been of the opinion that Foster acted in the best interest of Froch by stopping the fight in the manner he did, I strongly disagreed. I went on to say that a rematch between Froch and Groves was warranted and should happen as soon as possible.

Sometimes it can be all too tempting to focus on the negative aspects of the sport. No sport is perfect and Boxing has certainly had it’s share of controversy throughout it’s history that can and often has left a negative impression on fans. The beauty of Boxing however, is that when controversy in a fight arises there is always the potential for a remedy known by one word, rematch.

Even though many of the sport’s detractors have often criticized Boxing’s respective governing bodies, the International Boxing Federation (IBF) does deserve credit for taking action in ordering an immediate rematch between Froch and Groves earlier this year. If nothing else, by the IBF ordering an immediate rematch as quickly as it did, it shows that the sport’s governing bodies are not oblivious to controversy when it occurs and in the case of the IBF has shown that it will take steps to remedy a controversial situation.

Quite frankly, a rematch needed to happen not only for Boxing fans, but more importantly for the fighters themselves. A rematch offers the perfect opportunity for Froch and Groves to settle unfinished business.

The key to this fight in my mind will be whether Froch can negate George Groves’ speed and timing. In the first fight, Groves consistently beat Froch to the punch and was able to make him miss, make him pay, and catch Froch in between his offense. It will be interesting to see whether Froch will be able to utilize timing in order to negate Groves’ quick hands and neutralize his lateral movement.

It is hard not to argue based on how the first encounter between the two was fought that George Groves does not have an advantage heading into the rematch. Froch however, was able to have his moments occasionally throughout the fight before the controversial stoppage. Groves was able to outbox Froch for the majority of the first encounter, but was willing to get in and mix it up with the champion.

As the rematch approaches I believe it will be in Groves’ best interest to attempt to box Froch from the start and attempt to avoid getting into a rough toe to toe battle where one might argue Froch has an advantage. There is also the possibility that the anger over the stoppage of the first fight could influence how Groves approaches the rematch.

It could favor Froch if Groves elects to go toe to toe, perhaps looking to catch Froch early like he did in the first fight when he knocked him down and had been badly hurt in the first round. It was not however, Groves engaging toe to toe that led to the knockdown. It was Groves’ timing that set up Froch for the right hand that dropped him. If Groves can repeat the tactical, measured way that he approached Froch in the first fight and avoid being baited into a toe to toe battle, we could see a new champion emerge.

Perhaps the biggest element of this rematch is not who will be able to make any tactical adjustments from the first fight. A key element will be focused on the third man in the ring. American referee Charlie Fitch will be charged with the task of officiating the rematch.

It will be interesting to see how Fitch will respond if circumstances emerge where a fighter appears staggered, but is still on his feet as Groves was when the first fight was stopped or if one of the fighters appears to be badly hurt as Froch did early on in the first fight.

If this fight does not go the distance, it is my hope that at minimum there will be a conclusive ending that will not center too much on questions regarding a referee exercising his discretion as to when to stop the fight. Fitch, who has previously officiated five world championship fights arguably has the most important assignment of his career in refereeing this rematch.

No matter what happens when Froch and Groves meet for the second time on Saturday night, the magnitude of this rematch can be demonstrated by where it will take place. Wembley Stadium will play host to it’s first fight card since 1995 when British legend Frank Bruno won the WBC Heavyweight world championship by defeating Oliver McCall and the first card to take place since the stadium reopened in 2007.

With some expecting between 60,000 to 80,000 in attendance for the rematch between Froch and Groves, it is my hope that the rematch will be remembered as a memorable night in Boxing history for the right reasons. Whether or not the fight lives up to the magnitude of the event remains to be seen.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Look At “The Official Fight Promoter Playbook”

Whether you are a casual Boxing fan or enthusiast there has probably been a time where you have questioned certain things related to “The Business of Boxing” whether it be why a fight between two marquee fighters cannot seem to be made, the cost of media coverage, or the cost of a pay-per-view event, or what is the process of putting together a Boxing card.  Recently I had an opportunity to read “The Official Fight Promoter Playbook” written by Tony Shultz.

This book, which is part of a five book series focusing on the business of fight promotion, offers a resource on how to run a successful Boxing or Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) event.  Shultz, a fight promotions expert offers great insight of the intricate necessities that a promoter needs in order to promote an event.  

Covering a variety of topics including venue contracts, marketing strategies, sponsorship agreements, budgeting, and TV broadcast agreements, just to name a few, the book offers a step-by-step blueprint that covers the essentials of Boxing promotion and the necessary aspects that are needed to be successful.  The book offers advice, strategies, and samples on how to get a Boxing or MMA promotional entity off the ground in an insightful way. 

As a Boxing journalist it was not so far in the past that I attended a Boxing event that quite frankly was a train wreck. Fortunately, the Boxing card and those who fought on it put on a great show. Surrounding the ring from the time you entered the venue putting it mildly was disorganized. As a template this book may have provided guidance for an overall successful event.  

“The Official Fight Promoter Playbook” offers a template for anyone that has an interest in promotion. As one who has written columns regarding “The Business” of Boxing this book offers an excellent resource and clarification of many questions that arise. 

As someone who grew up as an avid Boxing fan and has written about and covered the sport for many years I was impressed with how well the book was put together and thoroughly enjoyed looking into a different aspect of the sport.  Whether you are an aspiring promoter, journalist, or enthusiast of the sweet science who wants to learn more about the promotional side of the sport this book is a “MUST READ”.  

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

For more information about Tony Shultz and “The Fight Promoter Series” please visit: and

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Monday, May 26, 2014

Stevenson’s Body Attack Leads To Successful Title Defense

One of the more interesting weight classes in the sport of Boxing in the last couple of years has been the Light-Heavyweight division. In recent times much of the discussion with regard to the division has centered around three men. Adonis Stevenson, Sergey Kovalev, and Bernard Hopkins.

A scenario of two emerging stars in Stevenson and Kovalev sharing the top of the division with a future first ballot Hall of Famer in Bernard Hopkins is certainly an intriguing storyline. Stevenson, who became the WBC world champion in the Light-Heavyweight division in 2013, is regarded by many as the top fighter in the division. Following four knockout victories last year, Stevenson entered the ring for the first time in 2014 on May 24th to make the third defense of his world title against top contender Andrzej Fonfara at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada.

Although Fonfara was rated number three in the world by the World Boxing Council (WBC) and number one in the world by the World Boxing Organization (WBO) there were some who considered him an underdog, despite victories over former Light-Heavyweight world champions Glen Johnson and Gabriel Campillo during his career. An obvious question that will be asked of any fighter who faces a fighter with devastating knockout power is not only can they avoid the power, but also can they extend the fight into the later rounds.

The story of this fight in my eyes for the first seven rounds was Stevenson’s ability to use his lateral movement and combination punching to control the tempo. Stevenson scored a knockdown of Fonfara in round one with a straight left hand to the head and dropped the challenger for a second time with a brutal straight left hand to the body in round five. Stevenson dominated the first half of the fight with a well-balanced attack to the body and head of Fonfara.

Fonfara consistently came forward and was willing to engage with Stevenson and did have periodic moments, particularly when he was able to land his left hand on the champion. Fonfara however, had trouble letting his hands go in the first part of the fight and did not throw combinations. This could likely be attributed to both a respect for Stevenson’s punching power as well as Stevenson’s elusiveness and ability to control distance.

Despite suffering two knockdowns Fonfara was very “Game” and continued coming forward looking to turn the fight in his favor. The tempo of the fight seemed to shift slightly in round eight as Fonfara began to let his hands go more and was able to land a couple combinations. Although still in control of the fight, Stevenson appeared to show signs of fatigue.

Fonfara was able to build on what he was able to do in the eighth round as he dropped the champion with a straight right hand in round nine. A question that fighters who are labeled knockout punchers eventually have to answer is can they deal with adversity. Fonfara’s knockdown of Stevenson, the second of Stevenson’s career would pose that question to the champion.

The champion responded in round ten by resuming his attack to Fonfara’s body that put him back in control. Stevenson’s lateral movement was less visible in the later rounds due to fatigue and that allowed for good exchanges between the two fighters on the inside with Stevenson appearing to get the better of most of those exchanges. Stevenson would go on to win a convincing twelve round unanimous decision.

Although some might choose to criticize Stevenson who had scored ten straight knockouts coming into this fight for not being able to stop Fonfara, this observer will not be one of them. An interesting conundrum for knockout punchers that can at times be difficult is to look impressive in fights that go the distance when fans have become accustomed to seeing fights end quickly.

Many boxers who were known as devastating punchers have faced similar circumstances as Stevenson faced in this fight. Sometimes no matter how devastating a fighter’s punching power might be, an opponent’s will and determination can force a knockout puncher to go the distance. Andrzej Fonfara earned a lot of respect in this fight with the heart and will he showed. There is no doubt in my mind that Fonfara will remain very much in the mix as a top contender going forward.

Despite not being able to score a knockout in this fight Stevenson was still impressive and did answer the question of whether he could deal with adversity by getting up and fighting harder after being knocked down. Now with three successful title defenses behind him, the question is what is next for Adonis Stevenson?

Stevenson stated after the fight that he is open to facing either Bernard Hopkins or Sergey Kovalev in his next fight. Both Kovalev and Hopkins have each successfully defended their respective world titles in the last two months. Kovalev scoring a seventh round knockout over Cedric Agnew on March 29th in defense of his WBO world title and Hopkins successfully unifying his IBF world title against WBA champion Beibut Shumenov on April 19th.

If a unification bout is next for Stevenson, both fights would draw attention. An argument can be made however, that a fight between Stevenson and Hopkins would draw the most attention due to Hopkins being the marquee draw of the division.

Although there is always the possibility of a champion’s mandatory obligations potentially playing a role in whether a unification bout takes place, it does not appear as though there is much that would stand in the way of a fight to further unify the World Light-Heavyweight championship. Hopkins would appear to have no mandatory defenses as mandated by either the International Boxing Federation (IBF) or the World Boxing Association (WBA). Stevenson meanwhile could be mandated to face current WBC number one contender and former champion Jean Pascal at some point in the near future. 

What also makes this interesting by Stevenson defeating Fonfara, is it theoretically leaves an opening in the number one ranking in the WBO Light-Heavyweight ratings. It will be interesting to see if a scenario presents itself where either Stevenson, Hopkins, or Kovalev will face-off in their next fight and whether the politics of the sport will allow the winner of that fight to face the third champion of the division to determine an undisputed champion.

Assuming the sport’s respective governing bodies allow such a scenario to play out, it will be interesting to see just who emerges as the undisputed champion of the Light-Heavyweight division. An intriguing storyline that surely will continue to be a topic of discussion throughout the Boxing world.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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