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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