Eight Heavyweights converged on The Trust Arena in Auckland, New Zealand on June 4th to take part in Professional Boxing’s newest one night tournament concept known as The Super 8. In the lead up to this tournament this observer gave some thoughts and analysis on the opening bouts of the competition, but I also stated that under the tournament’s three round format that it was really a toss up and that a lot of the bouts in this tournament could come down to who is able to land the first significant punch.
One thing that was clear about such a format was that the participants would have to let their hands go from the outset if they were to give themselves the best opportunity for success. A three round fight does not necessarily lend itself favorably to fighters who like to establish a measured pace or who typically pick up their activity as a fight progresses. There were however, fighters in this tournament who had previous experience competing under such a format who had previously competed in similar tournaments under the PrizeFighter banner in the United Kingdom.
The need for a fighter to start quickly under this format was made immediately apparent in the first fight of the competition as former two-time Heavyweight world champion Hasim Rahman, who was fighting for the first time in nearly two years, was rocked by a couple of left hooks in the first round and did not let his hands go in an attempt to return offense. Whether it was a case of eroding reflexes of the forty-one year old Rahman or simply Rahman only looking to land one punch is a subject for debate, but the fight got away from the former champion quickly as Nansen earned a convincing three round unanimous decision to advance into the semi-finals.
In the second fight of the competition Brice Ritani-Coe scored a three round split decision over Alonso Butler. Although Butler was able to establish a consistent jab from the outset, it was Ritani-Coe who was able to land the cleaner punches and throw his punches in volume. Butler did have some moments counter punching, but did not throw combinations and looked to land one punch at a time. Ritani-Coe won this fight in my opinion based on his ability to throw his punches in volume.
The third fight in the tournament featured former world title challenger Kali Meehan taking on Hunter Sam, who entered the tournament as a replacement for former WBC Heavyweight world champion Sam Peter who could not compete due to a calf injury. Much as was the case with Rahman prior to the tournament, I wondered what the forty-four year old Meehan would have to offer in this competition in his first fight in nearly two years. Sam’s awkward style seemed to give Meehan trouble finding his rhythm in the opening round as Sam consistently beat Meehan to the punch. Meehan however, was able to land a left hook to the body late in the round that had Sam retreating.
Meehan was able to pick up his pace in the second round as he was the busier of the two fighters. Sam was able to have his best moments occasionally stunning Meehan with counter hooks and had the former top contender against the ropes at the end of the round. Meehan was able to keep his pace in round three throwing more punches than his opponent. Sam’s ability to throw flurries in spurts however, made the round close in what was the closest fight in the tournament in my opinion. Meehan would win via split decision to advance into the semi-finals.
The fourth and last fight of the quarterfinals featured two former PrizeFighter Heavyweight tournament winners Michael Sprott and Martin Rogan. I thought based on both Sprott’s and Rogan’s previous tournament experience competing under a similar format under the PrizeFighter banner that this may have been the closest fight in the tournament.
In a fight where both fighters had their moments and an argument could have been made for either fighter being the winner, Michael Sprott would win a split decision. Although I felt Rogan won the fight by one round based on his landing what I felt were the harder punches, it wasn’t an easy fight to score and I can easily see an argument for Sprott winning.
This would set the stage for the semi-finals. In a one-night tournament format an obvious question that will come to mind as the competition progresses is whether or not fatigue would play a role in the semi-finals and finals. This was an appropriate question to ponder as there were two very close and competitive fights in the opening round of this tournament.
One could say that the fighter who benefits more under this type of format is a fighter who is able to get more rest due to either being able to end his fights early, or due to that fighter’s positioning in the bout order in fighting earlier in the opening round than the other participants, thus theoretically allowing more time to recuperate.
The semi-finals would get under way as Kali Meehan faced Brice Ritani-Coe.
Meehan staggered Ritani-Coe with a series of right hands that eventually knocked him down in the first round. Ritani-Coe showed his mettle and was very “Game” landing some solid right hands in the second round, which I felt were enough for him to win the round. Ritani-Coe gamely continued to press the action in round three and had his moments. The knockdown in round one however, would be enough for Meehan to earn a three round unanimous decision to move on to the finals.
The last semi-final bout pitted Michael Sprott against Anthony Nansen. Sprott dictated the pace of the fight from the start using his jab to keep Nansen somewhat on the defensive. Nansen was able to throw small combinations, but Sprott’s jab was the story of this fight in my opinion as he was able to control most of the fight to earn a three round unanimous decision. This led to the tournament finals between Sprott and Kali Meehan.
In the final fight of the tournament Kali Meehan would score the only knockout of the tournament. Meehan was rocked by a left hook from Sprott early in round one. Meehan however, would knock Sprott down with a right hand later in the round and would score a second knockdown with another right hand forcing Referee Brad Vocale to stop the fight. Official time of the stoppage was 2:53 of round one.
With the win, Meehan earned the $200,000 first price of the $500,000 total purse for the tournament. Sprott meanwhile, earned $100,000 as the tournament’s runner up, while both Brice Ritani-Coe and Anthony Nansen each earned $30,000 as semi-finalists. Hasim Rahman, Alonso Butler, and Martin Rogan each earned $15,000 after losing in the opening round. This leaves a balance of $95,000, which this observer cannot confirm to whom it is awarded. There is a possibility there was a guaranteed fee for each fighter to participate in the tournament however, at this point it remains undisclosed.
Whether or not this tournament will serve as a way for Kali Meehan to re-enter to the ranks of the Heavyweight division remains to be seen. It was however, an impressive performance by the forty-four year old Meehan in winning three fights in one night after a two-year layoff.
As for what the future holds for the Super 8 tournament concept? The tournament did produce some surprises as fighters who were looked upon by some as favorites to win the competition were defeated. It is unclear whether or not the Super 8 concept will follow a similar path as the successful PrizeFighter series in the United Kingdom in staging several tournaments under the same format in various weight classes. The potential is there however, for the Super 8 banner to grow and I for one look forward to seeing what may be in store in the future of the Super 8.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
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