World Boxing Super Series
Martin Theobald

This has all come as a bit of a surprise. The World Boxing Super Series, announced today, is an evolution on concepts that have come and gone. While not reinventing the wheel, it is perhaps revolving the axes enough to start a new journey.  Let's start with what we know. Eight man tournaments will take place in a knockout format with total prize money available of fifty million dollars, alongside the Muhammad Ali trophy. The weight categories have yet to be announced, but two will be at the launch in June. Comosa AG are the name behind the tournament, a newly formed company made up of marketing, broadcasting and boxing teams. The Sauerland Brothers are within the boxing element, while American Richard Schaefer is a part of Cosmosa.

To enter, a boxer must be ranked in the top 15 of the one of the four federations, while an 'expert panel' will choose who is invited. The events will be 'seasons', each season having a chosen weight category. Tournament directors will select the fight locations. Seven fights will be in Europe, seven in USA; one series fight per night plus undercard. Reserve boxers will be in place for withdrawals.  A TV deal will be announced at a later date. The Series promises to work with all Promoters to have the best boxers involved. 

That's the formalities out of the way. What can we expect as fans? Firstly, this is potentially huge. All we crave is the best to fight the best and on paper, that is what we will get. A tournament that pits eight of the best in their weight category against one another. The immediate question arises over who the eight will be. The fact Schaefer and the Sauerland Brothers are involved may ring alarm bells. Schaefer has his own Ringstar promotional outfit while the Sauerland Brothers have their own stable of fighters. Therefore when the draft of boxers is announced,  will anyone be surprised if names of their fighters dominate the roster? Me neither. 

The weight categories will be interesting. For the inaugural tournaments you feel they have to pick exciting divisions to capture the sports fan, not just the boxing fan. Lightweight, welterweight, super middleweight and heavyweight would be obvious choices given the high calibrate and/or names within each. Cruiserweight is stacked with talent, but the names may struggle to cross over for broad appeal. It may come down to who is available to participate.

Ah, yes, who will be available? Promoters are precious types. In the UK alone we see the top names split amongst two warring factions in Hearn and Warren. In the US there's Top Rank, Golden Boy and Al Haymon's PBC. The three haven't shown they mix well in the past, similar to the UK. So will the Series make these divides disappear? Say hypothetically the Directors wanted to pick at lightweight Anthony Crolla and Terry Flanagan. Immediately the promotional walls go up, one promoted by Hearn and the other by Warren. 

But what if the Series proves a success. There are 7 fights (four quarter finals, two semis and a final) with fifty million dollars to be shared out. The fighters will want in, no doubt. That could be career high pay days. Surely either their Promoter has to accept the participation, or will we start to see the end of domestic promotional deals? Suddenly it may appear beneficial to have the Sauerland Brothers as your Promoter; if they provide the key to entering a fifty million dollar tournament, why wouldn't you join?

TV deals will play a part. The minefield of boxing. Matchroom fighters on Sky, Warren fighters on BT Sport/BoxNation. That's just how it is. We may see occasional fighter crossover, but the TV deals remain. Therefore will fighters be released for one-off fights by their Promoters to fight on another platform? Or will that platform be an existing one anyway? Sky, for instance, may wish to pick up the tournament and become a broadcast partner. That immediately makes life easier for Eddie Hearn. Vice versa BT Sport and Warren. In America, multiply the issue by the numbers of broadcasters. 

Does this run the risk of being the Super Six 2.0? A tournament flawed from the start, a league table format that spewed out injuries and withdrawals before the exciting round robin element even started. Potentially it does, but this is a shortened version, essentially a three round shootout to become the winner. The Super Six offered prestige, being the best super middleweight on the planet (bar possibly Bute at the time). The World Series offers money. That's a lot of cash to fight through injuries for. There may also be prestige, but that depends on the names that enter. Go hypothetical again, say it ran with welterweights. Manny Pacquaio is seemingly on his world farewell tour, he may want no part of this. Amir Khan and Kell Brook keep flirting, while Brook has his own problem in Spence to deal with. Given that none have a link to Schaefer or Sauerlands and also have their own paths to travel, what is to say they would enter? Again, a portion of fifty million dollars is hard to turn down.

What this Series is certain to do is create a narrative. UK boxing has recently seemed more WWE storylines than professional sport, long back stories being contrived and exchanges filmed that start a feud. No longer is it needed. Once the draw is made you know your opponent, and you know your potential future opponents. The promotion sells itself. 

We we are promised the Series will work with the four Federations. Therefore belts may be brought into the tournament, defended and change hands. Each series is scheduled for September to May, not huge timescales, so turnaround time between rounds should be rapid and the boxers active.

The weight categories and participants will be revealed in June. What is obvious is that a lot of work has gone on behind closed door to get this far. At time of writing, June is three months away. That is a tiny fraction of time in boxing, a training camp if you will. With the tournament starting in September, presumably those taking part will already know by now, or at least have a strong inclination. Elite level fighters have careers planned well in advance of six months.

What will be interesting to see play out is a situation with mandatory fights for title holders. With a May to September Series, if almost seems designed to it's around the mandatory issues, IE take the Series fights as voluntary defences.

Come June hopefully the situation will be clearer. Weight categories and participants unveiled, perhaps TV broadcasters too. It will be a challenge to meet the demands of all boxing markets. It may be that a Series has to be focussed upon regions, some with a large number of UK or US fighters, others with a spread of Europeans or South Americans. If the nations are spread too thinly to runs the risk of diluting the interest.

So are we looking at Super Six 2.0? The answer may come in June. If the names taking part are underwhelming, fans will quickly revolt and you risk losing interest outside the boxing fans. Expect them to cater to UK/German/US markets, purely from the names involved. A key to success is undoubtedly being all encompassing, bringing together the fragmented Promoters. If one of the big boys doesn't play ball it could hinder hugely the outcomes. If they go with only Schaefer and Sauerland fighters, that too massively limits success.

Sucess won't be judged in June, not for those involved. Their success will be the bottom line profit or loss. Fifty million dollars is a lot to recoup, doing so may mean bringing together those that have drifted apart.

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