The SMW WBSS & Why It Epitomizes Boxing’s Frailties
By The Commissioner: A tournament you say?
Everyone loves a knockout tournament, am I right or am I right?
Back in 2009 we were blessed with a super middleweight tournament which contained six elite fighters; Andre Ward, Carl Froch, Mikkel Kessler, Jermain Taylor, Arthur Abraham and Andre Dirrell. The tournament was called The Super Six World Boxing Classic and was the brainchild of Sauerland Promotions in conjunction with Richard Schaefer and Showtime. The format was a group stage where each fighter was to take part in 3 bouts, points were to be awarded for wins, bonuses for knockouts with the top 4 eventually going through to take the semi-final berths.
Fast forward to 2017 and Sauerland Promotions unveiled version 2.0 in a blaze of publicity, the participating fighters were announced at a fancy gala in Monte Carlo and the seeds for the tournament were allowed to pick their opponent from the unseeded pool. The number of entrants was to be increased to allow for a reformat of the competition, largely borne from lessons learned from the tournaments previous incarnation; this time there would be 8 ‘elite’ fighters in a knockout tournament until there was one boxer left standing. The proud owner of the Muhammad Ali trophy (Ali was a HW but don’t let that get in the way of using his name for the sake of gaining credibility).
All sounds pretty exciting, huh?
The 2017 entrants were:
1. George Groves (GBR)
2. Callum Smith (GBR)
3. Jürgen Brähmer (GER)
4. Chris Eubank Jnr (GBR)
5. Jamie Cox (GBR)
6. Avni Yildrim (TUR)
7. Erik Skoglund (SWE)
8. Robert Brant (USA)
WHO THE BEJEESUS IS ROBERT BRANT???
Only Groves and maybe Brähmer would have made the 2009 roster. Two of that list are bonafide middleweights, middleweights that haven’t even won anything at middleweight. What is going on?!
I will tell you what’s going on; money.
Sauerland and co. might have realized during the 2009 SMW tournament that these competitions don’t work in boxing. The success of them are so finely balanced on a razors edge; either you pack the deck with evenly matched pugilists and end up running over schedule because of the inevitable injuries or you spike the deck top heavy and serve up weak bouts until the final, staying on schedule while maintaining some illusion of meaningful competition.
This incarnation of the tournament went for the latter, from the moment the fighters were announced it was clear that the promoters were looking to match up Groves/Eubank Jr/Smith and cream the profits from the British interest that these potential bouts would generate. ‘Don’t be a cynic’ I hear you cry. ‘Sauerland are trying to give the fans the fights we want to see’ I hear echo in the background.
Let me ask you this. Who is Robert Brant? Did Avni Yildrim ever have a chance?
Of course, he didn’t. When Groves v Eubank Jr captured the imagination of the British and dare I say, worlds boxing public, real boxing fans knew that ‘Next Gen’ never stood a chance either.
Never was my initial observation proved so correct when this past week Sauerland Promotions gave ‘The Saint’ George Groves 10 days to prove he will be eligible to fight in June. Kalle went on to say that if the WBA champion couldn’t commit to the original final date then they would consider a replacement to face Callum Smith, that replacement more than likely being Chris Eubank Jr. The very man that had just been embarrassed by the Hammersmith stylist.
The reason is simple. In my opinion, firstly, the creators of this event, after deciding they would repackage the product and sell it to the fans as a genuine competition, can’t have a serious contender step into the final and beat one of the top guys who was seeded from the start. It would be a PR nightmare. Secondly, Eubank Jr, although proven to be a British level at best operator, still generates interest because of his name and the way he portrays himself to the public. If a British fighter is in the final then the best way to keep that interest is to pair him against another fighter from the same shores and build it as a ‘Battle of Britain’, glossing over the fact we’ve all just seen Eubank Jnr been outclassed and made to look amateurish.
Does it make business sense? Yes.
Is it in the spirit of competition? No. Is that kind of maneuver worthy of a competition that offers a trophy named after a man who transcended boxing because he fought for what was just and fair?
Aside from the moral issues, what kind of impression does it give to fighters, who in the future may be asked to consider joining the tournament. George Groves has just given up 18 months of his career for nothing.
For me, it shows the level of disrespect that is prevalent in this sport. Disregard for fans as well as those who lace up the gloves. You could even say it’s a microcosm of modern life in that monetary value seems to have overtaken decorum in all that’s important.
The idea was to provide the boxing fraternity fights they want to see. The end product is nothing more than another frailty in the ever-burgeoning deck of cards that is boxing.
What do you think? Leave your comments below.