Multi-million Dollar Deal Reached: Streaming giant DAZN to broadcast every minute of Ali Trophy across America
COMOSA is delighted to meet the huge interest in the World Boxing Super Series from U.S. boxing fans. Millions will now be able to enjoy the action of world-class boxing and the quest for the Muhammad Ali Trophy, The Greatest Prize in Boxing.
DAZN, the world’s largest dedicated live sports streaming service, will exclusively bring U.S. fight fans all 15 fight nights of World Boxing Super Series’ Season II, featuring 21 match-ups across the three tournaments promoted by COMOSA AG.
Season II will begin September 2018 featuring three divisions: Bantamweight, Super-Lightweight and TBA.
The three-year deal will include shoulder programming such as features on fighters and select match-ups that will be available on-demand on DAZN.
DAZN will announce its official launch date and pricing this summer.
James Rushton, DAZN CEO: “As a platform built for the fans, DAZN has been mining boxing chats and forums to see how we can bring immediate value to the community. It became obvious that Americans felt left out of the terrific action and thrilling competition on display in the World Boxing Super Series. To that end, we’re happy to announce that we’ll stream every fight of all three tournaments. Keep an eye out for more announcements soon. This is just the beginning.”
Launched in 2017, the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) is a first-of-its-kind annual boxing tournament that brings together the ‘best of the best’ fighters to compete at venues around the world for the Muhammad Ali trophy.
A total of 16 elite boxers from two weight classes (Cruiserweight and Super Middleweight) battle it out on fourteen separate fight nights in a bracket-style elimination tournament – with the winner in each division crowned in summer 2018. The final super middleweight match-up features George Groves vs. Callum Smith while the cruiserweight final features Aleksandr Usyk vs. Murat Gassiev.
FIGHTERS CONFIRMED FOR SEASON II:
Emmanuel Rodriguez, IBF World Bantamweight Champion
Zolani Tete, WBO World Bantamweight Champion
Jason Moloney, IBF Mandatory
Kiryl Relikh, WBA World Super Lightweight Champion
Anthony Yigit, European Champion and IBF Mandatory
Ivan Baranchyk, IBF Mandatory
Josh Taylor, WBC Mandatory
Eduard Troyanovsky, WBA Mandatory
Andre Ward Talks Hosting “Contender” Redux
By: Sean Crose
From 2005-2009, “The Contender” showed television viewers the struggles and triumphs of struggling boxers determined to crack through to the big time. With heavyweight star power like Sugar Ray Leonard and Sylvester Stallone, The Contender would offer viewers highlights of the contestant’s plights along with highlights of the contestant’s ring battles with one another. Now, The Contender is coming back. On August 24th, EPIX will run a new, revived Contender, which will feature 16 new contestants and the talents of host and mentor Andre Ward.
“It excited me for various reasons,” Ward said of The Contender’s comeback during a Tuesday conference call. Upon learning the show would be revived the recently retired great sprang into action. “I immediately called my lawyer,” Ward stated, referring to his plan to get in on The Contender’s return. For Ward, there’s more to the show than simple production values and ratings. “It’s about human interest stories,” he said. “It talks about human beings…you can relate to a human interest story.”
I asked Ward if he felt his personality, which is far from the showy personas many fighters like to showcase, made him a natural fit for a show which focuses primarily on people’s struggles, issues and dreams. “I genuinely love the sport,” he said. “I care about the fighters because I was a fighter.” The show’s executive producer, Eric Van Wagenen, had nothing put praise for The Contender’s new host, claiming that after “about a fifteen minute conversation with Andre, I felt the franchise was in safe hands.” A fight fan, Wagenen was impressed with what he saw in Ward outside of the ring.
“I gained a new respect for him,” he said of the new host, “how smart he is, how much he cares for the young fighters.” Ward, whose last fight was a second win over light heavyweight terror Sergey Kovalev in June of 2017, had not made specific plans for the future after his retirement. “At the time of my retirement, I didn’t know about Creed 2,” Ward stated, in reference to the upcoming film he’ll be acting in (he was in the first Creed film). According to Ward, it was important “to be a guy who left (the ring) on time.” It looks to have been a wise choice.“Sometimes,” he added, “you’ve got to take the leap of faith before these other opportunities come on board.”
Van Wagenen, a close associate of original (and current) creator Mark Burnett, promises a Contender that will be in tune with the times. “I was involved with The Contender in its original form,” he said, adding that, with better production values, the new Contender has “all the things that make a show successful now.” One of those things will be a social media presence, and also full footage from the fights, rather than just highlights.
Ward was asked if working on the show made him want to make a comeback to the ring. “Yeah,” he said, “but as soon as I got hit (in sparing)…that desire just disappears.”
World Boxing Super Series 2 Announces Three Weight Divisions for Next Tournament
By: Ste Rowen
The game changing World Boxing Super Series is returning for a second series and, at a press conference today Kalle Sauerland announced that the second instalment will involve 24 boxers across 3 weight divisions.
One of the 3 weight classes will be bantamweight. WBO and IBF champions, Zolani Tete and Emmanuel Rodriguez, newly crowned at the weekend, also attended the press conference, confirming their places in the upcoming tournament.
In a short statement, South African, Tete said,
‘Thank you to everyone for this opportunity. I’m very honoured…I believe it’s going to be one of the best sellers…People (in South Africa) are very excited. Hopefully their champion will bring all the titles home.’
Rodriguez also spoke briefly, via translator,
‘It’s great to be fighting against two other world champions for all the belts…God willing I’m going to win.’
Kalle also confirmed WBA champion, Ryan Burnett would be part of the tournament and read a prepared statement on Ryan’s behalf,
‘I have always wanted to be a world champion and to unify the titles against the best opposition out there. I feel I have proved this in my last 3 fights, and now the WBSS allows me to continue my dream against the other champions in the division.’
The draw to decide the quarter final schedule will take place in July, with the first bell to kick off the tournament sounding in September.
One of the other weight classes to be introduced to the WBSS will be super lightweight (140lb), with ESPN reporting that WBA titlist, Kiryl Relikh, Eduard Troyanovsky, Ivan Baranchyk, Anthony Yigit and Regis Prograis were five of the names set to fight in the 8-man tournament.
The third and final weight class is currently unknown.
It was also announced at today’s press conference that the dates for the finals of the cruiserweight and super middleweight tournaments, Oleksandr Usyk vs Murat Gassiev & George Groves vs Callum Smith, will be confirmed within the next 10 days. Usyk/Gassiev was set to take place this weekend in Saudi Arabia but had to be postponed due to an injury sustained to WBC & WBO champion, Usyk.
Concerning, the super middleweight final, Sauerland said that they weren’t going to wait around to put the final on,
‘The tournament is bigger than any fighter and that’s just the way it is. As a promoter you have to rule out august, so the final will happen in July.’
Rumours were circulating social media yesterday that Chris Eubank Jr, defeated in the semi-finals by George Groves, would replace the WBA champion in the final. Groves dislocated his shoulder in their September matchup, forcing him to undergo an operation, pushing the original final date back.
A Look Ahead Into the World Boxing Super Series
By: Oliver McManus
With the first incarnation of the World Boxing Super Series coming to a close in the near months, I thought it was only right to look back on the brain-child of Kalle Sauerland & Richard Schaefer but also to look forward at what could be for 2018/19.
To produce a real shake-up within the boxing industry, Sauerland and Schaefer (sounds like a nice German detective thriller) needed big names, big money, big arenas but, most importantly, big organization.
Now that last point may sound a bit weird but it’s arguably the most important because fans and fighters aren’t in the business of waiting for fights to be made and after a while the match-ups themselves lose their hype;
Take the Super Six World Boxing Classic which was rife with issues – I mean first up, that name is a mouthful – but the main issue was it’s confusing group stage format combined with the fact it took place over two years resulting in an unsaleable product.
I’m still struggling to work out how Artur Abraham lost two of his three bouts yet still made the semi-final AND how Glen Johnson only had one fight in the group stages… nine years on and I’m still confused!
Evidently, then, the WBSS needed to promise something far simpler and in a bracket-style format with 8 RANKED fighters per division taking place over 9 months – a simple, easy-to-follow format.
Therein lied the main attraction to this event and the fact that all four cruiserweight champions signed up made for mouth-watering encounters – the Super Middleweight tournament didn’t quite have the same level of razzmatazz with relative unknowns Avni Yildirim and Rob Brant signing up alongside, the only recognized world champion, George Groves with Jamie Cox, Chris Eubank Jr, Erik Skoglund, Callum Smith and Jurgen Brahmer making up the numbers.
Looking to innovate from the start the proceedings kicked off with a draw whereby the four seeded fighter got to pick from the four unseeded fighters to determine who would fight who – putting the power into the hands of the fighter. This produced a tasty clash between Groves and Cox whereas other fighters (Chris Eubank Jr, I’m looking at you) blatantly picked the easiest fight possible (against Avni Yilidirim) although to be fair that was Snr’s choice.
The fights throughout were of a high quality – especially in the cruiserweight division – but the promoters missed a trick in not having the defeated men fight on the following undercards. One of the most spectacular talking points of each fight night was, well, just how spectacular the Sauerland’s managed to make the arena’s and atmosphere’s through, mainly, just incredible lighting and packed crowds.
Unfortunately the whole series encountered the first snag when Brahmer withdrew from the semi-final against Callum Smith on the Monday fight night – too late to postpone the whole event, apparently – and unknown Dutchman Nieky Holzken stepped in to fight the British “Diamond” Champion.
Holzken put in a spirited performance and was far better than many expected in pushing Smith the full 12 rounds although, having said that, Smith was far from impressive but it reinforced the issue that if fighters got injured it through the whole tournament off course resulting in either heavy postponements or sub-par fights. Imagine if Holzken beat Smith – would he have gone on to face Groves (presumably, yes) or would Brahmer have been able to challenge him beforehand. Certainly from a legal perspective I’d suggest he’d have a solid case.
A questionable choice from the promoters was to hold the cruiserweight final between Oleksandr Usyk and Murat Gassiev – for ALL the belts – in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. By all accounts it’s set to be the first fight held in the Arab country but garners all sorts of controversy not least because it’s uncertain whether women will be allowed to attend but, also, it alienates much of the Usyk / Gassiev fan-based in addition to the main Western markets for ticket sales.
Let’s be clear though across the cruiser tournament we have been blessed with insane fights starting off with Mairis Briedis vs Mike Perez in the quarter-finals before two barnstormer semi-finals between Usyk-Briedis and Gassiev-Dorticos. You literally could not ask for more.
Rumours already abound the 2018-19 editions of the World Boxing Super Series with the main focus being on what weight division will be featured – it is my understanding that the Super Lightweight and Bantamweight categories will be the two picked by the Sauerland brothers.
Looking ahead at the 2018-19 version it’s unlikely the same level of prize money will be levied at the 16 fighters – a total of $50million was on offer for the two inaugural brackets – with the lower weight divisions seemingly courting less money but that’s not to say we will see any less superfluous action.
The WBSS have worked miracles already but should they managed to put together a Zolani Tete vs Ryan Burnett unification fight – who knows, maybe in Belfast – then they will have truly managed to pull off something special but it’s not just those two who could be in action, Jamie McDonnell, Paul Butler and Lee Haskins would all produce sumptuous match-ups.
Venturing into the super-lightweight division and it’s questionable whether all four champions would enter – far more likely to happen in the bantam division – but the likes of Terry Flanagan, Kiryl Relikh, Adrien Broner, Josh Taylor, Regis Prograis, Anthony Yigit, Jack Catterall and Julius Indongo are all realistic possibilities that would promise to entertain.
Speculation aside though there’s only two fights we need to focus on at the moment and that’s Usyk-Gassiev on the 11th May for the UNDISPUTED cruiserweight champion of the world and Groves-Smith in July, Manchester, for the WBA Super-Middleweight belt.
Let’s get it on.
WBSS Results: Callum Smith Advances with Win over Holzken
By: Bryant Romero
Callum Smith earned a place in the WBSS final and a showdown with George Groves with a tougher than expected win over a very game Nieky Holzken in Nuremberg, Germany. Holzken (13-1) was a late replacement who took the fight on 5 days notice following the withdrawal of Jurgen Braehmer (49-3, 35 KOs) who was originally scheduled to fight Smith.
Photo Credit: World Boxing Super Series Twitter Account
Holzken showed no hesitation in replacing Braehmer and came into the fight with tremendous confidence. The 27-year-old Smith (24-0, 17 KOs) was obviously disappointed that Braehmer had pulled out, but now he had to worry about an undefeated Holzken, which he didn’t know much about and admitted after the fight, he may have underestimated the Dutchman a little.
The undefeated Brit started the fight strong, establishing his distance while maintaining it and consistently popping the Dutchman with clean jabs. Holzken was game however, as he continued to apply pressure throughout the fight and at times displaying good head movement, slipping some of Smith’s jabs. Holzken would at times land some really good power shots, but his lack of activity and shaky defense at times would cost him a lot of the early rounds.
Smith was content with keeping the Dutchman at distance, while also outworking and outpunching Holzken throughout the majority of the rounds. As the rounds progressed to the middle rounds however, Smith started to show signs of fatigue and Holzken would start to make a push in the middle rounds landing some nice clean hard shots.
The 34-year-old Dutchman was competitive throughout the fight and surprised many with the type of moments he was producing in the bout. Some predicted he would get stopped within six rounds, but Holzken closed the fight very strong and got the better of Smith in the final round. Holzken fought very well, but Smith’s workrate, clean jabs, and outlanding Holzken throughout the majority of the rounds would prove to be the difference.
With the win, Callum Smith keeps his undefeated record intact and will now get the fight he’s wanted the most, which is a world title opportunity against WBA super middleweight champion George Groves (28-3, 20 KOs) in the WBSS final. The final is scheduled for June 2 in the UK, but with the shoulder injury to Groves following his win over Eubank Jr, the final could get pushed back to a new date.
WBSS Preview: Callum Smith vs Nieky Holzken
By: Bryant Romero
This Saturday in Nuremberg, Germany, the World Boxing Super Series returns for the second super middleweight semifinal with Callum Smith(23-0, 17 KOs) taking on late replacement Nieky Holzken (13-0, 10 KOs). The winner will advance to the finals of the tournament for the right to challenge WBA super middleweight champion George Groves, who is fresh off his unanimous decision win over Chris Eubank Jr. Smith was originally scheduled to fight veteran German Jurgen Braehmer (49-3, 35 KOs) who was forced to pull out earlier this week due to an infection, which made it impossible for Braehmer to compete fully fit for this Saturday.
Photo Credit: World Boxing Super Series
Smith will now be opposite of the ring of a very confident but unknown challenger in Nieky Holzken who has vowed to the boxing press that he is here to “take over the world boxing super series.” Holzken is a former world champion kick boxer with over 100 fights under his belt as a kick boxer. The Dutchman turned professional as boxer in 2013 and he is coming off an impressive second-round knockout of Viktor Polyakov just three weeks ago. The unbeaten Dutchman had originally been scheduled to face Dmitry Chudinov on the undercard, but will now get the opportunity in what will be seen as a major upset if he can beat the undefeated Callum Smith and advance to the finals of WBSS tournament.
Callum Smith is the number one contender for the WBC title at super middleweight and was on the verge of title shot before deciding to enter the tournament. He signed an agreement to face American Anthony Dirrell for the vacant WBC world title in America for which never occurred. The unbeaten Brit now finds himself in the semifinals of the WBSS tournament and is one win away from a very lucrative showdown and first world title opportunity against George Groves.
The decision to enter the tournament was the smart business move for Callum Smith, but now he finds himself in a tricky situation in dealing with the pullout of his original opponent in Braehmer and having to quickly adjust to a late replacement in Holzken who brings a much different style and fights from the orthodox stance.
The change in opponent, fighting away from home in Germany, the confidence that Holzken is displaying, and the fact that Smith knows nothing about his new opponent could be a recipe of a much more difficult night than expected at the office for Callum Smith. The bookies don’t give the Ducthman a prayer to win the fight, but stranger things have happen in boxing and perhaps we could be in for an interesting fight in this Callum Smith vs Nieky Holzken semifinal showdown.
Juergen Braehmer Out of Saturday’s Semi-Final
By: Ste Rowen
Juergen Braehmer has pulled out of this weekend’s World Boxing Super Series semi-final vs Callum Smith due to illness. The super middle & light heavyweight veteran said,
‘I have been battling a feverish infection since Sunday. Unfortunately, a fight in this state is out of the question.’
In to replace Braehmer is the unbeaten Dutchman and kickboxer, Nieky Holzen. Holzen currently holds a 13-0 (10KOs) record in a pro boxing career that started in 2013. This will be just the second time he has fought outside of the Netherlands professionally as a boxer, the other occasion was also in Germany. He was set to fight Dmitrii Chudinov before he received the call to make the step up to the WBSS, and he didn’t seem fazed by the prospect of facing Callum Smith,
‘I signed up as a substitute fighter so I’m in great shape and prepared for Saturday. I’ve watched Callum fight many times…He’s a good, solid fighter. We’re both big body punchers…Callum, you better be ready, because I am and I’m coming to beat you!’
Holzen has already fought this year, stopping the well-travelled Ukrainian, Viktor Polyakov, 13-3-1 (6KOs), in the 2nd round just 17 days ago.
Smith, 23-0 (17KOs), seemed slightly annoyed but unmoved by the change of opponent,
‘I gave an interview last week and said it’s great there have been no drop-outs…We got the call as we were boarding the plane. I am committed to fighting on Saturday and will fight whoever the WBSS puts in front of me.’
Up until last Saturday, across both the cruiser and super middleweight tournaments, the series has been lucky to not suffer any injuries. Now with Braehmer out and the uncertainty around George Groves’ shoulder injury, it will be a real test for the Sauerlands and Richard Schaefer, to keep the closing stages of the super middleweight draw exciting.
WBSS Results: George Groves Decisions Eubank
By: Ste Rowen
‘Saint’ George Groves solidified his status as the number one super middleweight and became the first man to progress to the Super Middleweight World Boxing Super Series final after dominating Chris Eubank Jr to a unanimous decision victory.
Photo Credit: World Boxing Super Series Twitter Account
Speaking in the ring immediately after the result had been read out, the WBA ‘Super’, and now IBO champion said,
‘Terrific fight for the fans. Well done to Eubank, he didn’t lie when he said he was gonna grit it out tonight…I dropped him at least once but it didn’t count…He was strong inside as expected but I’m very, very happy with the performance.
The jab was landing correctly all night, when he had success it was because I did something wrong…I already hurt him before the cut…He was getting more wild as the fight wore on because he was having no success…It’s been a long time since I’ve won in front of a big crowd, I had great support tonight.’
On the shoulder injury he sustained in the final rounds of the fight,
‘I haven’t diagnosed it yet but it feels pretty sore but I wasn’t gonna let anything beat me tonight… It was about who wanted it most I think, and I obviously wanted it most.’
Eubank is left to lick his wounds, including a significant cut above his right eye; and wonder what could’ve been after what seemed to be a complete lack of strategy throughout most of the fight. Reflecting on the bout Eubank said,
‘I thought I did enough in the later rounds to win the fight but it was a close fight. All credit to George, this all part of boxing. You win some, you lose some. Hopefully we can get a rematch. It was enough of a good fight to have another one.’
But neither defeat, nor the eye injury stopped him calling out the recently crowned IBF super middleweight champion,
‘I guess I’m out of the tournament now but there’s a man called Caleb Truax who has a super middleweight world title, he beat James DeGale, so maybe me and him can step into the ring and then I’ll get the winner of this tournament.’
From the off Groves established himself behind his much-vaunted jab and despite flashes of punches and constant rushing in by Eubank Jr, Groves built up a strong lead in the early rounds. Eubank sustained the cut in the 3rd round from an accidental head clash, and although it looked troubling and perhaps game changing, it didn’t seem to be enough for the IBO champion to change tact. Eubank did his best to gather momentum after the 8th round, but even when he looked to be getting on top Groves superior strength tied the challenger up and left him with few ideas. But for George’s shoulder injury, the final round probably wouldn’t have been as lively as it occurred but, in the last minute of the fight Eubank laid it all on the line, landing clean multiple times, and yet still, Grove’s ring savvy and experience meant he hung on through the 12th and claimed his 28th professional victory.
The final scorecards read as 117-112, 116-112, 115-113 all for George Groves.
The WBA ‘Super’ champion will now go on to face either Callum Smith or Jurgen Braehmer, who fight in Nuremberg next weekend, although the final, set to take place in early June, may have to be pushed back because of what seemed to be a dislocated shoulder for the ‘Saint’.
One the undercard…
The potential stand-in for tonight’s main event, Zach Parker proved himself a worthy reserve as he dispatched with Adasat Rodriguez to move to 15-0 (11KOs).
It was a relatively tentative fight until Parker landed a big left hook to shake up his Spanish opponent and force the first knockdown. Once Rodriguez had risen, Parker went in for the kill, landed a double right hook, followed with a left in brutal fashion to keep his 15th professional opponent down. Parker will now be eyeing up a shot at the British title recently vacated by Rocky Fielding.
Tommy Langford retained the British middleweight title over 12 rounds against Jack Arnfield. There was no doubt that the challenger came to win but although it was close after 9 rounds, Langford dominated the final three rounds and it made the difference as the final scorecards came back as 116-113, 116-113, 117-113 all for Langford.
Ryan Walsh and Isaac Lowe fought to a split decision draw for the British featherweight belt meaning Walsh retained the title. Isaac Lowe seemed to start the quicker of the two and attempted to retain that pace throughout. Walsh chose to bide his time and pick off the right shots at the right time. There was a case to be argued for either fighter to take the win, but the final scorecards came back as 114-115 Lowe, 116-114 Walsh, 115-115.
WBSS Preview: George Groves vs. Chris Eubank Jr.
By: Ste Rowen
On Saturday night in Manchester, an all-British world title fight takes place when WBA super middleweight champion, George Groves 27-3 (20KOs), steps into the ring with IBO belt holder, Chris Eubank Jr 26-1 (20KOs) in the much-anticipated World Boxing Super Series semi-finals.
Both boxers made easy work of their quarterfinal opponents back in October.
At Wembley Arena, ‘Saint’ George Groves knocked out fellow Brit, Jamie Cox in the 4th round with a clinical body shot that kept Cox down for the count and served as Groves’ first defence of his WBA belt, which he won back in April after stopping Fedor Chudinov.
In the pre-fight documentary, still available on the WBSS YouTube channel, Groves said…
‘I don’t like to waste shots so anything I do throw, believe me you’re gonna get hit with it… There’s absolutely nothing there for me to worry about because there’s gaping, gaping holes in that style, in that approach.
He’s a blown-up middleweight who’s come into this tournament to try and build his profile… If he managed to beat me he’ll be the next coming but if he fails he’s gonna have the biggest fall from grace that we’ve had in this country for a long time.’
Away from home and in the heated atmosphere of Stuttgart, Eubank knocked out, walking punchbag Avni Yildrim in the 3rd round of his quarterfinal bout, with a devastating right hook that finished the Turk off, after already forcing his opponent into briefly taking a knee in the first round following an uppercut.
Speaking on his own and his opponent’s capabilities, Chris was in confident mood…
‘It’s more than possible to push through that pain barrier and get up, and I’m sure that he’ll try and use that against me and I’m sure I’ll be prepared for it… It won’t go the 12 rounds, somebody’s getting knocked out. This chin doesn’t have an off button, his does.
I don’t have any hate for the guy, he’s just a guy with a belt that I need to get passed to win the tournament. I keep my emotions out of boxing. It’s nothing personal, it’s just punishment.’
It’s a difficult fight to conclusively call. It could come down to how well Groves weathers the storm in the early rounds and whether his chin holds up as well as it did against Chudinov. Along with being able to slip and counter off the ropes, if Groves is able to fire off the selection of shots we’ve seen in his 6-fight win streak since losing to Badou Jack back in 2015, Eubank will need to do more to protect himself when those huge swinging hooks go amiss.
Eubank may not be pillow-fisted, but he’s lacking that one-punch KO power. Even in his previous bout, the IBO champion constantly landed cleanly throughout the 3 rounds. It’s difficult to envisage a scenario where a seasoned pro like George Groves, gives his semi-final foe so many opportunities to take him out.
The second semi-final takes place next week in Nuremberg as super middle & light heavyweight veteran, Jurgen Braehmer, 49-3 (35KOs) goes up against 23-0 (17KOs) Callum ‘Mundo’ Smith. The winners will progress to a final that’s expected to take place in early June at London’s O2 arena.
On the undercard, and as long as there’s no late injury to either of the main event fighters, WBSS super middleweight injury reserve, Zach Parker, 14-0 (10KOs) will take on 16-6-2 (10KOs), Adasat Rodriguez.
Two British title fights will also be on the undercard as Ryan Walsh takes on unbeaten, Isaac Lowe; and Tommy Langford is up against Jack Arnfield for the middleweight belt.
Both Walsh and Lowe have a mutual opponent on their records in Denis Ceylan who Lowe fought to a disputed draw, in March 2017; Walsh was beaten on a split decision to Ceylan five months earlier.
It’ll be the first time Tommy Langford, 19-1 (6KOs) defends his British title since 2016, after a 1-1 record in 2017. He was comprehensively knocked out by Avtandil Khurtsidze back in April and ended the year with a routine comeback points victory over 11-36-1 Miguel Aguilar. Jack Arnfield is currently on a six-fight win streak including wins over John Ryder, and former junior middleweight world title challenger, Brian Rose.
WBSS Results: Gassiev Knocks Out Dorticos in Final Round of Slugfest
By: Ste Rowen
In Sochi’s Bolshoy Ice Dome Murat ‘Iron’ Gassiev has knocked out WBA champion, Yunier ‘The KO Doctor’ Dorticos in the 12th round of an almost certain ‘Fight of the Year’, if not ‘Fight of the Decade’ contender.
The Cuban had the better start of the two fighters, making his reach advantage count. His 1-2’s keeping Gassiev at bay but for the spurts of counter combinations from ‘Iron’. It’s testament to Yunier’s chin that it took until the 5th round for ‘The KO Doctor’ to show any signs of weakness when Murat landed and Dorticos legs seemed to wobble ever so slightly.
He recovered well enough until the championships rounds when he really began to labour. The piston like jab and 1-2’s were gone and Gassiev began to overwhelm. In the 11th, the Russian landed cleanly again forcing Dorticos to clinch enough to bizarrely end up bending the IBF champ over the ropes.
Dorticos entered the final round in survival mode, but there was nowhere to hide. The first knockdown came from a wonderful left hook from the hip of Murat; the second from a more wild left hook, and the finisher came as the two fighters almost did a lap of the ring before Yunier backed up too far, took a huge right, then a left and found himself halfway through the ropes and looking up at the referee waving off the bout.
Post-fight the second unified cruiserweight champion in a week, Gassiev said,
‘I want to thank all Russian fans who come today to watch me. Thank you, all fans in the world who support me. Thank you Dorticos, he’s a really hard hitter. Good luck for his professional career. This is cruiserweight division and all around you, you have pressure … I don’t feel I finished him, he takes big punches and continued fighting.’
On the prospect of fighting Usyk, Murat kept it short and sweet,
‘First of all, congratulations. I hope in final we do good fight for all boxing fans.’
Usyk joined the winner in the ring and spoke via translator,
‘I want to congratulate Murat on his victory. I expect spectacular and beautiful fight.’
‘The KO Doctor’ didn’t speak in the ring afterwards but in the post-fight press conference he was consoled by his opponent as he began to cry. Via translator he said,
‘I’m sad … I feel like I’ve disappointed a lot of people; people in Miami, people in Cuba, a lot of people here today. I gave the best of me. He’s a strong fighter. I would like for him to give me a rematch.’
This week, the WBA upgraded Dorticos title from ‘Regular’ to ‘Super’ champion now meaning, for the first time, all four world titles will be on the line when IBF & newly crowned WBA champion, Murat Gassiev takes on WBO & WBC champion, Oleksandr Usyk in the final in May.
Briedis and Usyk brought the best out of each other, as did tonight’s semi-finalists. Surely there can be no doubt that Usyk v Gassiev will be yet another brutal but beautiful encounter.
On the undercard Fedor Chudinov notched up his third win in a row since being stopped by George Groves back in May last year. He forced a 7th round stoppage of Finnish, Timo Laine to move to 17-2 (12KOs).
The Finn seemed game enough from the start but Fedor was unmoved by his opponent’s occasional spurts of activity. The Russian dominated through the rounds, forcing 21-9 Laine onto the backfoot with bruising hooks to the body and head. Into round 7, Laine’s corner told him it was now or never. The Finn responded with a positive start to the round before Chudinov soaked it up and fired back with the accuracy he’d shown in the past six rounds. Just before the 8th, despite protest from their man, Laine’s corner pulled their fighter out and Fedor was claimed the victor. Tonight’s victory adds to a 2nd round stoppage of Jonathan Geronimo Barbadillo in July, and a routine 12-round decision win over then unbeaten, Ryan Ford in September.
Maksim Vlasov scored a 10th round TKO of Olanrewaju Durodola. He started on top and continued that way through the schedule 12-round fight. The man who conquered WBSS quarter finalist, Dmitry Kudryashov back in 2015 struggled to set himself and Vlasov’s pressure and combination punching proved to be too much as Durodola didn’t come out for the 11th round. Vlasov now moves to 42-2 (25KOs).
WBSS Preview: Murat Gassiev v Yunier Dorticos
By: Ste Rowen
As the dust settles in Riga, following the unification clash between Oleksandr Usyk and Mairis Briedis, which saw Usyk take control of both the WBO and WBC titles. The hype is just getting going in Sochi for the second cruiserweight World Boxing Super Series semi-final, as Murat ‘Iron’ Gassiev faces off against Yunier ‘The KO Doctor’ Dorticos.
It’s a battle of the powerhouses with Russian, Gassiev’s record currently standing at 25-0 (18KOs), as opposed to his Cuban opposition’s 22-0 (21KOs).
Both fighters scored very different but equally as brutal knockouts in the quarter finals. Murat cut former world champion, Krzysztof Wlodarczyk in half to win a 3rd round stoppage in Newark. Dominating the early rounds before landing a left-hand finisher to the body which kept Krzysztof down long after the 10-count was up.
Just less than a month earlier, Dorticos made light work of heavy hitting Russian, Dmitry Kudryashov. He knocked out the, 21-1 (21KOs) at-the-time fighter in the second round by making him miss, then making him pay; dodging a left hook before firing off a right hand that sent the Russian’s eyes rolling into Christmas.
Speaking at a joint press conference immediately after Gassiev’s win over Wlodarczyk back in October, Dorticos was in a very confident mood,
‘I don’t really see anything that necessarily stands out. He’s defeating competition that is older than him. He fought a guy who has terrific history but at the end of the day his opponent tonight was old. Now he’s gonna fight someone that is similar to him.
Take a good vacation but I’m gonna prepare the right dosage for you of ibuprofen and anaesthesia for the next fight so the pain is less.’
Murat left his trainer, Abel Sanchez to give an assessment on his next opponent,
‘I think both guys have to be confident going into this fight. 25 guys now have tried with Murat and 25 guys have failed so I don’t see anything in Dorticos that is gonna pose problems. Yes, he can punch but so can Murat, let’s see who can take them.’
The 12,000-seat capacity Bolshoy Ice Dome will be the venue on Saturday. It’s the first time the stadium will hold a boxing event since it opened back in 2012.
Warmer climates await however for the winner, as the final will take place in Saudi Arabia in around four months time. Date and venue yet to be confirmed.
WBSS Results: Usyk Defeats Briedis
By: Ste Rowen
Wins for Usyk, Hrgovic and Otto Wallin, top a great night for former amateur standouts.
Olesksandr Usyk has taken one step closer to Cruiserweight supremacy after outworking the now former WBC champion, Mairis Briedis, to a unanimous 12-round decision.
The early rounds saw Bridies press as Usyk stood off, countering when it mattered. The Latvian made it uncomfortable for Usyk through four.
As the rounds progressed though, Usyk began to dominate behind his jab and his championship experience began to show.
The final round saw Briedis go all out as if he knew it was all or nothing, but Usyk kept his distance, and the Ukrainian did enough to keep the Latvian at bay.
The final score cards were, 114-114, 115-113, 115-113 for Usyk.
Speaking post-fight, Usyk said,
‘These were the most difficult 12-rounds I’ve had in my career.
On his possible finalist, Usyk said,
‘I will be watching this fight, and I wish the strongest man wins.’
He will now face either IBF champion, Murat Gassiev or WBA ‘Regular’ champion, Yunier Dorticos in the WBSS final in May.
On the undercard, highly rated, 2016 bronze medallist, Filip Hrgovic of Croatia, moved to 3-0 after scoring a TKO victory over Tom Little in the 4th round. Much like his fellow Super Heavyweight Rio Olympians, Tony Yoka and Jo Joyce; Hrgovic is being quickly accelerated through the heavyweight rankings and a stoppage victory over Tom Little, in just his third fight, underlines that point.
His victory tonight follows 1st round knockouts over heavyweight gatekeeper, Raphael Zumbano Love and 6-0, Pavel Sour.
Swedish southpaw, Otto Wallin moved to 19-0 (13 KOs) after taking out 6-5, Srdan Govedarica in the 3rd round with a body shot. After fighting just once in 2017 with a 5th round stoppage of 12-4 at the time, Gianluca Mendras; heavyweight Otto will be hoping to continue the steady progress he was making back in 2016, a year topped by his shutout points victory over the aforementioned, Zumbano Love. A showdown with fellow countryman Adrian Granat awaits later this year.
WBSS Preview: Oleksandr Usyk v Mairis Briedis
By: Ste Rowen
The World Boxing Super Series gets back underway on the 27th January as Latvia holds host to the first semi-final between WBC champion Mairis Briedis, 23-0 (18KOs) and WBO champion Olesksandr Usyk 13-0 (11KOs).
It will be Riga-born Mairis Briedis’ second consecutive fight in his home city after he dominated Mike Perez to a unanimous decision in his quarter final back in September.
Despite the awkward way the Perez fight played out, speaking at the first face-off between the two fighters, Briedis seemed confident that the bout would match up with the raucous atmosphere expected in Arena Riga,
‘It is one of my dreams as a fighter to be part of one of the greatest fights of all time. I hope this fight will be a hall of fame fight. It has all the ingredients to become a classic.’
On the raised stakes with each fight he’s a part of, Mairis replied,
‘I don’t think of anything outside of boxing so right now I’m doing my job… When the fight is done we will talk about other stuff that is not pure boxing.’
The enigmatic Usyk was in confident mood as always. It will be the Ukrainian’s 5th consecutive fight away from his home country and his 4th title defence since defeating then unbeaten Krzysztof Glowacki in Poland back in 2016.
‘There wasn’t an arena suitable to host this event in Ukraine but that’s not a problem… This is a unification bout; two world champions are facing each other so it doesn’t matter where the fight is taking place, it could even be on the moon. The most important thing is what’s happening in the ring.’
Asked about his travelling support, the WBO champion said,
‘Who knows? There is definitely interest in Ukraine and there is always fans when I am fighting abroad… 50/50 split.’
The 2012 Olympic gold medallist progressed to the semi-finals courtesy of a 10th round stoppage of Marco Huck. It was a particularly impressive victory coming off the back of two laboured wins over American, Michael Hunter and fellow southpaw, Thabiso Mchunu.
The second semi-final between Murat ‘Iron’ Gassiev and Yunier ‘The KO Doctor’ Dorticos takes place in Sochi, Russia a week later. All four remaining fighters go into the semi-finals unbeaten with a combined record of 83-0 (68KOs).
Reminder: If any of the fights are scored a draw across the three judges, a fourth judge will be called into play to settle who progresses to the much anticipated final, set to take place in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in May this year.
WBSS: Semi-Final Locations Announced for Gassiev vs. Dorticos
By: Ste Rowen
The clash of the KO kings of the cruiserweight division will land in Sochi on February 3rd.
IBF champion, Murat Gassiev will face WBA ‘Regular’ champion, Yunier Dorticos for a place in the cruiserweight World Boxing Super Series final. A final signed to take place in Saudi Arabia around May next year.
Photo Credit: World Boxing Super Series
It will be Murat’s first fight in Russia since he beat Denis Lebedev to win the IBF belt in December 2016 at Khodynka Ice Palace, Moscow. His one and only defence of the belt he won that night was his quarter final body-shot KO of Krzysztof Wlodarczyk in Newark two months ago.
Along with his fight of the year contender with Youri Kalenga in Paris, this will be Dorticos’ only second fight outside of the US. The Cuban impressively knocked out quarter final opponent, and Russian Dmitry Kudryashov in California to reach the semi-finals.
The two fighters have accumulated thirty-eight knockouts in forty-seven fights between them, as Gassiev’s record stands at 25-0-0 (18KOs) and Dorticos’ to date, 21-0-0 (20KOs).
After the announcement the Russian said,
‘The location for the semi-final was not important for me but the fact that it will be in Russia and the beautiful city of Sochi makes me very glad…Dorticos is a very good, dangerous fighter. It is going to be great test of my skills against an opponent like him.’
‘The KO Doctor’ Dorticos said,
‘No matter where I fight I will work hard to take my opponent out… I can’t wait to show Gassiev and the fans in Russia what ‘The KO Doctor’ is about.
The second semi-final between WBO champion, Oleksandr Usyk and WBC champion Mairis Briedis will take place in Briedis’ home town and quarter-final location, Riga, Latvia on 28th January.
Briedis, 23-0-0 (18KOs) eased to a unanimous points decision victory, in a particularly-difficult-watch quarter-final against Cuban, Mike Perez.
13-0-0 (11KOs) Usyk dominated Marco Huck in his quarter-final before stopping the German in the tenth round. It will be Usyk’s fifth fight on the road since he stopped Pedro Rodriguez in the seventh round at the Palace of Sports, Kiev back in December 2015.
WBSS Results: Braehmer Defeats Brant
By: Ste Rowen
Juergen Braehmer made sure he continued the winning trend for seeded fighters in the World Boxing Super Series, as he dominated American prospect, Rob Brant to a twelve round unanimous decision and hardly looked troubled in doing so.
It was a tentative first round to begin with as Brant tried to force the German back with wayward right hands. The ‘dark horse’ of the competition however was being caught by an accurate Braehmer jab. As the rounds continued Braehmer upped his punch output and began to dominate.
Not only was he landing but he was making ‘Bravo’ miss time and time again with some wonderful head movement, evading Brant’s best shots and then attacking with his own powerful left hand.
More rounds passed by and Brant was looking all out of ideas. Braehmer kept to his skillset, landing accurately with the 1-2 and continuing to expose the American’s lack of a plan B. There was very little difference in round two through to round twelve other than the expression on Rob Brant’s face and as the last bell rang it was clear for all to see that the former Light Heavyweight Champion, Juergen Braehmer was going through to the semi-finals. The scorecards came back as, 119-109, 118-110, 116-112, all for Braehmer.
Speaking in the ring post-fight, now 49-3-0 Braehmer, through a translator said, ‘It was the first time I was training by myself. I felt really fit tonight, sometimes I was a little bit stiff and I wanted too much to knock him out but I showed what I can still do at 39 years of age.’
On the prospect of facing Callum Smith, ‘I was in training camp with his opponent Erik Skoglund and I know exactly what I can do in the ring. Now I have even more confidence. I’m back and I can prove what I can do.’
Callum Smith also joined Braehmer in the ring post-fight saying, ‘He was good, he did a good job … He was the bigger man, he used his size and showed there’s still a little bit left in the tank at 39.’
On where their future bout will be held Smith said, ‘I’d love to fight in Liverpool, I like fighting in Liverpool but I believe I’m the better man and wherever the fight is I still believe I’ll prevail and come out with the win.’
The WBSS Super Middleweight semi-finals are as follows;
George Groves v Chris Eubank Jr
Juergen Braehmer v Callum Smith