They have no fighters on board yet and the weight classes have not yet been determined, but longtime promoters Richard Schaefer and Kalle Sauerland announced plans Thursday in New York for the World Boxing Super Series, two eight-man single-elimination tournaments in which 16 fighters will divvy up $50 million in prize money.
The winner of each tournament could earn as much as $10 million for the final and will receive the Muhammad Ali trophy, which was created with the cooperation of Ali's family and designed by Silvio Gazzaniga, the designer of the FIFA World Cup trophy.
Schaefer, the former CEO of Golden Boy Promotions who founded Ringstar Sports last year, and Sauerland, long one of Europe's most significant promoters, said they will soon settle on which weight classes to stage the tournaments in and then hope to attract fighters ranked in the top 15, as well as world titleholders, of the various sanctioning organizations to participate.
"We want to focus on weight classes that might've been a bit ignored," Schaefer said. "We want to bring those fighters to the forefront and expose them."
They plan to do so with television deals already locked up around the world, although an American deal is not complete. However, Schaefer said he is in "advanced discussions" with Showtime. Stephen Espinoza, who runs Showtime Sports and has had a close relationship with Schaefer for many years, attended the news conference on Thursday.
The promoters said the plan is to hold half of the 14 cards in venues in the United States, with the other half taking place elsewhere in the world, though Europe will be the focus. They said each fight would take place in a major arena, and then they ticked off several, including New York's Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center, Staples Center in Los Angeles, T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and other major venues in the United Kingdom and Germany.
The quarterfinals in each tournament would take place in September or October, with the semifinals in January or February and the finals in May. Parent company Comosa AG, a Swiss company with principal owners from the world of marketing (Highlight Event & Entertainment), broadcasting (Modern Times Group) and boxing (Team Sauerland), said it has committed to three years' worth of tournaments.
"The tournament will set new standards, ensure coherent storylines and provide top-class boxing throughout the year," Comosa executive Roberto Dalmiglio said. "It is Comosa's ambition to turn the World Boxing Super Series into the world's biggest and best boxing tournament."
Sauerland was central to the creation of Showtime's Super Six World Boxing Classic super middleweight tournament, a modified round-robin that ran from 2009 to 2012 and crowned Andre Ward as the winner. Sauerland also came up with World Boxing Super Series, which he said has been in the works for three years.
Sauerland pitched the idea to Schaefer, hoping to bring him into the fold. Big-money ideas in boxing have come and gone time and again, and Schaefer said he was skeptical at first. But when he saw the presentation at a meeting he said he was blown away.
"I was skeptical at first but went into the meeting with an open mind," Schaefer said. "When I started to realize the quality of the material, the quality of the people, I immediately knew this is going to be something I not only wanted to be involved in, but I know it will succeed. These are people who not only have passion and deep pockets for the sport, these are people with the expertise to execute a tournament like this at the highest level."
Once they have a field of fighters for each tournament they plan to hold a televised "draft gala" in June. The top four fighters in each tournament will be seeded, with the seeded fighters then selecting their opponents from the unseeded remaining four. The top seed will have the first choice of opponent. If a participant has a world title, a defense of that belt would be incorporated into the tournament.
Also, the promoters said they would work closely with the sanctioning bodies to make sure they avoid any issues related to mandatory defenses. Sauerland brought up the fact that the sanctioning organizations cooperated during the Super Six by delaying mandatory orders until after the tournament had concluded.
There are many details still to be ironed out and announced, but the lure of perhaps as much $1 million for the quarterfinal fights should go a long way toward attracting competitors. Schaefer said the participants, who will be subject to drug testing in accordance with World Anti-Doping Agency standards, would each receive the same base purse, with the winner of each fight getting a win bonus as he advances on to the next round.
With any tournament there is always the possibility that a participant might drop out because of an injury or other reasons. Schaefer and Sauerland said they will have a pool of reserve boxers, whose names will be made public and who will be scheduled to fight on each undercard. So if there is a withdrawal, one of them will be available to take over the spot.
"Like in other sports [the tournament] will not be stopped or slowed for any one individual," Sauerland said.
Schaefer said he believes they will be able to get other promoters to allow their fighters to participate because of the amount of money at stake and the fact that the tournament organizers will not ask for any future rights to that fighter.
"The promoter makes money, the fighter makes money and the promoter doesn't have to chase TV deals," Schaefer said. "If [the promoter's fighter] wins he gets back a fighter who has been exposed on a global scale."
Said Sauerland: "We are not here to conquer and divide. We are here to add [to boxing]. This is about putting the best fights on, and ultimately, we are talking about a sizable check, which is better for all promoters."