The first person who uttered the words “you gotta have a gimmick” was definitely onto something. Not sure if it was James Figg, Jack Broughton, John Sholto Douglas, or the three delectable strippers in “Gypsy” who dispensed those pearls of wisdom for the benefit of mankind, but whoever first said “you gotta have a gimmick” sure as hell got it right.
Call me old-fashioned, old hat, an old fogy, an old fart, but despite my better judgment I’ve got this love affair with boxing’s sublime geometrical symmetry of three minute rounds and one minute rest periods, each stanza a stand-in for a compete fight in itself, followed by a well deserved breather for the fighters and out of breath fans.
That’s the way it’s been and that’s the way it is after a couple of tumultuous centuries, but that’s the way it used to be too. And if some gentlemen of means have their way, and when do they not, the orthodox boxing we've come to love may go the way of the 8-track tape and unprotected sex in the backseats of convertibles.
During an international telephone conference call Monday afternoon hosted by Australian muckamuck and CEO Steven Duval, and ably seconded by former heavyweight champion nonpareil Lennox Lewis, it was announced that a “new and innovative” Superfighter Heavyweight Boxing Tournament will be held at the Telstra Dome in Melbourne, Australia on December 1.
What makes this boxing tournament different from all other boxing tournaments is that the fights will be four rounds in length, the boxers will wear 12 oz. rather than the regulation 10 oz. gloves, and the fights will happen one after the other in a single night, with the last man standing to earn $5 million.
For some this might be novelty enough, but, really, can there ever be novelty enough? The Superfighter Heavyweight Boxing Tournament has taken a good hard look at some of the sports not struggling for fans and credibility and embraced one of pro football’s new but now hallowed traditions: the instant replay where one team can call time out to review and dispute a call. What this does to boxing's intrinsic momentum is anyone’s guess, but chances are we’ll find out on December first.
Another new wrinkle the Superfighter Tourney introduces is in the scoring, which everyone knows is a complete and utter mess, even when it strives to do the right thing. Duval’s plan is to adopt a system not unlike the computerized system used by the Olympics, which is, putting it kindly, at best a nationalistic crapshoot, probably less efficient, if such a thing were possible, than some of the judging of some of the fights we’ve seen in recent years. “A panel of experts” will handle the judging, Duval told the press. Plus there will be real time scoring (tried and rejected in the past), so the fighters, cornermen and fans will know who’s winning and losing the fight as the fight progresses.
The participants in the Superfighter Heavyweight Boxing Tournament are, in alphabetical order, O’Neal Bell, Calvin Brock, Chris Byrd, Tye Fields, Juan Carlos Gomez, Oliver McCall, Jameel McCline and Samuel Peter. Maybe none of them has a Canastota or Bust tat on one of his bulging biceps, but there some genuine bruisers in that group, and some slick boxers too, there’s some meat, some muscle, even the occasional head case.
(If any of the above particpants get injured sparring or eating before the fight, the six-foot-three inch Turk known as the Bull from Bosporus, Sinan Samil Sam, has agreed to step into the breach if necessary.)
The issue of Calvin Brock committing to fighting in the Superfighter Tournament seems thorny in light of his fight with Wladimir Klitschko on Nov. 11 for the IBF heavyweight title at New York’s Madison Square Garden. But win, lose or draw against Wlad the K at MSG, Brock figures it’s worth flying to Melbourne at the chance of winning five big ones… and who can blame him?
The pay-per-view price for the Superfighter Heavyweight Boxing Tournament is $49.95. Former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, whose soul we bless but judgment we question (“Nothing compares to Superfighter,” he said. “It is a condensed, action packed boxing spectacle and I am convinced the Melbourne event will unleash a new chapter in boxing history”) will provide expert commentary, along with, according to Duval, Colonel Bob Sheridan and possibly George Foreman.
Duval is a man with a dream and the man with the right stuff to make that dream a reality. He plans Superfighter tournaments in four different divisions in 2007, and eventually hopes it to expand to eight divisions the following year.