Notes and Nuggets by Thomas Hauser

On September 27, 2014, adult glamour model Jordan Carver and adult film star Melanie Muller entered a boxing ring in Dusseldorf, Germany, and did battle over four heated rounds. Their encounter could be dismissed as taking place far beyond the outer fringe of boxing but for one notable fact.

The ring announcer was Michael Buffer.

Carver was born in Germany in 1986. According to Wikipedia, she worked as a hotel manager, beautician, and make-up artist before moving to Los Angeles to pursue a modeling career. In January 2010, she launched her own website featuring glamour photos, videos, and other content.

Wikipedia further notes, “Carver became successful due to the large size of her breasts paired with her otherwise slim figure.” But in 2017, she posted a video on YouTube entitled “Why I Decided for a Breast Reduction” and a second video heralding her “new life as Ina Marie.” She now says that she has left the adult industry behind. But memories remain. A recent Google search for “Jordan Carver” engendered more than 400,000 results.

Melanie Muller was born in Germany in 1988. Wikipedia reports that she worked as a “restaurant specialist and bartender” before turning to erotic modeling in 2010. She had a brief career in pornographic films and has been involved in a number of entertainment ventures including singing. In April 2014, Muller recorded and released a song in honor of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the title of which translates into English as “Let’s Go, Germany. Score!”

Carver vs. Muller (which can be found on YouTube) was honestly, albeit inartfully, fought. There were four two minute rounds without headgear. The women didn’t play-act or pose provocatively. They fought as best they could with Muller winning the decision.

As for Buffer’s participation . . .

The Great One has longstanding commercial ties to Germany. He has been a spokesperson for Saturn, a large German electronics manufacturing company. And he was the ring announcer of choice for most of Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko’s championship fights in Germany.

Where Carver vs. Muller was concerned, Buffer announced Carver as “The Queen of Fitness” and Muller as “The Queen of the Jungle, but tonight she wants to become Germany’s first lady of fighting.” He also intoned “Let’s get ready to rumble!” at the appropriate time and, when the bout was over, announced the decision as he would after any big fight.

“It was part of a celebrity boxing series,” Buffer recalls, looking back on that night. “And it was done on a pretty high level. They had a good crowd in a respectable venue. [Former heavyweight contender] Axel Schulz was one of the German television commentators, and the telecast got good ratings. I was brought in to give the event credibility. The fight was sloppy but totally for real. Both women tried hard to win.  I did my job. They paid me well. And that was it.”

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There was a time when boxing’s best fought each as a matter of course. That era peaked when HBO had the resolve and money to push super-fights and the landscape was graced by warriors like Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Marvin Hagler, and Roberto Duran. But too often in recent years, boxing fans have been reduced to imagining big fights rather than watching them.

Enter an ambitious undertaking known as the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS).

The WBSS is funded by Comosa AG (a European entertainment company). It began as a joint venture with Sauerland Promotions. Richard Schaefer was brought into the mix to promote WBSS fights that are contested in the United States and, more importantly, to negotiate a deal for WBSS television rights with an American network. It was also contemplated that Schaefer would be involved in dealing with third parties in other countries where he might have better connections than Sauerland.

It its inaugural year, the WBSS has featured eight-man elimination tournaments in boxing’s cruiserweight and super-middleweight divisions. Schaefer outlined the premise behind the venture as follows: “Most sports have a signature event or events. Baseball, football, soccer, golf, tennis, NCAA basketball. The idea is to brand this as a signature event. Comosa thinks they’ll lose money for the first two or three years while they’re building their brand and then turn a corner.”

There was a lot of pie-in-the-sky hype at the start. In March 2017, the WBSS announced that fighters in the first two tournaments would compete for $50 million in purses, although Schaefer soon conceded that $50 million was “just a number because we don’t know yet who will enter the tournaments.”

Comosa also entered into a long term licensing deal with Authentic Brands Group (which controls commercial rights to the name, likeness, and image of Muhammad Ali). That enabled tournament organizers to declare that the fighters in each weight division would do battle for “The Greatest Prize in Boxing, the Muhammad Ali Trophy.”

The participants and seedings in each weight division were determined last summer. No recognized world title-holders were entered in the 168-pound mix, although George Groves picked up a vacant WBA belt when he defeated Jamie Cox in the first round of the tournament.

The cruiserweights were another matter. All four major cruiserweight beltholders – Murat Gassiev (IBF), Yunier Dorticos (WBA), Oleksandr Usyk (WBO), and Mairus Briedis (WBC) – entered the fray. And they were joined by a credible supporting cast of Marco Huck, Krzyslof Wlodarczyk, Dmitry Kudryashov, and Mike Perez.

But there have been problems, the most significant of which is the absence of a deal with an American television network.

Multiple sources say that, at the start of the negotiating process, Schaefer asked Showtime for a $15 million licensing fee that he would then use to sign tournament participants. Showtime responded that Schaefer was dreaming and suggested that he try to work something out on a lesser scale with Al Haymon (Showtime’s primary content provider).

Epix offered $500,000 for all fourteen fights in the first two tournaments and was prepared to go higher as negotiations progressed. But the WBSS felt they were in different universes when it came to an appropriate license fee for the bouts.

More recently, Showtime expressed interest in a package deal for the 168-pound semi-final bout between George Groves and Chris Eubank Jr (to be contested in Manchester on February 17) and the two championship finals, which are slated for May. But no agreement has been reached.

Meanwhile, there are rumblings that all is not well between Comosa, Sauerland, and Schaefer. Feelings have been bruised, and there are questions as to whether Schaefer overstated what he could bring to the table in terms of American television money and whether Showtime backed away from a promise to support the tournaments.

The absence of a significant TV deal has made it impossible for the WBSS to catch on in the United States. That’s a shame insofar as the cruiserweights are concerned.

The WBSS super-middleweight tournament has sparked interest in England, primarily because of the involvement of Groves and Eubank. But the cruiserweight tournament is special. The championship round will be contested between Murat Gassiev and Oleksandr Usyk on May 11, most likely in Saudi Arabia but possibly in Russia. Two fighters who have earned the right to call themselves the best cruiserweights in the world will square off with the winner being legitimately acclaimed as #1.

Jimmy Tobin recently noted that we live in “an era when a fighter can have developmental fights even after winning multiple titles and where every stern challenge provides license for at least one unwatchable one.”

The World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tournament has followed a different road. It’s a high-quality gemstone and what boxing should be about.

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Greg Sirb (executive director of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission) is a staunch advocate for fighter safety. Sirb regularly reviews fight schedules and fight results from around the country with an eye toward determining which commissions need to upgrade their standards. Recently, he turned an eye toward the National Football League.

The causal link between football and chronic brain damage is no longer in doubt.  After years of waffling and covering up, the NFL is now addressing the issue in a more substantive way. A massive financial settlement with former players and a new “concussion protocol” are part of the mix. But Sirb still believes that the NFL is behind boxing in some respects.

“Look at [New England Patriots all-pro tight end] Rob Gronkowski,” Sirb said in a recent telephone conversation. “On January 21st, Gronkowski suffered a concussion after a helmet-to-helmet hit in the AFC conference championship game. But he was cleared to participate in a full practice on February 1st and to play in the Super Bowl on February 4th.”

“In other words,” Sirb continued, “two weeks after Gronkowski suffered a concussion, he was back on the field where he risked getting hit in the head again. Now let’s take the same scenario for boxing. Say, Gronkowski was a boxer and got hit with a big right hand, went down, maybe got to his feet, and the referee stopped the fight. And just like he did on the football field, Gronkowski the boxer suffered a concussion. In boxing, he would have been suspended for at least thirty days.”

“The NFL can say all it wants about its so-called concussion protocol,” Sirb concluded. “But football is behind boxing when it comes to caring about participant safety. Look, football is a great game. I love football. My son plays college football. And I regulate a sport where one guy is paid to punch another guy in the face. But those guys at the NFL have to get off their high horse and stop all this sanctimonious talk about concussion protocol. Do you know how many NFL players don’t even wear a mouthpiece? A mouthpiece doesn’t just protect the teeth. It helps guard against concussions. You tell me which sport is more dangerous.”

Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com. His most recent book – There Will Always Be Boxing – was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing
journalism.

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