Boxing News and Views had the opportunity to catch up with one of the world’s leading boxing promoters recently, Richard Schaefer.
Richard Schaefer will be well known to long-time fight fans as the man behind the scenes widely credited for many of the big boxing promotions in the US involving Floyd Mayweather when the American boxer first became his own boss, left his old promoter Top Rank and then worked with ex-Schaefer employer Golden Boy Promotions on many of his record-breaking fights.
Following a break from the sport of boxing after that and then starting his own promotional company Ringstar in recent times, Switzerland native Richard Schaefer has also returned to the sweet science with he and his partner Kalle Sauerland’s latest venture in boxing — the World Boxing Super Series.
It’s been picked up pretty quickly for a new concept in a sport like boxing and so far has been received well by fans.
I spoke to Richard Schaefer for the first time this week on all things WBSS, his ambition for the tournament, where the idea came from, the logistics of it and much more.
Starting off, I wanted to know how he found the logistical challenges of coping with running a boxing tournament predicated on international events taking place with a fast turn around time.
Where one minute you’re in the UK, the next you’re in the US in matter of just a week for a different event in some instances.
This wasn’t an issue he insisted:
“No, I mean obviously my colleague Kalle Sauerland is taking care of the European events and I’ll take care of the events here (in the US). We are used to it. We are big time promoters. We know how to promote outside of our home country as well. As it relates to Ring Star (Schaefer’s new promotional company) we are doing events on a regular basis from France now as well, and soon with David Haye from the UK. Boxing is a global sport and the promoters if they want to be big time promoters – they’re going to have to think global as well.”
As our cross-Atlantic conversation continued Richard came across to me as a passionate boxing fan, clearly caught by the boxing bug and driven by it in his pursuit of delivering a level of quality boxing has not seen yet.
I mentioned to Richard I thought the branding, presentation and production of the World Boxing Super Series tournament reminded me of the Champions League’s style in European soccer, and that you could see the German and European influence in the WBSS.
It turns out I wasn’t too far off the mark.
(Image source and credit: Team Sauerland Twitter)
People involved in the Champions League were involved in the formation of the WBSS, along with German based-promoter Kalle Sauerland he told me:
“Well if you look at boxing, most other sports have their annual tournaments. Whether it’s here in the United States with the NBA and the play-offs, or the baseball with the World Series or football with the Super Bowl. Even cycling at the highest level, they have their Tour de France. Tennis has Wimbledon. Golf has the Masters and the Open. Boxing doesn’t really have that. Boxing doesn’t have a signature tournament. Then of course you look at soccer, you have the (FIFA) World Cup at the very highest level but you have an annual tournament the (UEFA) Champions League as well. That’s sort of what this is here – the Champions League of boxing. Funnily enough the organizers, part of the shareholders (in WBSS) actually, are people with a background from the UEFA Champions League. So in a way the idea really came out of that. The plan is just like the Champions League. To make this an annual tournament. To showcase two weight classes per year. Maybe in later years as many as three weight classes, but for the time being two weight classes. Sort of have it like as an open by invitation. Fighters can apply as well.”
“The idea is obviously to have the best fight the best. Like we see here in the cruiserweight part of the tournament you have all four world champions in the tournament. Out of the top 8 ranked you have the top eight ranked. You have the four champions and the four number one ranked fighters from the respective sanctioning organisations. So that’s what it is – showcase the division – invite the best fighters to participate and then put together a fan-friendly format of a tournament, which I think we have achieved here with a single elimination format. Basically everything is at stake. You win you move on, you lose you go home. That is easy to follow. It’s a set schedule with September-October the quarter-finals, January- February (2018) the semi-finals and then May (2018) the final. The idea is to repeat that on an on-going basis year after year.”
As our chat concluded Richard was keen to impress the quality of what the World Boxing Super Series stands for and that ultimately, that is what will help boxing come back to the main stream sports landscape again:
“I think the quality and production level is unseen and unheard of in boxing. You know when you have people who are passionate about sport and who produce events like the Champions League at the absolute highest level — you get people like that involved in the sport of boxing — I think it’s a big plus to have people like that involved. They are people who have not really done boxing before, so they brought in new ideas and different production elements. The presentations I think from the lighting and the whole thing — absolutely spectacular. I think it is that kind of approach that will help make boxing a mainstream sport again. Boxing will always be there but putting together productions like that is taking it to the next level.”