Boxing is back and so is the World Boxing Super Series, with the much-awaited Season 2 cruiserweight final between Mairis Briedis and Yuniel Dorticos scheduled for September 26 in Munich. Boxing Social’s Luke G. Williams catches up with WBSS Chief Boxing Officer Kalle Sauerland who tells him “expect absolute fireworks”.
Since its launch in March 2017, the World Boxing Super Series has arguably delivered more bang for its buck – and more fights of significance – than any other boxing platform out there.
In Season 1, it made stars of Oleksandr Usyk and Callum Smith, while Season 2 has already driven the careers of Josh Taylor and Naoya Inoue to new heights.
The second season was due to climax with an enticing cruiserweight final between Mairis Briedis and Yuniel Dorticos in Riga. Scheduled for March, delayed until May and then postponed indefinitely, many feared the longed for clash between the top two men at 200lbs might never come to pass.
This week’s news, therefore, that the match-up will take place on September 26 in Munich is a shot in the arm for a sport that has been left reeling – like many other industries – by the effects of the global Covid-19 Pandemic.
With the boxing calendar for the rest of the year missing many of the sport’s marquee names, the ability – once again – of the WBSS to deliver top quality match-ups, which are able to crown a genuine champion in a weight class, is a welcome salve.
Kalle Sauerland, the organisation’s effervescent and charismatic Chief Boxing Officer, is adamant that in Briedis vs Dorticos, the WBSS once again has a huge event on its hands.
“I expect a blockbuster, as all the WBSS finals have been so far,” he told Boxing Social, less than 24 hours after the announcement that the fight will be staged on September 26 at the Plazamedia Broadcasting Center in Munich.
“This season, we’ve already had Inoue vs Donaire and we’ve had Taylor vs Prograis – two fights of the year in 2019. This final is number one versus number two in the cruiserweight division. They’re guys who don’t box defensively, they move forward, they’re both massive power punchers and we’ve seen them both deliver before in the WBSS. So expect absolute fireworks on September 26.
“Number one versus number two has always got the potential to be a fight of the year. It’s got all the ingredients. I said it before the finals in Japan and in London and I’ll say it again before Munich: don’t blink, because this will be something very special once again.”
Sauerland pointed out that successfully rescheduling the contest, twice-cancelled due to Covid-19, has been a substantial feat.
“So many big events in boxing were planned before the corona interruption,” he said. “It was a major challenge to a: keep the event on and b: pull it off as quickly as possible.
“There were other big fights that were set to be made before the pandemic where you could change the pairings. With us it was a bit different. We had a final already featuring two guys who had qualified via fantastic semi-finals and quarter-finals so we had no choice – we couldn’t take Briedis and match him with a different European opponent, or do it the other way around and take Dorticos and match him against a different American opponent.
“We had to go with these guys. It was non-negotiable, they were not interchangeable – they were irreplaceable. We had to stick within those parameters.”
Sauerland admitted that it is a source of pride for everyone at the WBSS that Season 2 will be concluded despite the pandemic.
“Given all that has happened we are very proud to be out of the blocks with the first blockbuster boxing event since the pandemic began,” he said. “Other great events and fights have taken place, of course, all the promoters have done really well, but this is the first big Transatlantic fight and the first fight between a number one and number two in a division. We are very proud at the WBSS to be first out of the blocks with a fight like that, and Andreas Benz [the CEO] and the entire team deserve massive credit for that.“
The 43-year-old promoter also explained why the final – which will be fought ‘behind closed doors’ – has moved from its original locale of Latvia to Germany.
“Just to clarify, it’s not taking place in a traditional television studio, it’s a film studio in the Plazamedia Broadcasting Center in Munich, which is one of the best and most hi-tech film studios in the world,” said Sauerland. “The Germans are renowned for their technology and innovation, and this studio is no exception. So you’re going to see an epic production.
“Given all the other moving targets there were for us around this final – for example the boxers coming from opposite sides of the Atlantic – so we wanted a venue we felt was neutral under those circumstances.
“Another consideration was that Germany is a territory that has coped very well with the pandemic and has had boxing and sporting events take place already post-pandemic. It was also the first major football league to be back.
“It’s a country that has been a leader so far in coping with the pandemic, so it’s a territory that we felt was the most efficient place for us to stage it. That, together with the production facilities of Plazamedia, made the decision for us.”
The WBSS’ American broadcast partner DAZN made headlines this week when their star attraction Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez took them to court. The WBSS remains a key tool in DAZN’s American armoury and Sauerland is a firm admirer of the streaming platform, who will televise Briedis-Dorticos in the US.
“The DAZN platform is a remarkable one for boxing,” he argued. “The quality of what it has shown in the first years of its existence and the quality that it has attracted is amazing and it is a natural home for what we do in putting the best against the best. The WBSS produced two fight of the year candidates last year, including the ‘Fight of the Year’, which appeared on DAZN and that’s the sort of quality DAZN stands for. We’re proud that we delivered those fights on the network last year.
“Although they also cover other sports, DAZN are very much driven by boxing in the USA, which is great for the sport, a real positive. And I think they are going to go from strength to strength. They provide us with a great platform for the WBSS brand in the United States.”
Looking to the future, Sauerland also revealed that Season 3 of the WBSS is still very much on the agenda..
“Season 3 has obviously been very much in our thoughts during lockdown. We were very close to setting a plan in stone before Coronavirus hit.
“Obviously, those plans have changed now. It’s a case of assessing where the weight divisions we’ve already looked at are. Once the cruiserweight final is out of the way, we’ll be focusing fully on bringing those plans to fruition so we have a great Season 3 calendar for fans to be looking forward to in 2021.”