Sauerland reflects on successful WBSS finale and looks ahead to Season 3

In a wide-ranging interview Kalle Sauerland gives Boxing Social’s Luke G. Williams his assessment of the Season 2 finales of the World Boxing Super Series, while also reflecting on the WBSS’s history and achievement’s so far, and looking ahead to Season 3…

When the World Boxing Super Series was launched in March 2017, the accompanying press release termed it a “revolutionary” concept.

In a sport beset with politics and promotional discord the concept that a tournament which sought to crown true champions in several weight classes seemed too good to be true.

However, across its two completed seasons thus far, the WBSS has made a habit of confounding its doubters to the delight – but not the surprise – of its Chief Boxing Officer Kalle Sauerland.

“We’ve done what we set out to do, whatever walk of life you’re in, that should always be your goal,” an upbeat Sauerland told Boxing Social on the Monday after WBSS Season 2 had concluded with Mairis Briedis beating Yuniel Dorticos in the cruiserweight final in Munich.

“It’s been our goal at the WBSS to answer the simple question: ‘Who is the best?’ I’m a firm believer that there can’t be two best fighters in a weight class. There’s the best and that’s it. That’s the case in every sport and boxing often doesn’t deliver it.

“But we seek to do that and with [Season 1 winners] Callum Smith and Oleksandr Usyk and now with [Season 2 victors] Naoya Inoue, Josh Taylor and Mairis Briedis we’ve answered the question of who’s the best. I’m very proud of that.”

Sauerland paid warm tribute to the 30-plus boxers who have participated in the WBSS thus far.

“We’re very grateful to all the athletes who have taken part. They had to take part in order to help us discover who was the best. I have just as much respect for the participating boxers as for the winners. And many of them will come back – Briedis showed that. Despite that loss to [Oleksandr] Usyk in Season 1, he was able to come back and win Season 2.

“I’m sure we’ll see it with Regis Prograis, too, he’ll be back. He showed us how much he has to give to the sport. At this level, there is sometimes just a fraction in it and those fighters who came close, I know they can bounce back.” 

The WBSS Chief Boxing Officer next gave his assessment of the three finales.

“We had three great finals, three epic finals in their own right and three very different finals,” he said. “Josh Taylor vs Regis Prograis was a brutal, 12-round war at the highest technical level. It was simply an incredible back and forth fight. Both of them got second winds, third winds.

“It was nail-biting, it was down to the wire and in the end Josh proved just that little bit too much for Regis. It was a final that I think many fans will never forget.

“On the subject of fights you’ll never forget, we then flew over to Japan for the bantamweight final and, just when we thought things couldn’t get any better, we had probably one of the best ever wars and fights since 2000, I would say.

“Inoue vs Donaire would be right up there as one of the all-time great fights. Certainly, I would say it’s the greatest fight ever between two Asian fighters. It was simply incredible. It was toe-to-toe, the young lion against the old gladiator and edge-of-the-seat stuff. It was rightly the 2019 Fight of the Year.

“Then our friend Corona hit – I’m being sarcastic there! – and we had a lay-off before the cruiserweight final. In the end, though, it was a fitting end to Season 2. It was another gripping final. A final which was a strategic battle between the number one and number two in the division. Dorticos led on the front foot throughout, while Briedis gave one of the best counter-punching performances I‘ve ever seen. It was a true masterclass.

“Credit to Dorticos for pushing him all the way to the end, but Briedis was a very worthy winner. I also think there was a sense of closure for Briedis, who came so close in that historic Season 1 semi-final to beating Usyk. And now he’s finally got his hands on the Ali trophy.”

After all the uncertainty engendered by the Coronavirus pandemic, which led to the cruiserweight final being postponed twice, Sauerland admitted: “There’s relief that Season 2 is complete, but also excitement. Excitement about what we’ve done and achieved, a sense of pride in the fighters and what they’ve delivered. There’s also a massive sense of gratitude towards the fans and media who have supported us all the way through.

“I’m grateful that we’ve witnessed some of the best boxing you’ll ever see. There’s also a deep sense of motivation now to select the right way forward together with our board. The whole team will now be working non-stop on Season 3 and all that entails in terms of weight classes and timelines. There’s a spring in my step and a great deal of excitement.”

Much speculation surrounds which weight classes might feature in Season 3 of the WBSS, although Sauerland emphasised that no final decisions have yet been made.

“At this stage, I can confirm a heavyweight tournament and female tournament are both on the list of what we’re looking at, but it’s a longer list. It’s not just the weight classes we’ll be looking at, it’s the format of how and when to deliver them.

“It’s an ongoing process. It’s great that there is excitement around the prospect of a heavyweight tournament and a female tournament. Our primary concern will be basing our picks around delivering great boxing at the highest level.

“Hopefully, people have faith in what we select. I think we’ve always won fans over as our seasons have progressed. When we picked bantamweight there had been a lot of calls for light-heavyweights. We went with the bantams though and in the end we delivered the fight of the year and a lot of other memorable moments. So everyone should have faith and stay tuned!”