Schaefer announces ambitious $50 million tournament
Richard Schaefer has announced his comeback a number of times.
There was the formation of Ringstar Sports, his new company in June; the signing of highly-regarded U.S. Olympian Carlos Balderas in November; the partnership with David Haye in January.
But it wasn’t until the controversial former CEO of Golden Boy sat in an ornate ballroom in Manhattan on Thursday when it felt as if Schaefer had truly returned to his former post as a relentless newsmaker following a nasty breakup with Golden Boy and a two-year absence.
There he was, sitting atop a stage, gesturing with his hands, making a spectacle with the announcement of an ambitious, transnational tournament that will feature boxers in two weight classes vying for a trophy named after Muhammad Ali with $50 million in prize money up for grabs.
“Those who know me, they know that I like to do things big,” Schaefer said, drawing out the words in his Swiss accent, clearly enjoying himself. “This is a big trophy,” he pointed to a golden-wrapped prize in front of the stage. “This is big money and this is a big tournament. It is the biggest tournament. It is the greatest tournament.”
The tournament, dubbed the “World Boxing Super Series” will kick off with first-round bouts in September and October, semifinals in January and February of 2018 and two championship matches in May of 2018; the tournament will feature 16 fighters and 14 main events; eight boxers will compete in each weight classes in a bracket-style, single elimination format.
Schaefer, who is partnering with European promoter Kalle Sauerland to put on the tournament, said the winners stands to make “10 million dollars or more.” There are still a lot of unknowns, however. The two weight classes haven’t been determined, though Schaefer said he hoped to highlight divisions that have been historically neglected — cruiserweight and featherweight were discussed with reporters afterward.
The fighters involved have not been identified, either. There are also no television partners, though Showtime boxing chief Stephen Espinoza was in attendance and acknowledged he was interested in coming on board once more of the particulars are filled in.
“We’ll be monitoring it very closely as details come in,” Espinoza said. “At this point, we wanted the organization to announce the tournament and as we move forward and they solidify fighters and weight classes and schedule dates and venues then I think more of the details, including media partners will (come) out.” Asked if he has a deal with Schaefer and Sauerland, Espinoza said a “framework (is) in place.”
Schaefer said he plans to talk to Al Haymon about the possibility of using his fighters. “We’re going to have conversations because now I have something to tell him,” he said. “We’re going to have I’m sure a lot of conversations.” Schaefer will go after top-15 caliber boxers and current and former champions. And officials will reach beyond their own stables of fighters to fill out the brackets.
“I have no problem working with other promoters as well and giving them opportunities,” he said, adding that options won’t be written into deals so boxers will not be tethered to tournament officials after they have fought. “No strings attached. How great is that?” Added Schaefer of his own situation as a promoter who has signed mostly young fighters, “I’m really not a threat to Bob Arum or to Oscar De La Hoya or to whoever. I’m a start-up, so they shouldn’t be threatened.”
Schaefer said half of the events will take place in the U.S., referencing venues such as Barclays Center in Brooklyn and Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, the Toyota Center in Houston, sites in Las Vegas, as the types of sites that will have appeal. Sites in London, Paris, Copenhagen in Denmark will be considered in Europe, Sauerland said.
The weight classes and boxers will be announced in a Draft Gala live on TV where the top four boxers will be seeded and be allowed to choose who they want to face in opening-round bouts. Reserve boxers will be on hand in the event of an injury, avoiding the types of issues that plagued the “Super Six” super middleweight tournament in 2011 on Showtime. Officials said more than $50 million in prize money has already been secured from a number of revenue streams.