The Big Question: Which weight classes should the WBSS focus on next?

Boxing Monthly
27/04/2018 1:55pm

The build-up to the announcement of season 2 of the World Boxing Super Series has seen much debate. speculation and discussion. Two tournaments or three? Bantam and light heavy to feature? We asked the BM online team which weight classes they would most like to see in the next season of the WBSS...

The WBSS cruiserweight tournament is the model of how it should be done, whereas the super-middleweight tournament was a bit of a let down from the moment it was announced. Having the four cruiser world champions and four top contenders was brilliant, and just what every fan dreams of in every single division. The nice thing to see is that there is plenty of unification going on anyway in boxing right now: heavy, middle, super-welter and light-flyweight are among the weight classes to have either got unified champs or unifications on the schedule, so those divisions can be left alone (I will also predict Kovalev will re-unify against again at light heavy in the near future).

I think, as long as they could get all four world champions into the mix, I'd like to see super fly, feather and super feather feature in the next WBSS season. - Colin Harris

The featherweight, super flyweight and even bantamweight divisions would be naturals for a WBSS-style tournament, but the weight class I think would really be tailor-made for this kind of competition would be the light heavyweights. While Sergey Kovalev is the consensus number one 175-pounder, I get the sense that at 35 his time at the top may not last much longer, particularly when you have hungry young guns like Dmitry Bivol and Artur Beterbiev banging at the door.

So starting with those three, we then kidnap Adonis Stevenson to force his participation, add in Badou Jack and Oleksandr Gvozdyk and include Marcus Browne to keep the Yanks happy and throw in Eleider Alvarez as a wildcard entry. That’s five undefeated fighters, four current champions and one former champion, from six different countries with a combined record - at time of writing - of 166-4-3 (127). The perfect blend of youth and experience, and despite the 77 per cent KO ratio, a real combination of styles. What’s not to like about that? - Anthony Cocks

The cruiserweight tournament has been a great success due to the inclusion of the four world champions (well, after Lebedev was named champion-in-recess, at least) and four of the best available challengers. It has been so successful that it has made the cynical boxing fraternity strangely positive. This was made feasible because cruiserweight is an 'unfashionable' weight class.

The current model set up by Comosa AG, means that it is difficult attract the superstars of the sport, for a number of reasons: quarter-final purses would be substantially less that than what the biggest names currently receive, particularly if the field contains the eight best at the weight. They would be facing significant risk, for minimal reward. The insistence that both tournaments are sold to a single broadcaster in each country is also a stumbling block. It means a broadcaster must televise boxing on eight consecutive weeks during the quarter-final stage. This is not an appealing prospect to major broadcasters, particularly in the US. If no deal is reached, a boxer could be participating in career-defining fights, away from the gaze of their primary market.

Another TV issue is that certain fighters have exclusive contracts with specific broadcasters, if said broadcaster isn’t prepared to pick up both tournaments, a fighter could be in breach of contract. Promoters would be reluctant to allow their flagship fighters to tied up to another promotion for the best part of a year, particularly when the promoter isn’t able to carefully oversee the match-making. Bob Arum reportedly declined an invitation on behalf of Gilberto Ramirez to enter the super middleweight tournament.

Something else that will impact any future tournament is the manner in which the IBF enforce their mandatories. If the IBF mandatory falls within the dates of the tournament, both the champion and mandatory challenger must enter, as happened with Murat Gassiev and Krzysztof Wlodarczyk in the opening round of the cruiserweight tournament. In an ideal world, I’d like to see welterweight and light heavyweight selected, but I think they would feature weakened fields.

Perhaps the way to ensure the best in each weight participate, is to choose unfashionable divisions. Bantamweight is rumoured to be one the weight classes for the 2018 tournament, and it would make sense. Eddie Hearn has shown a willingness to let his fighters participate in the tournament, so WBA champion Ryan Burnett could enter. The winner of Paul Butler and Emmanuel Rodriguez would make a good addition.

The tournament seems made for someone like Zolani Tete who has found meaningful fights hard to come by and given that he doesn’t headline shows in the UK, it would make sense. Highly-rated contenders would be available to enter too, as they aren’t subject to the aforementioned restrictions. The real coup would be to get Naoya Inoue in the tournament - presuming he beats Jamie McDonnell - but I won’t claim to know much about Japanese TV deals, so I am unsure if it is possible. Light flyweight would be ideal, but again perhaps Japanese TV would prevent that from happening. - John Angus MacDonald

Not that I'm shamelessly plugging or anything, well maybe just a bit, but I actually wrote a piece on a possible light flyweight WBSS and even without former WBO champion Kosei Tanaka who has moved up to flyweight, there is still enough depth and variety in style and nationalities to make a highly competitive and intriguing tournament. Like the cruisers 108lbs doesn't have any standout names so would benefit massively from the concept. With business in Macao now picking back up again it would be also be a chance for the WBSS organisers to try and target the huge potential audience in Asia.

My other two favoured divisions would be featherweight and light heavyweight but the issue with both and including any American based fighters is the scene there is more fractured than a broken glass. Getting the divided factions to all work together may prove a distant dream. - Marcus Bellinger

As I've mentioned before, my first choice for a WBSS tournament would be light heavyweight. With Andre Ward retiring and Adonis Stevenson now past 40, a power vacuum has opened up in the division and the titles have split. The WBSS would be the perfect way to crown a new champion at 175lbs. With the likes of Bivol, Jack, Stevenson and Kovalev as well as contenders like Browne, Alvarez and our very own Anthony Yarde. It would provide some much needed spark to one of boxing’s glamour divisions.

My second choice isn’t as glamorous as light heavy but is similar in that it needs a shot in the arm. Super bantamweight was thriving a few years ago with Frampton, Quigg, Donaire and Rigondeaux all near the top of the division. With most of these pugilists moving up the division could do with some exposure and talents like Jessie Magdaleno, Rey Vargas, Daniel Roman and Diego De La Hoya would really benefit from the spotlight this tournament would provide. - Callum Rudge