WBSS came when in a time when boxing needed it most, and it didn’t disappoint.
Oleksandr Usyk, Naoya Inoue, Josh Taylor & Callum Smith are four of the sports’ most accomplished and exciting names. Among their similarities include boxing skill, breath-taking power and have been considered the top dogs in their past divisions. They all belong to a very exclusive club, they are the four winners of the World Boxing Super Series.
The brainchild of Kalle & Nisse Sauerland and Richard Schaefer, the knockout style boxing tournament took massive inspiration in their presentation from UEFA’s Champions League, often meaning that fights turned into massive, perfectly cheesy spectacles that often precede extremely enjoyable evenly matched fights. In four of the five tournaments, you could argue that the very best of the divisions were involved in the tournament, and each winner would go onto become the consensus number one in their division.
In what was the first tournament to take place at Boxing’s top level since the extremely successful Super Six Classic some years before, the World Boxing Super Series format and ability to pit the very best of the division against the very best was what sold its model to the masses. So often in boxing the fans are starved of seeing the best two men in their division face off yet in four tournaments, the WBSS produced this in all four divisions at the time of the fight. This lead to numerous unifications and provided much needed clarity in the divisions involved, a quality that Boxing as a sport has lacked and decayed due to over the period of the four-belt era.
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Each Champions’ road to victory was extremely admirable. Oleksandr Usyk entered the tournament as the number one seed with the weight of expectation and didn’t disappoint. The WBO Champion chose the longest reigning WBO Cruiserweight Champion of all time when given his pick of the challengers, Marco Huck. Ever the road warrior, Usyk demolished Huck. In the next round, he was put into an instant classic against Mairis Breidis but came out with his hand raised, picking up the Latvians’ WBC Crown in the process. Meanwhile, Russian challenger went through his own Fight of the Year candidate against Yuniel Dorticos, retaining his IBF Title and picking up the Cuban’s WBA strap. The final was set to crown only the fourth Undisputed Champ of the four belt era. Usyk dominated and history was made.
What the World Boxing Super Series’ legacy is, is that of unbelievable fights and paving the way for superstars. Naoya Inoue was little-known outside massive boxing fans going into his Bantamweight Tournament, but soon rose to prominence when he brutally and concussively knocked out Juan Carlos Payano in the first round, then viciously battered IBF Champion Emmanuel Rodriguez into submission in the second fight. His final fight against veteran Nonito Donaire produced something the WBSS had no shortage of, and that’s incredible fights. Eventually “The Monster” had his hand raised after a brilliant back-and-forth battle. The tournament laid the groundwork to making Inoue the biggest boxing star in Eastern Asia, with Bob Arum keen to make the fierce punching Japanese bantamweight a house-hold name in the States.
Josh Taylor realised his dream of becoming World Champion during his journey to the final of the 140lbs tournament. Beating the game Ivan Baranchyk for his IBF Title in the semi-final was an overjoyous moment for The Tartan Tornado but he was soon thrown into the firing line when matched up in the final with bookmaker’s favourite and consensus division number one Regis Prograis. In yet another unbelievable fight, Taylor got his hand raised, crowning the divisions first unified Champion and was bestowed with The RING Belt in the process.
The World Boxing Super Series, complete with its remarkable production and successful tournament model, revolutionised boxing and gave a breath of fresh air to the divisions involved. Huge investment and large publicised fight purses enticed the very best talent in the world to participate,
resulting in what can only be described as a major success. We now see the Tournament's lasting impact on boxing today: Naoya Inoue is on the brink of superstardom, Oleksandr made history with Undisputed status, eventually daring to be great by moving up to heavyweight, Josh Taylor is knocking on the door of undisputed status himself, meanwhile Callum Smith has the biggest fights of his career ahead of him in either Canelo Alvarez or Billy Joe Saunders.
The WBSS came when in a time when Boxing needed it most, and it didn’t disappoint.