When we hear the words "world" and "series" together in the same sentence, we (especially our cousins across the pond) to think of a bat and ball game similar in principle to rounders. The world series of baseball is an annual best-of-seven playoff between the winners of just two separately run baseball leagues and is usually contested between teams based solely in America.
In 2010 a new world series was launched and this time by the International Boxing Association (AIBA). The World Series of Boxing (WSB) is a competition for amateur boxers but with a slight difference to conventional amateur rules. Just as in professional boxing, participants are not allowed head protection, must be bare-chested and the competition has adopted the 10-point rule just as in the professional ranks. The difference that might worry boxing promoters in the professional ranks is that these athletes will be paid to fight.
The idea behind it comes from AIBA president Wu Ching-kuo as it enables his organisation to have more control over boxing, not just the amateur ranks but in the professional ranks too. Next year AIBA will also launch AIBA Professional Boxing (APB). The professional circuit not only guarantees fighters a fixed salary and the potential to bump up their income with win bonuses, but also to retain their Olympic Games eligibility. The best of both worlds?
The WSB is currently in it's third season and is bulging with Olympic, European and world championship medal winners. Current Olympic lightweight gold medal winner Vasl Lomachenko competes for the Ukraine Otamans along with his fellow countryman and heavyweight gold medal champion Oleksander Usyk.
The teams in the WSB are split into two groups of six. Teams compete against each other home and away, one time each in five weight classes (bantam, light, middle, light-heavy and heavyweight). Each bout lasts for three minutes over five rounds with the winning team earning 3 points by way of a knockout or from the judges' scorecard. If the overall team score is 3-2, the losing team receives 1 point and there are 2 points for a draw. (At this time, even I am unclear about how a draw can happen).
In principle it seems like a great idea, especially for the fighters who are guaranteed a regular income and have the incentive to earn win bonuses. Fans get to see the best "Olympic eligable professionals" (I'm not really sure how else I can describe the boxers who are essentially amateurs that fight 5-rounders, bare-chested, without head protection and whom also earn money). The one thing that remains unclear though, is whether WSB fights will count on a professional record should a boxer sign up to the more mainstream professional boxing later on in their career.
Last weekend was round three of season three and on Friday, The German Eagles hosted The USA Knockouts at the EWS Arena in Göppingen.
After five close battles the Germans stormed to a 5-0 win. Veaceslav Gojan got The Eagles off to a winning start in the bantamweight contest between youth and experience. 21-year old American Shawn Simpson, making his debut in WSB, put up a great fight and was more or less equal to the 2011 European champion. Nerves could have played a part in his performance but Simpson certainly has potential and should develop into a top class fighter.
Also in his first outing at WSB last Friday was Kastriot Sopa. He was involved in a highly entertaining scrap with American Eric Fowler. Sopa managed to stay composed throughout the contest but was guilty of swinging wildly at times and missed a lot of big punches as a result. From four WSB wins, Fowler has three TKOs to his credit so Sopa will be very pleased with this result.
The only TKO on the night was awarded to local-boy Xhek Paskali of The Eagles. His fight with William Williams was tied after two rounds but a nasty cut above Williams' right eye ended his bout early. "My coaches thought it would be best for me to not continue" said Williams afterwards. When asked about how the outcome would have gone had he not picked up the cut, Williams added " I would have won, I'd have outpointed him".
Possibly the closest and most gripping fight of the evening was between Swedish light-heavyweight Kennedy Katende fighting for The Knockouts and Serge Michel, who has recorded two straight wins so far this season. Neither looked to have been put in any trouble but the speed and movement of Katende was the noticeable difference. Both liked to maintain a good distance so the number of punches landed was relatively low. One judge gave all 5 rounds to Michel whilst the other two justifiably awarded Katende the final two rounds.
London 2012 Olympian heavyweight Erik Pfeifer was favourite to overcome Hungarian Istvan Bernath and he comfortably cruised to a unanimous decision in The Eagles' final bout, resulting in a whitewash over The USA.
"Whether you win or lose you can learn from it", said Knockout's head coach Basheer Abdullah at the end of a disappointing night for the American team. "The German team boxed well, they are very well conditioned and very well prepared. We're going to have a training camp in January and in the second half of the season we can be a little bit more competitive", he added.
Both teams travel again this weekend. The Knockouts head to Ukraine while The Eagles make the short trip to London to face The British Lionhearts. You can watch all the action live and for free via a high quality stream on the World Series Boxing TV channel: www.worldseriesboxingtv.com