From Last Man Standing to Super 8

Holiday periods often result in an understandable lull in boxing action; freeing up time to mull over some of the more esoteric fragments of our beloved sport.

In one of the previous articles, we touched upon the World Boxing Super Series and its apparent demise, before looking at the exciting Prizefighter series and then the Thunderbox Heavyweight tournament.

Recently in Ireland a Prizefighter-style competition entitled “Last Man Standing” took place. Adopting a similar format to the Matchroom trailblazer (in as much as it was a trailblazer given that these tried and tested formats have graced boxing rings across the world for decades) the tournament boasted TV exposure through Irish language channel TG4 but was hamstrung by pullouts. While the more well-known names fell by the wayside, it was left to faded veterans and relative novices to pick up the slack. To their credit, the remaining eight contenders did serve up an exciting night of action. Former standout amateur Roy Sheahan eventually walked away with the trophy and a sizeable cheque for his efforts. There are no immediate plans to repeat the venture, but TG4 have expressed an interest in continuing their boxing coverage, which is a plus point.

Let us also mention the enticing Super Six venture that took place from 2009-2011 in the super-middleweight division. Backed by Showtime’s millions, it was a good idea and contained a solid lineup. Unfortunately, as casualties piled up, withdrawals ensued, and a confusing set of group stages left many of the more recognisable names on a temporary scrap heap. To its credit, the tournament did boast a top-class final where Andre Ward and Carl Froch faced off for Super Six supremacy. Ward won, moving on to bigger things, while Froch’s reputation and standing were not hurt too much either. His thorough outboxing of Arthur Abraham in the earlier stages provided one of many career highlights for the Nottingham man. His first career defeat (to Mikkel Kessler) also arrived in the competition.

Finally, who could forget the fantastic Super 8 heavyweight tournament that took place in New Zealand during the summer of 2014? The tournament was so forgettable that no less than three follow-up tournaments, split across cruiserweight and light-heavyweight in 2014 and 2015, also graced the screens of boxing fans eager for more visual punishment.

Mid-afternoon streams allowed UK viewers the chance to follow two former Prizefighter winners plot a way through the 2014 heavyweight segment. For the first ever Prizefighter winner, Martin Rogan, the tournament exploits were short-lived as the Belfast man lost in a quarter-final appearance. His conqueror was another Prizefighter king (a two-time winner as it happens) in the form of Reading’s Michael Sprott.

Sprott outworked Rogan, which was no mean feat given that the Irishman had made a name for himself as a high-intensity brawler. This was a diminished version of Rogan, however, and Sprott’s majority decision success netted him a semi-final showdown with one of the novice participants – Australia’s Anthony Nansen. Nansen had won his quarter against a body that once resembled heavyweight ruler Hasim Rahman. Elsewhere, veteran Kali Meehan stumbled past Hunter Sam, and American journeyman Alonzo Butler lost on a split to inexperienced Aussie Bruce Ritani Coe.

Former world title challenger Meehan (who gave then-WBO champ Lamon Brewster an unexpectedly tough outing many years ago) defeated Ritani Coe on points in their semi, as did Sprott over Nansen. The question of who was more faded was quickly resolved in the final as Sprott smashed Meehan in the opening round to take home the cheque. In the aforementioned cruiserweight version (Super 8 II as it as labelled), Brad Pitt (not that one) prevailed in a competition that barely contained any recognisable names. A cruiserweight follow-up in 2015 was won by a Nigerian kickboxer before a fourth and final run of the Super 8 ended the franchise with a joint night of cruiserweights (for the third time) and light-heavyweights in late 2015. Maybe an indication that these type of ideas only capture the interest for so long.

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