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Boxing Odds and Ends: Richard Schaefer Returns and a Bare-Knuckle Fatality

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  • Boxing Odds and Ends: Richard Schaefer Returns and a Bare-Knuckle Fatality

    Click image for larger version  Name:	schaefer.PNG Views:	0 Size:	369.8 KB ID:	20159

    By Arne K. Lang

    Richard Schaefer, the former CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, doesn’t think small. Several weeks ago, Schaefer announced that he had formed a new company named Probellum. In a conversation with ESPN’s Mike Coppinger, Schaefer stated that Probellum planned on promoting one hundred boxing shows in its first year of operation and that the long-range goal was to have a “performance institute” on every continent (Antarctica?).

    Schaefer, the son of a wealthy Swiss banker, headed up the western United States operations of the largest bank in Switzerland when he switched gears in 2002, co-founding Golden Boy Promotions. He named himself the CEO with Oscar De La Hoya the President.

    Their friendship eventually soured. Schaefer (pictured with Oscar in happier days) left the company in 2014 and De La Hoya sued him for breach of fiduciary duty. The settlement included a non-compete clause and when it expired Schaefer formed Ringstar Sports and partnered with Germany’s powerful Universum Gym in the World Boxing Super Series, a series of single elimination tournaments featuring eight boxers in selected weight classes.

    Although messy from a scheduling standpoint (par for the course for a boxing tournament), the WBSS was a very successful endeavor, perhaps not from a commercial standpoint, but certainly from a fan’s perspective. It produced a four-belt champion in the form of cruiserweight Oleksandr Usyk. In 2019-20, the finals in the 140-pound and in the bantamweight tourneys produced the two leading candidates for Fight of the Year (Josh Taylor vs Regis Prograis and Naoya Inoue vs Nonito Donaire). Schaefer and his partner, Universum’s Kalle Sauerland, were named the TSS Promoter(s) of the Year.

    The World Boxing Super Series did not resume in 2020, a victim of the pandemic. There was talk this summer of starting a tournament for women in the super bantamweight division but nothing has come of it. One suspects that the WBSS has fallen into the dustbin of history.

    Richard Schaefer has been busy this week bringing fighters into the Probellum fold. Yesterday (Oct. 4), he signed up unbeaten welterweight Eimantas Stanionis (13-0, 1 ND, 9 KOs). A 2016 Olympian for Lithuania, Stanionis is ranked #1 by the WBA which has two 147-pound title-holders in Yordenis Ugas and Jamal James. Today he announced the signings of Badou Jack and Regis Prograis, both of whom recently fought in the shadow of the Paul brothers.

    Badou Jack, a former world champion at 168 and 175, currently fights as a cruiserweight. He appeared on the Nov. 28, 2020 show in Los Angeles that featured the bout between Jake Paul and Nate Robinson and on the June 6 show in Miami topped by the exhibition between Logan Paul and Floyd Mayweather Jr. On both occasions he was matched very soft.

    At age 37, Jack’s career is winding down. Schaefer reportedly promised him a fight in Dubai which Jack considers his second home. A proud Muslim who is admired by his peers for his business savvy and his philanthropic work, Jack was born and raised in Sweden but never felt an emotional attachment to that country.

    Regis Prograis, ranked in the top seven at 140 pounds by all four of the major sanctioning bodies, last fought on the April 17 show in Atlanta topped by Jake Paul vs. Ben Askren. Prograis was matched against Ivan Redkach who didn’t bring his “A” game (a big understatement).

    Prograis, now 32 years old, still has only that one blemish on his record and Josh Taylor had to dig deep to apply it. Heading into that match in Scotland, many felt that he belonged on the pound-for-pound list. He’s become something of a forgotten man in recent months and hooking up with a new promoter would seem to be a smart idea.

    It may well turn out that Richard Schaefer’s aim will have exceeded his reach, but having him back gung-ho in the boxing game is good for the sport.

    Ring Fatality

    Justin Thornton, a combat sports fighter from Natchez, Mississippi, died yesterday, Oct. 4, from injuries suffered in a match six weeks ago on a bare-knuckle boxing card in Biloxi, Mississippi. Thornton was 38 years old.

    Thornton was knocked out in 19 seconds by 39-year-old Dillon Cleckler. The knockout punch, a right hook, pitched him face first to the canvas and left him partially paralyzed. He was removed to a hospital where his health gradually deteriorated.

    There were 12 fights on the Aug. 20 show that cost Thornton his life. Only one of the 24 boxers was under the age of 30. Four of the competitors were in their mid-40s. The mean was 35.6.

    Thornton and Cleckler were MMA veterans at the regional level. Thornton was reportedly 8-16; Cleckler reportedly 11-1. They had fought once before, back in 2013 in Pensacola, Florida, which is Cleckler’s hometown. On that occasion, Cleckler put Thornton away in 65 seconds.

    Thornton had one conventional boxing match according to BoxRec. In September of 2017 he was knocked out in the opening round at a rec center in Gretna, Louisiana by Frank Sanchez who, like Thornton, was making his pro boxing debut. This is the same Frank Sanchez who will take an 18-0 record into Saturday’s fight against fellow unbeaten Efe Ajagba at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

    Veteran New York boxing promoter Lou DiBella, noting that the fatal fight was Thornton’s sixth consecutive fight in which he was stopped in the opening round, expressed his outrage on his twitter platform. “The state of combat sports regulation in America is atrocious,” wrote DiBella.

    The Aug. 20 Biloxi grotesquerie was brought to you by David Feldman who is the Dana White of bare-knuckle boxing. Feldman promoted the first state-sanctioned bare-knuckle show in June of 2018 in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Prior to that he had staged a bare-knuckle show at a Native American casino on an Arizona Indian reservation. David Feldman is the brother of Celebrity Boxing huckster Damon Feldman.

    Someday someone will write a movie about bare-knuckle boxing. The inspiration for the man hired to write the script will be the 1969 film “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?”, starring Jane Fonda, Michael Sarrazin, and Gig Young.

    Feldman’s next show is scheduled for this Saturday, Oct. 9, in Billings, Montana. He has shows arranged for Oct. 23 in Wichita, Kansas, and Nov. 6 in Seneca, New York. Promotional blurbs for Feldman’s firm identify bare-knuckle boxing as the fastest growing combat sport in the world.

    Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel

  • #2
    Thanks for the info boxing needs some type of kick someone to push the fighters and fights to happen hope Schaefer does that. Ever since the fight cards have all but been gone ones of any value or interest in past six months I have felt someone who knows boxing and can jump start a series of fights will do well at this dry spell of boxing. Help keep the fight game away from PPV only cards and celebrity attention seeker cards from becoming the norm in boxing.