Using an internet vote by boxing fans on his company’s website to determine the tournament pairings, Real Deal Boxing promoter Evander Holyfield unveiled the results as he announced the matches for the first round of the Jose Sulaiman World Invitational on Wednesday.
Former junior welterweight world title challenger and 2008 Olympic gold medalist Felix Diaz (19-2-0, 9 KOs), of the Dominican Republic, was awarded the No. 1 seed and will face No. 8 Derrieck Cuevas (16-0-1, 13 KOs), of Puerto Rico.
The eight-man welterweight tournament, which is being put on by Holyfield’s company in conjunction with the WBC and is named for the sanctioning body’s late longtime president, will kick off with all four 10-round quarterfinal bouts taking place on April 27 at the KFC YUM! Center in Louisville, Kentucky. Over the past 10 days, fans were invited to rank each participant in the tournament on the Real Deal Boxing website, the results of which established the seeds.
“It is a pleasure to be part of something that honors the late Jose Sulaiman and represents the WBC,” Diaz said. “I’m excited to be facing Derrick Cuevas in the first round and look forward to the challenge.”
Said Cuevas, “I can’t explain how happy I am to be chosen to compete in the Jose Sulaiman World Invitational tournament. I am honored to fight Felix Diaz. I would like to thank Real Deal Boxing and my manager [Troya Boxing] for believing in me and choosing me from so many talented prospects to compete and show the world that Derrieck Cuevas is the future of the 147-pound division.”
The other quarterfinal pairings: No. 2 Chris van Heerden (25-2-1, 12 KOs), of South Africa, will meet No. 7 Timo Schwarzkopf (18-1, 10 KOs), of Germany.
“This is a great opportunity to be entered into this tournament and I look forward to facing Timo Schwarzkopf,” Van Heerden said.
Said Schwarzkopf, “I’m very excited to fight Chris van Heerden and really looking forward to this great tournament. Fair circumstances for all participants is what convinced me to participate. This is exactly what boxing needs. It promises great fights.”
No. 3 Fredrick Lawson (26-1, 21 KOs), of Ghana, will meet No. 6 Baishanbo Nasiywula (13-1-1, 6 KOs), of China.
“My comeback to the limelight has been a hard road to travel,” Lawson said.
Said Nasiywula, “I’m honored to fight in the United States and fight Fredrick Lawson in the first round. I know there are many great fighters entered but I plan on using this tournament to make my mark internationally and be victorious throughout.”
No. 4 Radzhab Butaev (8-0-0, 6 KO’s), of Russia, will fight No. 5 Brad Solomon (27-1, 9 KOs), of Douglasville, Georgia.
“The tournament is a great opportunity to make myself known in the world,” Butaev said. “I know that I can win the tournament. There are top prospects in the tournament, but I will do everything to defeat Brad Solomon, win the next two rounds and move on to world title fights.”
“This tournament is just what I need right now for my career,” Solomon said. “I’ll be victorious over Butaev and look forward to the next two rounds and winning the tournament later this year.”
The fan vote also picked two tournament alternates who will step in should one of the top eight suffer an injury or pull out: Francisco Santana (26-6-1, 12 KOs), of Santa Barbara, California, and Northern Ireland’s Paddy Gallagher (13-3, 8 KOs).
Broadcast specifics have not yet been announced.
According to the initial announcement of the tournament, each fighter in the first round will receive a purse of $15,000 with the winner of each bout receiving a victory bonus of $7,500. Each fighter in semifinals will receive a purse of $30,000 with the winner of each bout also getting a $15,000 win bonus. The fighters in the final will receive a purse of $75,000 with the winner receiving a $25,000 win bonus.
If a fight ends in a draw, there will be an 11th round. Also, a fourth judge will be placed at ringside and a fifth judge will be placed in front of a television monitor with no audio commentary. All five judges’ scorecards will be used if the fight goes the distance. Normally only three judges score a fight.