Hall of Fame referee Steve Smoger and International judge Steve Weisfeld, arguably the top two worldwide in their respective positions, are both working this Wednesday (July 26) championship final of the seventh annual Wray and Nephew Rum Contender Boxing Series, outdoors on the grounds of The Mico University College in Kingston, Jamaica.
Former Caribbean Boxing Federation (CABOFE) and Jamaican welterweight champion Sakina Mullings (22-3, 14 KOs) takes on Phil “The Assassin” Rose (9-4-1, 5 KOs) in the 10-round championship final.
Mullings’ most significant victory to date is a 12-round decision in 2013 over Howard Eastman (46-11), the former European champion and two-time world title challenger from Guyana. Mullings was born in Kingston and lives in Stoney Hill, Jamaica.
Fighting out of Whitby, Ontario, Canada, Rose stopped two-time Canadian Olympian Adam Trupish (11-1) in the second round of their 2014 fight, and last November he upset previously undefeated Ryan Young (10-0) with an opening round knockout.
Two Jamaicans battle it out in the consolation fight as Richard “The Frog” Holmes (14-7, 8 KOs) faces his fellow countryman Tsetsi Davis (18-6, 5 KOs. The championship and consolation bouts are both scheduled for 10 rounds.
The purse breakdown for the top four fighters is $2,000,000 ($15,623 USD) for the champion, $500,000 ($3905 USD) runner-up, $250,000 ($1953 USD) third place, and $200,000 ($1562 USD) fourth place.
The 2017 series originally pitted 16 professional boxers, featuring eight junior middleweights from each country, Team Jamaica vs. Team Canada, fighting in qualifying rounds leading up to Wednesday’s championship final between. This is the first year Canada has competed in the tournament. Former world champion DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley, who hails from Washington D.C., was champion of last year’s tournament held in the United States.
“My fiancé is from Jamaica and I first went there looking to promote shows there,” said Tyler Buxton (United Boxing Promotions), who has served as consultant to the television producer, in addition to being the promoter/manager for Team Canada. “I spoke to the Jamaica boxing commissioner and he told me about past Contender shows. He was concerned about the team fighting Team Jamaica being able to fill the eight-fighter field. I agreed to bring Team Canada and it’s been a great experience for me and all the guys.
“They flew in on a Friday, fought on Wednesday, and flew back to Canada the following day. They stayed in a mansion, where there was a beautiful in-ground pool, and the fighters had their own cooks. They had to adjust to the heat having been used to fighting and training in Canada. But, hey, they had no problems losing weight. Everybody here has been super nice. The Jamaican media wasn’t nice to us at the beginning, claiming we weren’t good enough to compete with Jamaican fighters, but we won the first round, 5-3, and then got some respect. Our fighters even have some Jamaican fans now.”
Unlike the original version of The Contender in the United States, which was a reality television show, the “Jamaican Contender” is all about fighting, no behind the scenes stories. It has aired on JTV in Jamaica, drawing 800,000 viewers for the quarterfinals, 1-million for the semifinals, and 1.2 million viewers are projected for Wednesday’s championship final. These are incredible viewing numbers considering there are only 2.8 million people living in Jamaica. Fans outside of Jamaica may watch a live stream the championship final online via 1Stopmedia.com.
Jamaica has a rich boxing tradition, producing many world-class fighters and champions such as Mike McCallum, Trevor Berbick, Donovan Ruddock, Glen Johnson, Simon Brown, Nicholas Walters, O’Neil Bell, Uriah Grant, Alicia Ashley, Alex Stewart and Howard Grant. In 1973, Kingston hosted the World Heavyweight Championship between a pair of future Hall of Famers, “Big” George Foreman (37-0) and “Smokin'” Joe Frazier (29-0), in which Foreman captured the WBC and WBA titles from defending champion Frazier by way of a second-round knockout.