The Jose Sulaiman WBC World Invitational Tournament presented by The Real Deal Boxing and Lee Baxter Promotions in association with Louisville Top Knotch and The World Boxing Council, takes place in Toronto, Canada on Saturday, August 25th at Budweiser Stage.
With the semi-final round of the international welterweight elimination tournament now less than 2 weeks away, we invite you to learn more about the 4 semi-finalists with a video preview of each fight and some thoughts from the fighters themselves on their opponents, the tournament and more!
CAMP NOTES AND QUOTES
Chris Van Heerden
26-2-1 (12 KOs) – #2 seed representing S. Africa
How do you explain a devout Christian who’s chosen career is a sport that requires you to physically harm your opponent? What can you say about a South African born fighter who prefers to train at a gym in Los Angeles that caters to a celebrity workout crowd? Well if there’s anything certain about Chris Van Heerden it is that he’s one of boxing’s most unique and passionate characters and he’s completely focused on winning the tournament and getting a shot at the WBC welterweight world title.
on Lawson’s reputation as a power puncher…
“His record is 27-1 with 21 knockouts, which is amazing, but do some research and look at who he knocked out. Guys with 10 losses and 4 wins. Gimmies. I take nothing away from him, he’s a good fighter but I am by far his toughest and most experienced opponent. My resume speaks for itself. I’ve been hearing a lot of things, reading a lot of things, Fredrick saying he’s gonna knockout me. Well, good luck with that. I’ve never been knocked out. I take nothing away from him and I respect the guy but he’s in for a surprise.”
on his celebrity following…
“Peter Berg, who is a very good friend and also the owner of Wildcard West where I train, arranged for Charlize Theron to show up on my birthday which got picked up by TMZ. In fact Charlize Theron, Jennifer Garner and Mark Wahlberg all came and saw me in the gym the same week. That’s a pretty good week! I train a few actors like Frank Grillo, Sam Rockwell and Katrina Law. I enjoy personal training. It keeps me in the gym where I love to be and I have been getting a lot of attention from it. Some of them may even come to Toronto to the tournament to support me.”
on the tournament leading to a title shot …
“I don’t want to get ahead of myself but this opens up everything for me. It’s a path to the WBC world title. Winning the tournament will place me in the Top 10 and with Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter fighting for the vacant title, the tournament winner could get the winner of that fight or get an eliminator to become the mandatory. Going into a world title shot with 3 fights of the tournament’s level of competition is exactly what I want and need.”
27-1 (21 KOs) – #3 seed representing Ghana
A native of Ghana now training in New York City, with over 20 KOs, Lawson is by far the tournament’s biggest puncher and he’s promising to score a knockout in the semi-finals. ‘General Okunka’, as he calls himself, is beyond confident and is hoping to celebrate his 29th birthday with a win in the tournament putting him just a fight or two away from becoming Ghana’s 3rd ever welterweight world champion.
on facing a veteran like Van Heerden…
“I have seen a few clips of him. Enough to beat him. I know Chris is a veteran and looking to go the distance but I will have the perfect strategy to stop him. At this point in my career, I am too strong and hungry for anyone to stand in my way.”
on the tournament’s format and initiatives…
“I like the tournament format and the additional judges and instant replay. I particularly like the choice of venues. From an arena and now to an outdoor amphitheater, the venues have been amazing. I am looking forward to giving the fans in Toronto a great night.”
28-1 (9 KOs) – #5 seed representing USA
You could make a case that Brad ‘King’ Solomon is the most overlooked boxer in the entire welterweight division. With only one loss that was a debatable split decision, Solomon, who was a decorated amateur, is the definition of an in ring technician using fast hands and slick footwork to befuddle his opponents. Solomon feels the tournament is finally his chance to make sure the boxing world no longer ignores his talent.
on being overlooked despite his record…
“I think that people who know boxing, know me. It’s just on me now to finish the job and go to the next level where I deserve to be.”
on his close win in the quarter finals…
“I felt good in there. I got knocked down in the first round but the shot was behind my head. I wanted to get the momentum back right away but I kept my composure and didn’t get discouraged. Won all the later rounds and got the decision.”
on come forward fighters like Santana being the ideal opponent for his style…
“With my movement, any fighter that comes straight forward, that’s gonna be my fight. You just put the punches out there and they run into them.”
25-6-1 (12 KOs) – 8th seed representing Mexico
Francisco ‘Chia’ Santana originally entered the tournament as an alternate by way of an online fan vote. When a fighter dropped out, the ultra friendly, battle tested veteran who works a full time job on a ship to support his family, seized the opportunity and scored a shocking upset of the tournament’s #1 seed, Olympic Gold Medalist, Felix Diaz. Having faced multiple current and former world champions, on August 25th, he’s hoping to continue his Cinderella run in the tournament.
on being given no chance to upset Feliz Diaz in the first round…
“It doesn’t matter if no one gives you a chance as long as you give yourself a chance.”
on being the underdog again despite his experience…
“People either don’t know or remember but I’m the only fighter to ever hurt Jermell Charlo. I went toe to toe with Sadam Ali in a close fight at The Garden. I fought Julian Williams to a draw. I’ve upset undefeated prospects like Eddie Gomez. Long before Adalaide Byrd did GGG dirty, she robbed me in Vegas against Jose Benavidez. I just upset an Olympic Gold Medalist. I was the underdog in everyone of those fights. I’m used to it. When someone tells me I can’t do something, I’m gonna prove them wrong.”
on the tournament’s use of 5 judges…
“As a fighter who has been on the wrong end of two straight, in my opinion, bad decisions, one which led to my promoter dropping me and leaving me without a fight for a year, I think 5 judges should be mandatory for every fight. Bad decisions don’t hurt the stars as much as it hurts fighters like myself whose career could be ruined from them. It’s a change the sport desperately needs and everyone from fighters to fans to promoters to commissions to the media should be supporting it.”