31.07.08 - Paul McCreath: Promoter Don House of Xtreme Boxing announced recently his plans for an 8 man heavyweight tournament to be held in Des Moines Iowa on August 29th. The tourney will feature 5 round bouts all the same night and televised by Fox Sports Net with total prize money of up to $2 million. Should we get excited about this? Probably not because the names involved as competitors are hardly top 10 fighters but you never know what might develop later.. Remember Cedric Kushner's similar tournament back in 2002? Two future challengers to Wlad Klitschko's title, Ray Austin and Tony Thompson were both defeated in that one while the winner Mo Harris hardly went on to fame and fortune.
The Des Moines promotion will feature mostly veteran journeymen who have already reached or passed their peaks. For them it is just another payday but there are at least a couple of fighters entered who may be worth watching. Let us take a look at the entrants.
Fres Oquendo-Fres is the best known of the fighters. At one time he was a title contender who gave both Chris Byrd and John Ruiz close fights in challenges for their titles. He defeated among others former fringe contenders Mo Harris, David Izon, Obed Sullivan and Cliff Etienne as well as two of the other entries in the tournament, Dokiwari and Mora. He is now 35 years old and coming off 3 keep busy type wins. He lost his last meaningful bout by controversial decision to Evander Holyfield in November of 2006. A win in this competition could rekindle his career but unless he shows more aggression than he did against Holyfield don't hold your breath. Fres is now 28-4 with 17 KOs.
Duncan Dokiwari-Currently holding a 25-3 record with 22 KOs Duncan was once a bit of a prospect but at 34 and with no meaningful wins on his record he is pretty much a fill in. He has won his last 3 against soft opposition. He was once KO'd in 1 by Stacy Frazier and also lost in 10 to Dominick Guinn.
Chris Koval-24-4 with 18 KOs. Lost to Tye Fields by KO in 1 last December. Need I say more? Also was stopped in 1 by Thomas Hayes in 2003. He has no chance of success.
Javier Mora-21-4-1 with 17 KOs. In May of '07 Sultan Ibragimov stopped him in 1. He has also lost to Oquendo in 10. He has no meaningful wins. While better than Koval he is a longshot at best.
Cisse Salif-23-10-2 with 21 KOs. Cisse is definitely an opponent type who loses every time he steps up. He will be eliminated early.
Josue Blocas-now 38 years old with only 17 fights in an 11 year career. His record is 15-2 with 13 KOs. He has won his last 3 including a decision over Canadian champ David Cadieux. That hardly puts him in contention here.
Andrey Fedosov-This 22 year old Russian is the dark horse of the tournament. He is 17-1 with 13 KOs but all against very soft opponents. This will be his first appearance in America. I would be highly suspicious of his record but who knows? Maybe he will surprise us like a few other Russians have done.
Devin Vargas-This 26 year old American might just make this whole thing worthwhile. After winning 2 national Golden Gloves titles as well as a nation championship as an amateur good things were expected from this young man. Unfortunately progress has been slow. So far he is 16-0 with 7 KOs over 4 years but he is still pretty much untested. This tournament will provide him with his first chance to step up for a serious challenge. Winning this competition could well put Devin right up there with Chris Arreola, Kevin Johnson, Brian Minto and Jason Estrada as America's best hopes at heavyweight. They may not be prime prospects but they are the best America has at the moment.
One might be inclined to dismiss this tournament as unimportant due to the calibre of the fighters but remember that it is giving eight boxers a payday and a chance to further their careers. In these days of boxers only fighting once or twice a year any activity is good. Tournaments are usually popular with the fans and it may just be the beginning of a change in the way pro boxing is conducted. Barry Hearn has a second Prizefighter competition in September in the UK following his successful one last April and there has been talk of two others in America. We may at last be seeing the beginning of reforms that could help our sick old sport.