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.”
ABOUT THE JOSE SULAIMAN WORLD INVITATIONAL TOURNAMENT
The Jose Sulaiman World Invitational Tournament, named after the late president of the WBC, is a single elimination bracket style tournament created by The Real Deal Boxing where 8 high level welterweights, representing different countries, compete over the course of three events to declare one winner who will be in position to fight for the WBC World Welterweight Title in 2019.
Besides the exciting action in the ring, the Jose Sulaiman World Invitational Tournament is receiving glowing praise from fans, media and athletic commissions for the initiatives it’s taking to make long overdue changes in the sport in three distinct categories.
Judging & Scoring
To combat one of boxing’s biggest issues, inexplicable if not downright awful judging and scorecards, the tournament features 5 judges as opposed to the regular 3. One for each side of the ring as well as one judge who watches the fight on a monitor with no sound. Halfway through the fight, scorecards are announced to the audience and the fighters so everyone is aware of how the 5 judges are viewing the bout. The first round of the tournament did not have a single controversial decision in 5 back to back 10-round fights and several fights had distinct momentum shifts after the cards were announced at the half way point. The Real Deal Boxing also developed a standardized scoring system that is given to judges in advance which clearly defines the way a round should be scored to eliminate any subjectivity from the equation. Last but not least, any bouts that end in a draw immediately head to a 11th and final round that judges must give to one of the fighters.
A nearly universal request from fighters, fans and the entire boxing community, the tournament uses instant replay. In the case of a controversial or potentially wrong call, the incident in question is reviewed in between rounds, allowing officials to get it right every time. Instant replay helps assure the bout’s outcome and scorecards are never affected by a missed call, be it a slip ruled as a knockdown or a cut from an accidental headbutt ruled as punch or vice versa.
In the tournament’s first round fighters were required to undergo a pre fight MRI and post fight MRI (on the following day of the fight) regardless of the bout’s outcome. In addition, The Real Deal Boxing has it’s own internal team of physicians to oversee the health and safety of all the fighters on their roster, helping to address the inconsistent medical standards brought on by differing requirements from each regulatory authority. The expense of these additional medical and safety requirements is covered entirely by The Real Deal Boxing.
The Jose Sulaiman WBC World Invitational Tournament takes place Saturday, August 25th at Budweiser Stage in Toronto, Canada. Doors open at 5:30 pm and the first fight starts at 6:00 pm. Tickets are on sale now at www.ticketmaster.ca and start at $50. For more information visit The Real Deal Boxing and Lee Baxter Promotions. The Jose Sulaiman World Invitational Tournament is proudly sponsored by Venum Fight Gear and Fight Wear.