This weekend, Klaus Peter Kohl and his Universum boxing promotions will be airing a card, live on German TV, featuring Felix Sturm against "undefeated prospect" Koji Sato and Karoly Balszay against "former titlist" Maselino Masoe. This is exactly the kind of joke card that Kohl somehow gets German television to buy, and as long as his fighters are on TV and making money, it doesn't matter that they're literally fighting nobodies while holding the division hostage.
But Sato has to be dangerous, right? I mean, he's undefeated with over a 90% KO ratio? He's beaten the best that Japan has to offer, pushing his record to 14-0. But Sato doesn't even have a nicely padded record. And in case you haven't been to Japan recently, there aren't a whole lot of guys over there who would be fighting as high as 168 if they're in good shape. Sato himself carries a bit more weight than he needs to and is small for an SMW, registering at only 5'11". But beyond all that, the video just speaks for itself. This guy is a joke, a slower version of Curtis Stevens.
Sturm beat Sebastian Sylvester in his last fight, and he's a legitimate fighter. But he was also Sturm's mandatory. In non-mandatory defenses, he's fought the rotting corpse of Javier Castellejo (who he lost to), Noe Gonzalez Alcoba (a Uruguayan with less than 15 fights of pro experience who had only fought feather duster salesmen), Jamie Pittman (an ordinary Brit of the Gary Lockett variety, but one with only 16 pro fights of experience), Randy Griffin (in a match he took because he could only earn a draw with Griffin when Griffin was his mandatory) and now Koji Sato. In the meantime, Sturm's handlers have turned down 2.5 million Euro to unify with Arthur Abraham in what would be a megafight in Germany. Is there any relief in sight? The next three WBA challengers are Anthony Mundine (who has looked like a shell of his former self lately), Sebastian Zbik and Khoren Gevor. Zbik and Gevor are - you guessed it - Universum fighters. We might be well into the next decade before the WBA middleweight belt legitimately becomes up for grabs again, because that's the Universum way.
Balszay is a name you're going to get to know. It's not because he's going to wipe out the super middleweight division; rather, it's going to be because about a year or two from now he'll be "that mother*%^&*er who's preventing unification at 168." We already know he's at least decent, having beaten Denis Inkin convincingly, but we probably won't see him face anyone else decent until he has to fight his mandatory, because that's the Universum way. His opponent this weekend - 42 year old Maselino Masoe, a 5'8" Samoan midget who is one of the worst titleholders in recent memory, up there with guys like Gavin Rees and Eric Aiken. He was a titlist by reasons of circumstance as much as anything - the WBA wanted to pretty much give a title to undefeated prospect Evans Ashira, a Dane who hadn't faced anyone himself, and Masoe knocked him out in two. His next fight, he got beaten by Sturm, and then by Randy Griffin, and then by 22-14 William Gare, and in his last fight he squeaked out a split decision against a 15-5 New Zealand clubfighter. So while on paper you'll be able to say Balszay has beaten two titlists, it's really the equivalent of fighting an old gatekeeper who doesn't even have it anymore.
Sturm and Balszay aren't the only fighters Universum has done this with. Ruslan Chagaev has fought the absolutely weakest opponents available in his voluntary defenses. Zsolt Erdei, the true lineal champion at light heavyweight, has fought such a huge roster of jokes that people pretty much pretend he doesn't even exist anymore. Sergei Dzinziruk has built up a big undefeated record fighting only in Germany while the most dangerous voluntary defense he's made was against Joel Julio. Anyone remember the career of Tiger Michalczewski, the reason Roy Jones has never been a true champion? Another Universum guy. Kohl has a long history of trying to polish turds into diamonds, and once he gets something that's a reasonable facsimile, he never lets it go.
Because that's the Universum way.