The folks behind Prizefighter have named a few of the combatants in the next installment of the eight-man, one-day tournament, set to take place at London's Alexandra Palace on May 7. It will be the 18th edition of Prizefighter, and for the first time ever, there will be fighters from outside of the United Kingdom and Ireland participating.
Those named thus far for the heavyweight tournament are as follows (and as always, lineup is subject to change, since Prizefighter lineups always do):
Kevin Johnson, United States (24-1-1, 10 KO)
I had to lead this with the news that the first-ever American fighter in a Prizefighter setting is going to be Kevin "Kingpin" Johnson, he of the infamous December 2009 "title challenge" against Vitali Klitschko. What appeared on paper to be a decent matchup between the veteran star and a tall, unbeaten, young American turned into one of the worst fights in the history of fights alleged to be for "the world heavyweight championship," as Johnson all but verbally refused to engage in a fight with Klitschko, leading to 36 minutes of mind-numbing non-action. We watched it live from the UK feed in the afternoon, and tried to warn those who hadn't to not stay up late to endure the travesty on HBO tape-delay following Diaz-Malignaggi II from Chicago. It was that bad of a fight. It was one of the worst high-level fights I've ever seen. The Prizefighter people are trying to quietly say, "Well he's only lost once, on points to the great Vitali Klitschko," but there's just so much more to it than that.
But hey, maybe Johnson can redeem himself with a performance that doesn't alternately confuse and enrage his own corner. He certainly won't be facing anyone on the level of Vitali Klitschko.
Martin Rogan, Northern Ireland (14-2, 7 KO)
In a way, you can blame "Rogie" for Prizefighter -- I mean "blame" as nothing more than a light jab, as I quite love the series myself and look forward to pretty much every one of them. After all, it was Rogan who won the first-ever tournament on April 11, 2008, becoming half a folk hero in the process. At the time, he was just a few weeks shy of his 37th birthday, and eight months later he would upset former Olympic gold medalist Audley Harrison on points. Two months after that, he won again, stopping Matt Skelton in the 11th round and winning the Commonwealth heavyweight title. That Rogan ever became a notable boxer is almost a miracle -- he's old, he's nothing but rugged and strong, and he lives on muscle, guts and a little bit of luck. In other words, I think he's just damned wonderful. He's 39 years old now and looked his age in a November 2009 loss to Sam Sexton, but came back last November to win a couple of fights of minor significance. On May 7, he tries to jumpstart his career again.
Richel Hersisia, Netherlands (32-3, 25 KO)
They call him "The Dutch Sonny Liston." Well... uh. Well, they call him that. Hersisia turns 37 on April 28 and hasn't fought since November 2009 and has never beaten anyone of consequence. But even against mediocrities, his KO rate alone could be enough to make him a darkhorse in this format.
Mike Perez, Cuba (13-0, 10 KO)
One of the "Irish Cubans," Perez has experience fighting more than once on a show as a professional, as he took two fights on a card last May when his first opponent couldn't last more than 48 seconds. If he does actually wind up in the tournament, and figuring that there aren't any major surprises, Perez should be considered the favorite going in, so long as he's in shape and taking it seriously.
Konstantin Airich, Kazakhstan (16-3-2, 13 KO)
Prizefighter folks recommend you check out Airich's fight with Danny Williams to see what he can bring to the ring. What? Is Ahmet Oner going to ring the bell before a round is actually over? Is he going to insist all his fights be special guest refereed by Alberto Garcia Perez, the most clueless boxing referee ever? Airich can punch a little, but that's about it. He was stopped in four in his last fight.
All the piss-taking aside, I'm looking forward to it, as I always do. Even the heavyweights are entertaining in Prizefighter (usually).