Wasserman has acquired Sauerland to form a new promotional powerhouse. In an exclusive interview Kalle Sauerland talks to John Dennen about the impact of this move in the sport and what it means for British boxing in particular
A NEW force is emerging in British and world boxing. Wasserman, one of the largest sports agencies globally, has acquired Team Sauerland. It will combine Wasserman’s financial resources, their branding and marketing muscle with the boxing expertise of the Sauerlands. The UK will be one of its key target markets.
“Certainly we’ll be the most well-funded outfit in boxing,” Kalle Sauerland tells Boxing News. But he adds, “It’s not just the financial side of it, of course that’s very important in professional sports, but it’s this huge ability that they have to take athletes and turn them into absolute superstars. Whilst we can do all the stuff on the sporting side, that part we hope will rub off very much on our business
“It’s too often that athletes are all built up around fights but really there’s a bigger picture for the athlete and that in turn makes boxing more exciting.”
“They [Wasserman] have absolutely thrown everything at this deal. It’s a massive deal but it’s a deal which really shows their confidence in what we plan to achieve,” he continued. “In boxing to have as close to a blue chip coming into it and becoming one of the major players is something that’s great for the sport as a whole. For the whole industry of boxing to have a company on the front line with the name Wasserman is something that I think is excellent for everyone that’s involved in the business.”
This multi-million pound deal means Wasserman Boxing will be in a position to sign new fighters. The big names Sauerland promotes already include Chris Eubank Jnr, a star in British boxing, Filip Hrgovic, a real threat at heavyweight, and the leading cruiserweight and World Boxing Super Series winner Mairis Briedis. But they will be looking to significantly expand that stable. “I believe not a single athlete in the sport will be out of our reach,” Sauerland said. “With them fully behind us and supporting us, it’s a massive opportunity. There’s not a fighter in the world where we wouldn’t be confident of providing a great home for them. I think we’re in a unique position over any other promoter. It’s a massive, massive infrastructure what it can do for the fighter, not only in the ring – there our promotional skills we’ve shown over the years – but from outside the ring in terms of what they do in talent management.”
As well as the sport’s existing stars, the Olympic Games being delayed till July also means an array of elite amateurs will be looking to turn pro later this year. “With the Olympics we have historically always gone shopping,” Kalle notes. “There are some really, really fantastic ones in there… There’s a handful we’re really, really keen on.
“I think it’s a platform we can give them that’s second to none.”
He points out the level of athletes Wasserman have represented in other sports. “40 of the all-time great Premier League one hundred have been on Wasserman’s books. That’s the sort of level we’re talking and we all know that obviously football is a slightly larger beast than boxing but our sweet science, we believe that that’s the level we will take it to. That’s what we want to be, we want to be an industry leader,” Sauerland said. “There’s not a single A-lister out there who, if they’re not in contract, we wouldn’t be interested in them. That’s not just a UK message, that’s just a general market message. I don’t think there’s a market in the world, that’s done boxing, where we [the Sauerlands] haven’t worked before. As a company we’ve promoted in so many different countries. So we know the markets, we also have an eye on a few new markets.
“In general there’s not a single A-lister that we wouldn’t be interested in signing. We’re certainly in a position to offer them absolutely excellent conditions but also offer them that little bit extra that they couldn’t get elsewhere.”
Britain will be a particular focus. “The UK of course is very, very high up on that radar,” Kalle says. “We will join the pack so to speak.”
Sauerland has promoted individual fighters in Britain, he’s worked with David Haye, David Price, Anthony Ogogo, George Groves and now Eubank Jnr. But as a promoter in mainland Europe, even though he lives in London, that UK effort hasn’t previously been sustained as such. “That probably changes now. There’s a lot of talent here, there’s a lot of platforms here, there’s a lot of ambition here and there’s a great fanbase here. That certainly is a market you can’t ignore,” Sauerland said. “In Germany we have five guys in the top 10 now, which is a position in Germany which we haven’t had in the last couple of years. So it’s also a very exciting time there. I think Scandinavia we won’t turn our back on it, it needs that new hero, needs that new Mikkel Kessler and there’s a few kids coming through there.
“With Wasserman the US, that’s going to be very high on that list as well.”
The British market is dynamic and the broadcasting landscape could change dramatically. Matchroom’s current deal with Sky expires later this year and so Eddie Hearn has to decide whether to renew what has been a close partnership with them over the years, while DAZN, the international streaming service, is looking to make in roads in the UK. It will be fascinating to see how a new promotional outfit in Wasserman Boxing can fit into that picture.
“We look at all opportunities. The opportunity must be one that is a win-win for both sides. Business only works long term when it’s a win-win,” Sauerland said. “The broadcasting situation is of course a very interesting one, but the broadcasters rely on the content as well. There will be a lot of opportunities for fighters, a lot of opportunities for us to very rapidly grow.”
“The amount of opportunities in the industry at the moment is second to none in history,” he adds. “The media landscape will be unrecognisable in three or four years’ time.
“It’s down to making sure the fighters are financially happy, they’re happy with the way that they’re being handled, they’re happy the way that their brand will grow and of course that’s partly to do with broadcasting. But once again we mustn’t always rely on the broadcasters to do this. The broadcaster expects, and rightly expects when writing a cheque, to receive a product and there I think we can add tremendous value. For us, we haven’t immediately looked at it and said, right we need to go and find one broadcasting partner. We’ll sit down and see and the stable will develop. We’ve got three cracking A-listers to start with, with Hrgovic, with Eubank Jnr, with Mairis Briedis.”
The Sauerlands have shown a propensity for working with other promoters previously and have managed to avoid getting bogged down in the ‘cold wars’ that have often kept promotional rivals from collaborating. Eubank’s comeback for instance will be on a Matchroom show on May 1. While Premier Boxing Champions, as an example, seems to inhabit its own ecosystem, Wasserman Boxing is coming in to work within the existing structures of the sport. “The PBC, they’ve had success with their Fox Sports deal, but we’re going from a very different angle. The angle here is not to try and change anything in boxing. It’ll be a promotional company like any other. But one that is part of a mammoth organisation and with a huge amount of expertise in all different fields, that boxing hasn’t got in any other entity, and will be extremely well funded. Those three things I think are the key assets here,” Sauerland said. “We’re not here to reinvent the wheel – just to turbocharge it and put a bit of chrome add-on on it.”
“They get the business. They are very, very scientific in their approach to their business and boxing isn’t always that easy to understand from the outside. They grasped that business very, very well,” he concludes. “They understand what we feel needs to be done together in order to have great success. It’s all about taking it to a whole new level.”