Eight World Class Fighters in the welterweight division have been chosen for the inaugural ‘Jose Sulaiman World Invitational’ presented by Evander Holyfield’s The Real Deal Boxing in association with the World Boxing Council. The first round of the single elimination tournament will take place on Friday, April 27 at a location to be announced.
Fighters selected for the tournament include former world title challenger Felix Diaz,(19-2-0, 9 KOs) of Santo Domingo, D.R., Johannesburg, South African native Chris van Heerden, (25-2-1, 12 KOs), world ranked contender Fredrick Lawson, (26-1-0, 21 KOs), from Accra, Ghana and undefeated Russian prospect Radzhab Butaev, (8-0-0, 6 KOs). Also included are Brad Solomon, (27-1-0, 9 KOs), of Douglasville, Georgia, Timo Schwarzkopf, (18-1-0, 10 KOs), of Stuttgart, Germany, Derrieck Cuevas, (16-0-1, 13 KOs) of Catano, Puerto Rico, and Baishanbo Nasiyiwula, (13-1-1, 6 KOs) of Urumqi, China.
Four alternates have also agreed to participate in the case of injury to one of the participants including Mexico’s Mauricio Pintor, (20-3-1, 13 KOs), Paddy Gallagher, (13-3-0, 8 KOs) of Belfast, Northern Ireland, Sergiy Lubkovich, (7-0-0, 6 KOs) of Kostroma, Russia and Francisco Santana, (26-6-1, 12 KOs) of Santa Barbara, CA.
Boxing fans can vote to decide on the first-round matchups at The Real Deal Boxing website, www.TheRealDealBoxing.com starting NOW with the voting ending at on Monday, February 26 at 12:00 p.m. ET. First round matchups will be announced at the tournament’s kick-off press conference on Wednesday, February 28.
“This is an excellent selection of highly talented and very hungry fighters from all over the world,” said Holyfield. “The first round is a great opportunity for fans to be involved in choosing the matchups they want to see.”
2008 Olympic Gold Medalist Diaz stamped his named as one of the division’s top contenders with a dominant 10-round decision over rising star Sammy Vasquez on July 16, 2016. Prior to that Diaz had also compiled wins against other top contenders Adrian Granados, Gabriel Bracero and Emmanuel Lartey. Most recently Diaz battled unified world champion Terence Crawford on May 20, 2017 at Madison Square Garden, coming up short against the undefeated pound-for-pound chart topper.
Now living and training in Santa Monica, CA, van Heerden will be looking to continue his winning streak with two sensational victories in his last two fights. On October 22, 2016, van Heerden returned home in South Africa with a 12-round unanimous decision over Sacky Shikukutu at the Emperors Palace in Kempton Park. Prior to that van Herdeen won a 10-round decision over Steve Claggett on April 16, 2016 in Las Vegas. Among the other notable wins on van Heerden’s ledger are Ray Narh, Kaizer Mabuza, Matthew Hatton and Cosme Rivera. In his only defeat, the southpaw lost a hotly contested fight against the division’s top star Errol Spence on September 11, 2015.
Fighting out of Chicago, IL, Lawson won the vacant WBC International Silver Welterweight Title in Accra, Ghana with a 12-round decision over Sakima Mullings on March 11, 2017. Following that up on November 18, 2017, Lawson stopped Fidel Munoz in the third round in New York City. In his seven years as a professional Lawson has also defeated contenders Ray Narh, Breidis Prescott and Mohammed Kayongo.
Just 24-years-old, the Russian born Butaev had an extraordinary amateur career compiling a record of 304-12. Although having the potential to participate in the 2016 Olympics, Butaev chose to turn professional in March 2016. Now based in Brooklyn, New York, Butaev most recently won a nationally televised unanimous decision over then undefeated Janer Gonzalez on November 10, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. His previous three fights in 2017 ended in early, show stopping knockouts over Sherzodbek Alimjanov, Abraham Alvarez and Bakhrom Payazov.
Solomon returns to action in the tournament following an impressive unanimous decision victory over David Bency on July 29, 2017 in Panama. Among the other notable names on his ledger in his ten years as a professional are wins over Adrian Granados, Raymond Serrano, Freddy Hernandez, Ray Robinson, Kenny Abril, Wilfredo Negron and Kenny Galarza. Solomon’s only loss came in a very hotly contested and controversial 10-round split decision to Konstantin Ponomarev on April 9, 2016 in Las Vegas.
The 26-year-old Schwarzkopf is currently riding a four-bout winning streak and will be fighting for the first time in the United States having entered the tournament. The Kosovo born Schwarzkopf’s most recent wins include victories over Massimilliano Ballsai, Artem Haroyan, Gianluca Frezza and Tomas Urbaneja. His career also includes a victory over former world champion Junior Witter. Schwartzkopf’s only loss came in a ten-round decision to top contender Anthony Yigit on March 21, 2015.
The undefeated Cuevas scored two stoppage victories in 2017, a third rounder against Tomas Mendez on June 17 and previously a fifth-round knockout of Juan Jesus Rivera on February 3, both in Puerto Rico. Cuevas will also be fighting in the United States on April 27 in Louisville in the first round of the tournament.
Rounding out the eight participants, Baishanbo “The Destroyer” Nasiyiwula will also be fighting in the United States for the first time. A professional since February 2015, Nasiyiwula is coming off his career best victory, an eighth-round knockout of John Ruba on January 20, 2018 in Shenzhen, China.