Fighting Fit: In Conversation With Bill Dosanjh, The Man Behind Super Boxing League
“Everybody has a plan, until they get punched in the face,” Mike Tyson once said. Every pugilist might not be destined for Olympic glory, so the next best thing to do is turn professional. Barring Olympic bronze medallist Vijender Singh, though, India has hardly seen any of its scrappers make the most of this system — and this is exactly what British entrepreneur Bill Dosanjh wants to turn around, with his franchisebased Super Boxing League, being promoted in India by Olympic medallist and twotime world champion boxer Amir Khan.
Following the curtainraiser on July 7, the competition will have entered its business end soon after, with the finals slated to be staged on August 12. But Bill, who has successfully laid the foundation for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) in India (with the Super Fight League), remained confident on the day of the flag off for the SBL’s first edition.
“The country has leagues for sports like cricket, badminton, kabaddi and hockey, because people like to see a good fight between the teams or players. Even on the streets, if there are two people fighting, a crowd gathers to watch them. So in layman terms, SBL is here to slot these fights into a more organised format. And in fact, boxing has a much larger fan base than MMA, so there’s no reason why it won’t flourish, given the success of the SFL,” he said.
The league comprises a total of eight teams representing different cities, with Delhi’s Siri Fort Auditorium playing host to all the matches this time.
The takeaways from the league will extend across the country, as each franchise is required to set up 5-6 gyms across their home states, under a unique programme. These facilities will be open round the year and, according to Bill, are aimed at nurturing a culture wherein a fan can walk in and watch their team’s boxers train. They can even sign up at these gymnasiums, which are required to be spread across a minimum of 3,000 sq ft.
“There was a massive hunt across the country, and we found so much talent from various states. Indian boxers like Pawan Maan Singh and captains of various other outfits have come through the ranks, and a number of athletes from the SFL have also signed up for the league. And since it’s the first such boxing competition in the world, even international boxers will come to see how things are done over here. Unseen home talent will be unearthed, and you will see big champions coming from India in the next 3-4 years,” claimed the business tycoon, who’s currently based out of the UAE.
However, it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows for the league in the build-up. It has had its set of run-ins with the national governing body, the Boxing Federation of India (BFI). Headed by Ajay Singh, the BFI has refused to allow its boxers to figure in the event, while its parent world body, AIBA, also withdrew its support. Thus, the league is being organised in association with the World Boxing Council (WBC) and the Professional Boxing Organisation India (PBOI), which is affiliated with the Asian Boxing Council.
“I am all about growing the sport, be it boxing or MMA. Having a country the size of India, where the majority of the population is young and dynamic, you need everyone to be responsible. The BFI’s job is to get these athletes ready for the Olympics, and we have a league for something beyond the Olympics, or for the ones who don’t make it there. The BFI should look at us in a positive manner and not in the way they have,” he explained.
Meanwhile, the silver lining is that the league has been backed by corporate houses and various celebrities, like Randeep Hooda, Sohail Khan, Rana Daggubati and Riteish Deshmukh. Each franchise has pledged a total of Rs 6 crore (including Rs 3 crore as fees) to the league, and Sony Pictures Network has been brought on board as a broadcaster. As a result, Bill is also optimistic about nurturing a pay-per-view culture in the coming years.
“It’s not very far, because Amir Khan’s last fight raised $50 million. With the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) coming to India this year and Netflix blossoming, it will become phenomenal. I have been here for five years and built combat sports, differentiating it from WWE. We have inspired movies like Sultan, which is amazing. Globally, combat sports are probably the second most popular after football, and the upcoming fight between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor should be testimony enough,” he signed off.
The SBL will consist of 8 franchises
Every team comprises six members (five male fighters and one female fighter) and six back-ups.
These six fighters belong to six different weight categories
There will be competitions in six different weight categories
Bouts of 4 rounds of 3 minutes each
There are two groups, ‘A’ and ‘B’, consisting of four teams each
The four teams compete to play twelve League Level matches within their groups
Two Semi Final matches are played, along with a match for the third and fourth place
Numbers and more
Stadiums have a maximum of 3000 seats, and franchises decide ticket prices
The revenue will be shared in a 60:40 ratio between the owners and the league
Prize money will be Rs 4 crore
The second season will be held in Mumbai
It will adopt a home and away format
There’s a plan to move to a University format in the coming years
Featherweight (121 lbs)
Welterweight (145 lbs)
Middleweight (158 lbs)
Light heavyweight (169 lbs)
Heavyweight (209 lbs)
Women’s Flyweight (112 lbs)
Draw = +1
When all the judges score the contest a draw
When maximum judges score the contest a draw
When all the judges score differently
Technical Knock = +4
When the referee stops the contest and when an injury as a result of a legal maneuver is severe enough to terminate a bout
Referee Decision = +3
When the referee gets the last word and score the contestant(s)
When all the judges score win for a contestant
When maximum judges score a contestant and other judge scores the other contestant
Knock Out = +6
When contestant is rendered unconscious due to strikes