On January 15, 2013 it was announced by veteran promoter/matchmaker Don Elbaum and financial backer Greg Sorrentino at a press conference at Gleason's Gym in Brooklyn that they would be holding what they have dubbed the $500,000 "Great American Heavyweight Box-Off."
At the press conference six of the eight American heavyweight participants in the tournament style "box-off" were announced and Providence was well represented by 2004 U.S. Olympian Jason "Big Six" Estrada (20-4, 6 KO). The other names announced, Devan Vargas (18-2, 7 KO), Alonzo "Big Zo" Butler (28-2-1, 21 KO), Joey "Minnesota Ice" Abell (28-6, 27 KO), Emmanuel Nwodo (24-5, 20 KO) and "The Mountain" Daniel Martz (7-0, 6 KO).
The purse structure will be $25,000 to the winners and $15,000 to the losers in the quarterfinals, $50,000 and $25,000 respectively in the semifinals, leading up to the championship final in which the champion of the tournament will earn $250,000 with $50,000 going to the runner-up. Obviously with this structure the winner of the tournament will receive $350,000 in prize money and the runner-up will receive a total of $125,000, not bad for three fights.
The problem that I see with the tournament as currently constructed is that none of the fighters on that list would be considered "contenders" in the heavyweight division, even by American standards. There are some interesting names on that list, and it's possible that the entire tournament could be a coming out party of sorts for Daniel Martz, the least known of the fighters announced thus far, but without some added appeal of at least one (or two) Top 20 American heavyweight's I'm not sure this tournament will draw much attention from the casual boxing fan.
If I had to pick some potential names to fill the final two spots on this roster I'd go with Tony Grano (20-2-1, 16 KO) the 32 year old heavyweight is a Top 10 American heavyweight (for whatever that is worth) and can actually sell a ticket in his native Connecticut, or if need be in Rhode Island against Providence's own "Big Six." I'd also call Deontay Wilder's (26-0, 26 KO) people. The Bronze Bomber hasn't fought a live body yet in his four year professional career and has another stiff on the table this weekend in Mexico. I don't see any serious danger in this tournament that the top american heavyweight prospect couldn't handle and three wins over this competition would put Wilder right at the top of the title contention list with some actual hair on his chest to get in the ring with a Klitschko if need be.
Other than those two names, how about Eddie Chambers (36-3, 18 KO), the perennial top American contender, or Bryant Jennings (16-0, 8 KO) the former football player and current highly regarded heavyweight prospect. The problem with this tournament is that it's made up of American heavyweight's and there really aren't any interesting American heavyweights other than Johnathan Banks (29-1, 19 KO) and you won't get him involved in this tournament so you've got to find some interest somewhere else.
Elbaum said he has had some discussions with several possible venues, including some casinos in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, Turning Stone and Madison Square Garden, and that he's close to making a television deal. He also noted that 12 other heavyweights are in the running for the remaining two spots in the field, plus one reserve fighter, and $25,000 of the champion's purse will be donated to the winner's charity of choice.
In all I think it's a great idea. The American heavyweight scene is very stale right now and offering some good prize money to get these guys involved should bring some eyeballs to the table. Plus everyone loves a tournament, if you throw these guys in a bracket I'm going to spend hours dissecting it on this site and others. As of right now I wouldn't say any one guy is a favorite over the others, but our own Providence representative seems to think he's in the cat-bird seat. At the press conference announcing the tournament, Jason Estrada said "I appreciate being in this tournament. Good luck to everybody else..but not as much as me. I'm working hard in training and I expect the winner to be me."