Happy Birthday to promoter Wilfried Sauerland! The 70-year-old 2010 Boxing Hall of Fame Inductee, was actually born on February 29th, but during non-leap years he says he celebrates his birthday twice, on both February 28 and March 1. March will be a big month for the Sauerland Event chief as both Arthur Abraham and Marco Huck will be headlining major boxing cards in Detroit and Berlin, respectively.
Operating from the famous Max-Schmeling-Gym in Berlin, Sauerland currently manages over 30 fighters, including Super Six World Boxing contestants King Arthur Abraham and Mikkel Kessler, former WBA Heavyweight Champion Nikolai Valuev, 2004 Olympic gold medal winner Alexander Povetkin, WBO Cruiserweight Champion Marco “Captain” Huck, IBF Middleweight Champion Sebastian Sylvester as well as WBA/WBC Female Welterweight Champion Cecilia Braekhus, amongst many others.
It was Wilfried Sauerland who ignited a true boxing boom in Germany during the nineties when he led “The Gentleman” Henry Maske to stardom. Thanks to the tireless work of General Manager Chris Meyer, Sports Director Hagen Doering as well as Sauerland´s two sons, Kalle and Nisse, Team Sauerland these days delivers 12 first-class shows per year and has a long-term TV contract in place with German public TV giant ARD. The deal has just been extended through 2015, with Team Sauerland becoming the first boxing stable to sign a comprehensive agreement with the German NADA, agreeing to extensive random training and fight testing.
Team Sauerland truly has turned into a global operation, with events being staged across Europe and the TV rights being distributed to over 120 countries all over the world. Team Sauerland – namely Kalle Sauerland – played a major role in organising SHOWTIME´s groundbreaking Super Six World Boxing Classic, the hotly-anticipated tournament which will determine the best super-middleweight fighter.
Wilfried Sauerland´s success story actually started over 30 years ago. Having fallen in love with the sport as a small child when his father took him to Dortmund´s Westfalenhalle to see Heinz Neuhaus in action, September 30, 1978 eventually marked the beginning of an astonishing career – a career Sauerland had never envisioned.
In the seventies, he lived in Lusaka, Zambia and had started his own business, selling industrial equipment mainly to government organizations. Later he specialized in the sale, spare parts manufacturing and service for brewery bottling and soft drink plants, with offices in Lusaka, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Togo, Benin and the Ivory coast. Sauerland had sponsored football teams in Zambia when he was approached by his friend, the Zambian foreign minister Rupiah Banda (who is now the president). Banda inquired whether he could help a promising young amateur boxer named Lottie Mwale and get him international exposure. Sauerland agreed and started to guide the boxing career of Mwale. He promoted his first show in Zambia on September 30, 1978. More than 70,000 fans attended the show, and after his first-round KO of Lonnie Bennett, Mwale went on to become a national hero in his home country.
Sauerland never looked back. Two years later, he staged his first show in Germany. In front of 600 fans in Cologne, his fighter Chisanda Mutti knocked out Uwe Meinicke in the third round. But the strong fighters from Africa, like Mwale and Uganda’s John Mugabi (who in 1989 won the WBC light-middleweight title), found it hard to attract huge crowds in Germany, leaving Sauerland in the need of local fighters. Germany´s René Weller, who later won the European lightweight title, and Manfred Jassmann soon pleased the German fans, as did Graciano Rocchigiani, who under Sauerland won the IBF super middleweight title in 1988.
However, it was “The Gentleman” Henry Maske who then ignited a gigantic boxing boom in Germany. The fights of the IBF light heavyweight champion, who reigned from March 1993 to November 1996, as well as from heavyweight Axel Schulz generated record viewing figures for TV station RTL. Packed stadiums and reliable partners finally allowed Sauerland to make up for the financial losses he had suffered before. Things really took off from there, with boxing turning into one of the most popular sports in Germany, attracting an incredible fan interest and gigantic TV interest.
Even after the retirements of Schulz and Maske, the boom would continue. Team Sauerland moved from Cologne to Berlin, where under the guidance of head coach Ulli Wegner more than 20 boxers work out in the Max-Schmeling-Gym. Sven Ottke fascinated the German public by winning all of his 22 world title fights before retiring as the undefeated WBA/IBF Super-Middleweight champion in March 2004. Markus Beyer also won the WBC super-middleweight title three times. Nowadays, the likes of King Arthur Abraham, the undefeated IBF middleweight champion, WBA Heavyweight Champion Nikolai Valuev and 2004 Olympic gold medal winner Alexander Povetkin fascinate boxing fans all over the world. In March 2009, the “First Lady” Cecilia Braekhus – Team Sauerland´s first-ever female fighter – lived up to her billing and won the WBA/WBC female welterweight titles. In summer 2009, Team Sauerland added three world champions to its roster – the Viking Warrior Mikkel Kessler, cruiserweight talent Marco “Captain” Huck (WBO) and Sebastian Sylvester, who succeeded King Arthur as the IBF Middleweight Champion. Up-and-coming youngsters like Karo Murat and Alexander Frenkel as well as IBF Intercontinental Champion Yoan Pablo Hernandez are certain to continue the success story in the future, while Kessler and Abraham seek international glory in the Super Six World Boxing Classic.
Sauerland takes special pride that nearly all his boxers joined him from the amateur ranks and were turned into European and World Champions by the joint efforts of his team. His two sons, Kalle and Nisse, have long been integrated into the company and successfully manage the day-to-day business, with their father still providing invaluable insight from what truly has been an astonishing career – a career that earned him a place in the International Boxing Hall of Fame in December 2009.