|Ken Hershman Interview: SHOWTIME Boss on Super Six, Arthur Abraham, Mikkel Kessler, Carl Froch, Andre Dirrell, Jermain Taylor, Andre Ward and More!
By David Tyler, Doghouse Boxing (Oct 9, 2009) 2nd Photo © Winfried Mausolf / Sauerland Event
Ken Hershman is the Senior Vice President and General Manager for Showtime Sports. He is in the doghouse to talk about the upcoming Showtime Super Six Super Middleweight tournament.
David Tyler Sir, how did Showtime cultivate the idea of a Super Middleweight Tournament?
Ken Hershman We have featured a number of super middleweight fights over the years and were in conversations with all the various promoters of super middleweights about taking these fighters to the next level where we could get the most bang for the buck and present the most compelling fights. We sat there and thought that this is a pretty deep weight class. If you look at most weight classes after the first couple of names the quality and name recognition falls off pretty quickly. In the Super Middleweight division you have six plus fighters, maybe more, that are all at a very high level and very well regarded and very well known. We thought this was interesting and maybe there was something we could do here that’s bigger and bolder than anything we have ever done in the past. That spurred the idea and then we had to figure out how we would structure it. The easier thing is to come up with the idea, the hard thing is to execute it and get it done. We spent a good two and half months structuring this tournament and to the amazement and shock and surprise, we pulled it off!
DT - I agree that this tournament has universal acceptance and that’s good. However, I have received many e-mails from readers that simply do not understand the rules.
KH - The rules are set, these are all regular 12 rounds fights that will be under the unified rules of boxing sanctioned by the particular sanctioning body involved such as the WBC, WBA, and the IBF. We changed nothing about the way these boxing events will be conducted. The only difference is that we have overlaid on top of that a point scoring system that we think is fairly simple and straightforward which is two points for a win, one point for a draw, and zero points for a loss. Also, you get a bonus point if there is a knockout. There are three group stages where everybody fights win or lose. Add up the points that they have earned over those three fights. The bottom two guys go home and the top four progress into the semi-finals. The semifinals at that point are a single elimination process. The guy with the most points will fight the guy with the fourth most points. Two and three will fight each other and the winners of those two fights will fight in the championship. That is as simple as it is and it’s not any more complex than that.
DT I like the fact that you could lose a fight and still emerge as the winner of the tournament. Many kudos for designing such a unique event.
KH There was a lot of people who were involved in developing this event. Yes it is unique and we did it intentionally because, number one, I think it is really negative for the sport to have this stigma attached to a loss. When you’re fighting the caliber of fights and opponents involved in this kind of event, you should not be stigmatized for losing to a Mikkel Kessler, Andre Ward, or Andre Dirrell. These are all world class athletes and fighters. So that was important to us and number two as they progress, having the point system the tournament thought of this comes into play because the fights get more interesting as you progress. If you suffer a loss then it makes it more of a need to get some points or to play spoiler and somebody else doesn’t use you to get to the semi-finals. So I think the fights will get more intense, not less as we progress. Everyone is going into this all tied up at zero points and it should get really interesting come group stages two and three.
DT Sir, let’s discuss the first stage, how did Showtime make the decisions who would fight who in the first stage?
KH We really had to make the match-ups throughout the tournament or at least the first three group stages. We can’t predict who will be in the semis and the finals. So we had to lay it out in the way we thought was most effective and fair for everybody. A good thing about having a round robin in these first stages is that if you lose as you said, you’re not out and you can come back and actually win the tournament. So we really did not have to worry so much about ‘I don’t want to fight that guy’ or ‘I want to fight this guy’. So really it was just about making it fair geographically, it was fair timing wise, and that everybody had a path that they could understand and follow.
DT On October 17, you have King Arthur Abraham fighting Jermaine Taylor in Germany, followed by Andre Dirrell fighting Carl Froch in Sherwood Forest. No problems with Taylor and Dirrell going to the opponent’s hometown for the fight?
KH The amazing thing about these fighter’s and I have already said it and I will continue to say it throughout the tournament is that of all the issues on the table I thought the most difficult was going to be who fights who and the where issue has not been nearly as difficult as I thought. Everybody has their point of view on their fighter and who he is best matched up against and who he will do the best against style wise but no one in this tournament is afraid of any other fighter. That is what makes this tournament doable. Sure Andre Dirrell has to go to Nottingham, England to fight Carl Froch but Mikell Kessler has to come to Oakland and fight Andre Ward on November 21st and that’s also a pretty tough assignment even if you’re Mikell Kessler. Jermaine Taylor has to go over to Germany and fight Arthur Abraham; however Abraham has to come to America for his next fight. Everybody has home and away fights and certain physical challenges in the group stages that will be difficult for them.
DT - Sir, everyone has their favorites in this tournament but the majority of e-mails I receive believe that His Majesty, King Arthur Abraham will end up fighting Mikell Kessler for the overall championship. Your thoughts?
KH Everyone has their own opinions and frankly that’s what makes this tournament so much fun. I have my opinions but I keep them to myself because it wouldn’t be right for me to discuss them publicly. Now that’s the beauty of this because it’s not just one fight and who do you think is going to win the fight? For a sports fan it’s a dream to be able to say that Kessler is going to win that fight but lose the next fight and still end up winning the tournament. That’s the fun of this event. After group stage one I’m sure that many fans opinions will shift a bit. I think there is going to be some surprises in this tournament.
DT Have all the fighters agreed not to fight anyone outside of the Super Six?
KH That is correct. A lot of people may speculate that a fighter would take another fight outside of the tournament that will not happen because part of the selling point or bonus in this tournament is the fact that all fighters get three guaranteed fights. Those issues have been covered quite specifically and strongly. We are counting on everybody staying in from beginning to end.
DT This tournament takes place over 18 months?
KH It will be between 18 to 24 months. Hopefully no one gets cut or injured that might delay their next fight. We have a good time table to ensure that all these bouts happen within the time frame.
DT We all hope the fighters remain injury free but then again if they fight His Majesty, King Arthur Abraham, they may not progress so well recovering from the Kayo. Did you see him fight Edison Miranda with a broken jaw?
KH Yes I did see a replay of that fight. On the U.S. side we are excited to have three Olympians, Dirrell, Ward, and Taylor. All are very talented young fighters and certainly Jermaine Taylor is not old but has a resume that’s second to none with anyone in this tournament. He defeated Bernard Hopkins twice and had a draw with Winky Wright. He had a questionable loss to Kelly Pavlik and another loss to Carl Froch. So, there is nobody that’s fought better fighters than Jermaine Taylor. I believe that Arthur Abraham has his hands full with Taylor. As much heart and talent as he has, we have not seen him at 168 lbs. So there is a question mark there.
DT The mix of fighters is very unique from top to bottom with sluggers, boxers, and those with both skills. October 17, is a date that all boxing fans should mark on their calendars.
KH We are very happy with the mix of fighters and the diversity you speak about will play into the outcome of the bouts.
DT Sir, if the October 17, fights….Abraham/Taylor….Dirrell/Froch were on HBO we would have to pay about $110 bucks to see the two bouts, are these going to be Pay Per View events?
KH No, all fights are going to be on regular Showtime, we are not about taking the great fights and making the fans pay another fifty or sixty dollars on top of their regular subscription price for cable and Showtime. What we are about is ensuring that Showtime customers get top value for their subscriptions.
DT Has Showtime stopped producing Pay Per View events?
KH I wouldn’t say that but it is not really our strategy or our business right now. We are in the premium television business and we want our subscribers to have the best of what Showtime has to offer and I think this tournament is the best that Showtime’s boxing program has had to offer in many years. It would be ashame to take it to a limited audience on Pay Per View.
DT Mr. Hershman, thank you very much for taking time from your busy schedule to discuss the upcoming Super Middleweight tournament on Showtime.
KH You’re welcome, it’s been my pleasure and I would like to express my personal thanks to all the Showtime subscribers for their support.
Readers: Interviewing the Big Shots makes me nervous. Showtime and all the participants in this tournament have been very generous with their time for the press. We have recent interviews with Jimmy Lennon Jr., Michael Buffer, Andre Dirrell, Al Bernstein, along with upcoming interviews with Arthur Abraham, Nick Charles, and Andre Ward.
By now you have guessed that I am picking His Majesty, King Arthur Abraham to win this tournament easily, all fights by Kayo. Who is your pick? I eagerly await your e-mails.
***David Tyler replies to all his e-mails and loves to hear from the readers. Comments, Questions, Suggestions, E-mail David now at: email@example.com
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