The Super Six boxing classic has taken more shots than Andre Ward has in his entire twenty three fight career. Many boxing writers have called the tournament a failure. Too many injuries they quipped. Too many withdrawals, they added.
Ok so there have been some injuries and some withdrawals. Even the promoters have squabbled and come precariously close to blows. However, the tournament is thriving. Let’s take a quick look back at how it all started, and where we are today.
When the tournament was announced in 2009, most if not all analysts considered it a positive thing. Six fighters, three from the United States and three from Europe, would engage in a round robin format.
Andre Ward, Andre Dirrell, Jermaine Taylor, Mikkel Kessler, Carl Froch and Arthur Abraham were chosen to participate. The tournament started with a bang when Arthur Abraham brutally knocked out former middleweight champion Jermain Taylor. Taylor was asked to pull out of the tournament, which he did in January of 2010. On the same night that Taylor was vanquished, Carl Froch won a very close decision over Andre Dirrell.
In November, a virtual unknown by the name of Andre Ward took on pre tournament favorite Mikkel Kessler. To the surprise of many (except this writer), Ward dominated Kessler winning on a technical decision in the 11th round.
In March of 2010, Andre Dirrell and Arthur Abraham where back in the ring, but this time facing each other. Dirrell boxed Abraham silly, winning seven of the first eight rounds. Running out of gas but still ahead on points, Dirrell slipped to the canvas in the 11th round. Abraham uncorked an illegal right hand that knocked Dirrel out. Four fights in and the tournament had produced a brutal knock out, a controversial decision, an upset, and a disqualification.
What was there not to like?
Less than a month after the Dirrell and Abraham folly, Mikkel Kessler and Carl Froch went toe to toe in Helsinki, with Kessler winning a split decision. This brutal, toe-to-toe affair had most of the fans standing throughout. Kessler later pulled out of the tournament with an eye injury. Some questioned the validly of his escape, saying that his eye injury wasn’t that serious especially since Kessler drove himself to the press conference.
Andre Ward took on Allan Green in June of this year. Green had been talking himself up. Ward had paid him no mind. Unfortunately, the confident Allan Green was nowhere to be found as Ward easily defeated him. Group stage two was completed, but dark clouds hovered nearby.
The next round Andre Dirrell was scheduled to take on Andre Ward at a location to be determined. Rumors swirled around the fight. The Andres’ didn’t really want to fight each other. Dirrell wanted more money. Finally, in an announcement that startled most of the boxing community, people close to Dirrell revealed that he was suffering from neurological problems pertaining to the Abraham fight.
Andre Dirrell was pulling out of the tournament. To many, after the Kessler and Dirrell withdrawals, the super six was DOA.
Not so fast, cagey veteran Glen Johnson was asked to replace Kessler. Johnson knocked out Allan Green to earn a spot in the semi finals. Carl Froch easily defeated Arthur Abraham and joined Johnson in the semi finals. The detractors were still out there, they pointed to the emergence of Lucian Bute and wondered why he wasn’t in the tournament.
As I stated earlier, it’s interesting to note that in a way the detractors have been right. The injuries have been problematical. Carl Froch hurt his back and Andre Ward his knee. Both of their fights were delayed. Did their delays hurt the tournament? Possibly, but the controversy also built up more interest. Without question, the Kessler and Dirrell withdrawals staggered the tournament, at least for a few moments. Showtime’s Ken Hershman did an excellent job of keeping things together, and working on the fly.
The future glows with possibilities. It’s likely that “King” Arthur Abraham will move down to middleweight after his fight against Andre Ward. Abraham hasn’t looked very impressive lately, but the man can punch and his name alone will create a buzz.
Can anybody say Andre Ward versus Carl Froch? As long as both fighters win their next semi-final bouts (and they should), it will happen in October or November of 2011. Ward/Froch is an intriguing matchup of opposites. Froch likes to brag and tease, while Ward prefers to stay quiet and prepare. Froch will have the height and reach advantage, while Ward has the faster hands and feet.
The winner will get undefeated IBF titleholder Lucian Bute. All the belts and bragging rights will be on the line. It’s a superfight, plain and simple.
Therefore, I close with this. The Super Six boxing classic, despite all the injuries and infighting, has managed to create a lot of interest in a division that a year ago, a lot of people never even heard of. The plusses of the tournament out weigh the minuses by a landslide. Call it a soap opera if you must, but admit that you’re curious how it’s going to turn out.