Has the “Super Six” Lost its Mojo?
By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (May 11, 2011) Doghouse Boxing
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Arthur Abraham - Super 6
The “Super Six World Boxing Classic” on Showtime resumes this week from the Home Depot Center in Carson, California, as Andre Ward faces Arthur Abraham. When this round-robin super middleweight scrum- originally comprised of six notable 168-pounders, represented by five different promotional entities- was officially announced in the summer of 2009, it was rightfully lauded as a revolutionary concept that would not only match the game’s best in a series of fights, it would bring focus and clarity to the division.

  It was not just a novel format but to many pundits and hardcore fans, a much-needed respite from the usual shenanigans of the business where too often, the elite fighters in each weight class found ways not to face each other in the ring.

  It was great in theory but was it a failure or letdown in reality? 

  The tournament and its backers (namely, the Showtime network) had the best of intentions but, unfortunately, the folks in boxing just couldn't help themselves. As the “Super Six” moves into the semifinals, half of the original participants have dropped out (Jermain Taylor, Andre Dirrell and Mikkel Kessler) and this format was beset by delays and outright cancellations of scheduled bouts. What started out so strong, with so much promise and hope, became a microcosm of what could go wrong in the business (There was also the not-so-small exclusion of Lucian Bute among the original half-dozen contestants).

  It's been an arduous journey to this final four (which sees Carl Froch taking on Glen Johnson on June 4th).

  "It's been a long, winding road," admitted Ken Hershman, V.P. of Sports Programming for Showtime, whose brainchild was this tourney. "‘Arduous’ is probably too strong [a word] but it's been a fun experience, as well, and I think it's going to conclude on a high note."

  This is not to say that the “Super Six” has been a complete buzzkill. To the contrary, because of the its creation, boxing fans have been able to see fights like Carl Froch-Dirrell, Ward-Kessler, Dirrell-Abraham, Froch-Kessler and Froch-Abraham since October of 2009. They were all significant bouts within the division and it’s safe to say some of them would've have never come to fruition if these fighters had not signed up for this. Not only that, a potential star has broken out in Ward and several fighters have suffered their first professional losses to their careers, which pointed out the gauntlet that was this tournament. And the late addition of Glen Johnson has eased the loss of those who decided to drop out of the “Super Six.”

  This is where things got dicey; the scheduled fights that didn't take place have highlighted the failure of this concept (which obviously didn't account for individuals who were not used to playing on what was an even playing field not completely tilted in their directions). There was the mysterious pull-out of Kessler after the second stage of the tournament and then the even more questionable circumstances that accompanied Dirrell's “lingering neurological issues” that “Dr. Shaw High” simply couldn't remedy. For a full year, those involved knew that, in group stage three, Ward and Dirrell would meet. In retrospect, that fight was doomed from the start as it seems that Dirrell (who has seemingly made a miraculous recovery) and his representatives never had any real intention of fulfilling their obligation.  

"I think everybody has had to find their way as this thing has progressed, deal with the ups and downs, the delays, the winning, the losing and I don't think anyone was ever accustomed to it," said Hershman. "So it definitely presented unique challenges to each fight camp. But still, here we are with the semifinals with three of the finalists who were originally in the tournament at the beginning and we added Glen Johnson. So, at the end of the day, it's going to prove to be a monumental task to win this thing."  

When asked him what surprised him about this new territory they forged, the “Czar” answered, "About everything. I think it surprised me how well-received it was. It surprised me about the various challenges we faced with it and I think who wins it is going to surprise me."  

Lou DiBella, who reps Johnson, said he wouldn't hesitate to be involved in another version of the “Super Six.”  

"I like the concept of a tournament not being a single-elimination because the one thing we don't have in boxing, that perhaps UFC does correctly, is [if] you lose well, you don't lose your stature so quickly. You come back in a big fight. I think this is a great concept; I think maybe, there were some lessons learned from this. About how you would do it again and maybe do it a little differently and maybe a little bit quicker," said the promoter, "but I still think it was a great innovation. It brought a lot of attention to this division. Bute is now lurking for the winner of this tournament; Kessler's coming back. Dirrell's coming back. It’s going to be an interesting division."  

Bute is now in the midst of an exclusive three-fight pact with Showtime, which will hopefully culminate with him facing the winner of the “Super Six.”  

Dan Goossen, whose company, Goossen Tutor, handles the career of Ward, says that while they would take part in another version of this, he makes it clear, "Not under the circumstances that we agreed to here. And it's not a secret; I love the format, OK? But there's a lot of things that have happened during this course that I would've tried to protect against. Just sometimes, you take a direction based upon everything being perfect and in this case not everything was perfect. But the overall concept I wouldn't change. I love it. With the pullouts, though, that was something; even though it was anticipated, there was a lot more to it than just being prepared for a replacement."  

Bottom line, can the sport’s powers-that-be earn the trust to do the right thing and keep their word? The answer in this case seems to be a resounding hell-to-the-no.  

"Well, I can't answer that," said Goossen, this past Saturday afternoon at the MGM Grand, where a media luncheon was held with the remaining fighters, "depending on who you're saying the certain people are. You'd have to find out from the certain people what their thing was. Look, I mentioned it here at the press conference today; this is our fourth fight, in essence, in the tournament and it's our first one since Kessler of the original six." Since then, Ward has faced Allan Green and Sakio Bika, who have gotten the call out of the bullpen. "So we didn't anticipate that and we didn't prepare for it and those are the things that you gotta fill in the holes with. Maybe something similar to what they do in the Olympics and they have alternates already in place where you know if the worst-case scenario happens, it's not picking a name out of a hat. It's someone you already know is there as an alternate."  

Problem is, while that might work in the amateurs, the business of professional prizefighting is based on certain attractions showing up to the dance. That simply hasn't happened enough times throughout the duration of this tournament and with it, the general public suffers from a certain erosion of interest and faith. Just think about it; the two semifinal fights will most likely not draw more than a couple of thousand fans. Ward, while a legitimate draw in Oakland (where he has somehow been able to fight all his fights in the “Super Six” in his hometown), is largely out of place in Southern California, as is Abraham. And Froch-Johnson, which is as intriguing a match-up as this tournament has had, thus far, is taking place in the 3,000-seat Adrian Phillips Ballroom in Atlantic City.  

If this was the NCAA’s “March Madness,” this would be akin to having the national semifinals in a high school gym.  

Hershman admits, "I am disappointed in that part of it but again, these are challenging times, economically. It's hard-to-find venues that are suitable and we had some challenges with the date and this is what we came up with. It's going to be a great fight and it's one of the most anticipated fights and for my subscribers, where the fight takes place from is a nice little added hoopla but they just want to see a great fight on TV."  

It was in the tournament contract from the network that the last two stages of the tournament take place in North America. In England, Froch-Johnson plays to a big audience. In the States, it's just a blip on the radar enjoyed by the hardcore fans of boxing. When asked why it landed here, DiBella answered, "To be honest, why were there a 1,000 people at the Devon Alexander-Tim Bradley fight?" (Actually, there were about 6,000 brave souls who were at the “Shaw Silverdome” that cold January night) "I think that, first of all, I'd rather have a sold-out ballroom than have 3,000 people in a 10,000-seater, just because of how it looks. Honestly, the fight should've been in Great Britain, from the standpoint of economics and for the crowd. However, for press, no American press would've gone to Great Britain for this event.   

"For Showtime, it's much better that both fights are happening in the United States and I think we could've gone to Nottingham (Froch's hometown) and done it in a soccer stadium but for the purposes of this tournament, I think it was important for Showtime to have the fighters accessible and to have these fights in the United States."  

Perhaps this will be new tradition that will be tweaked and adjusted moving into the future. Or maybe just a failed experiment that had the best of intentions that was unfortunately felled by the short-sightedness of those entrusted to bring some sanity and credibility back to their industry. It's clear; if it were up to Hershman, there would be another edition of the “Super Six.”  

"I would love to. I think if we can find a weight class where there's a deep enough level of talent and willing to make the commitment for this period of time, I think it's fantastic."  

PAWN MANUEL MARQUEZ UPDATE  
Click here for this section of the article: Juan Manuel Marquez vs Manny Pacquiao Update & More Steve Kim
 

KIRKLAND  

It was confirmed to me by attorney Mike Miller that James Kirkland, who was shockingly halted in one round by Nobu Ishida last month, has gone back to Austin, Texas and reunited with trainer Ann Wolfe. It seems like a good move, given their track record of success but I think it's also just as vital for Kirkland to have gotten out of “Sin City” because what happened to him in Vegas was happening too often, from what I'm told.  

When I asked Miller if they were still planning to face Ishida in a rematch on July 30th, Miller said what was now being discussed is a fight against Ricardo Mayorga, of all people. That fight would be paired with the Abner Mares-Joseph Agbeko bout on Showtime that still has to be rescheduled for the summer months.  

Who knows if this comes to fruition? If it should, sign me up; I love this doubleheader.  

(N)O, BROTHER  

I found it interesting in watching the rebroadcast of ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights” that Teddy Atlas, in listing his most formidable brother combinations in boxing history, omitted Juan Manuel and Rafael Marquez. I called Atlas and he admitted he just plain forgot them and that they absolutely should've been high on his list. 

OK, that happens to everyone; no problem.
 

Just my opinion but the Marquez duo makes a strong argument for perhaps being the best sibling duo of the past 50 years. Not only were they among the best fighters in the game concurrently throughout much of this past decade, if you take into account the great fights they've been involved in, the historic rivalries that they are a part of, the action fights that they provided in both victories and defeat and the fact that both may one day end up in the Hall of Fame (I think Juan Manuel is a lock; “Rafa” is borderline), they are the Bruce and Clay Matthews of boxing.  

MID-WEEK FLURRIES  

Speaking of Kessler, he returns to the ring on June 4th, as he takes on Mehdi Bouadla. I guess the plan is to take on Bute after this tune-up...Who here would be against a rematch between Jorge Arce and Vic Darchinyan at 122 pounds?...Boxing returns to the OC Hangar (which is a fantastic venue) on May 20th as “Solo Boxeo” on Telefutura has a main event of Christopher Martin-Charles Huerta. Also on that card is the return of Ronny Rios...Antonio Orozco, a bright junior welterweight prospect whose last bout was scratched as he got a late case of “bad tuna,” returns on June 2nd at the same venue...What's worse, Reggie Bush's tweets or his ability to run inside in the NFL?...So Andrew Bynum got a five-game suspension for his cheap shot on JJ Barea? Hey, it's not like “Kid' Bynum-ite” was challenging AC Green's record for most consecutive games played...I was told that Juan Manuel Marquez has given Golden Boy a deadline of May 16th (at the end of the business day) to match the offer he got from Top Rank...As for the aforementioned, mysterious “Dr. Shaw High,” our own Managing Editor Coyote Duran put a true face to the name in one of many of his single-panel, boxing humor cartoons he provides for promoter Boxing360’s blog page. Coyote’s topics have ranged from Al Haymon trying to wake up Paul Williams to Floyd Mayweather and Leonard Ellerbe enjoying the Lady Gaga concert on HBO. You can check them out by visiting www.boxing360.com/blog...

I can be reached at k9kim@yahoo.com and I tweet at www.Twitter.com/stevemaxboxing. We also have a Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing.

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