Sharkie's Machine: A Brief Commentary on ‘The Super Six’ Tournament
By Frank Gonzalez Jr., Doghouse Boxing (Oct 26, 2009) Photo © Tom Casino /SHOWTIME  
Though last weekend’s fights between Andre Dirrell vs. Carl Froch and Jermain Taylor vs. Arthur Abraham weren’t all that exciting, the idea of having tournaments to produce a single Champion is long overdue and welcome to this fan. A big salute to the promoters, who put this ‘Super Six Super Middleweight Tournament’ together. This is exactly what boxing needs, tournaments. If those who control boxing (the promoters and bogus sanctioning bodies) are in business to make money, they should come to discover one of the truest things in all business; if you put out a good product, you’ll get a good return.

Boxing is obviously a business. Unfortunately, it too often “feels” more like a business than a sport. As a business, you need customers. The way boxing has operated in the last decade has seen a shrinking audience. When you start to lose customers, its time to change your tactics. If you don’t change, you will either exist on the fringe or simply go out of business. There is a lot of competition in the world of individual contact sports these days with Mixed Martial Arts and UFC, who do things very differently than boxing. Those fights are based on a structural hierarchy, as is the norm in every other televised sport. You win you move up, you lose, you move down the ladder of contention. In MMA and UFC, Promoters don’t just go sign a fight with a big name star against some lowly unknown and expect to keep their fans entertained. How boxing has gotten away with that for so long is a mystery worthy of a Ken Burns documentary.

In order to rebuild the fan base boxing used to enjoy, boxing needs to emulate the model used by the other sports that are financially successful in this era. It’s not rocket science; just employ a system where boxers fight ever improving competition. Win and move up, lose and move down. As they rise in the legitimate rankings, they become the natural match ups for other fighters doing the same. As fans, we want to see the best fight against the best, not the ‘so called’ best fighting the most convenient money maker.

When athletes compete against the best, real stars emerge and questions like, “who’s the best?” at this or that weight class get sorted out with clarity. Like other sports, boxing desperately needs a legitimate structure so that the best fighters DO fight the best in their class. The term “ducking someone” is unheard of in other, legitimate sports. That’s a promoter/contract thing. Consider that tennis great, Roger Federov, had no choice—but to play the man who earned his way to the top, Argentina ’s Juan Del Porto, who ultimately beat the Champion—to become the Champion.

Forget about all these bogus Pay-Per-Views that feature hyped up fighters who haven’t even cleaned out their own divisions and yet are deemed the best fighters in boxing. Unfortunately, this appears to be the escalating trend these days. Who wants to see mismatches on TV for $50 - $60 bucks a pop? Any hardcore fan of boxing knows that in the last ten years, most of the best fights were not on PPV. The best fights are always the product of good match making and the best match making happens naturally when there’s a ‘structured format,’ based on merit, as opposed to on how powerful your promoter is and the sudden rankings from the bogus sanctioning bodies.

In all facets of life, there are contenders and pretenders. Real competition brings forth the real contenders and promoter arranged match ups too often bring in the pretenders—guys who have “the look” but never seem to fight top fighters in their prime. The Super Six tourney has the kind of flaws that bring both worlds together in a series of fights that will accrue points for the winners. You have three legit titlists in Arthur Abraham, Mikkel Kessler and Carl Froch. Then you have one relatively and one totally untested prospects in Andre Ward and Andre Dirrell, as well as a somewhat faded and suddenly chinny former 160 pound titlist in Jermain Taylor. Arguments can be made that having three lesser esteemed fighters against three top level fighters creates an underdog situation that could add some spice to the mix. From what I have seen, Arthur Abraham the power puncher, is the favorite to win it all, with Mikkel Kessler, the high quality boxer with some pop right behind him. Carl Froch is a big puncher who didn’t punch so well against the combination of hit, hold and run Andre Dirrell. Froch is something of an X factor in the tournament, where frankly, anything can happen. Fighters get a point for a Draw, two points for a win and three points for a knockout win. Whoever has the most points in the end will be crowned the Winner…or the Champion.

Too bad one of the most glaring flaws is the fact that Lucian Bute and Librado Andrade are not participants in this Super Six Tourney. Whoever wins between Bute and Andrade will be the IBF Super Middleweight Titlist. So, the winner of the Super Six would have to fight the winner of Bute vs. Andrade in order to be the undisputed Champion. But clearly the rulers of boxing do not want unified Champions. There is not a single undisputed Champion in any weight class in all of boxing today. This is not by accident. There’s more money in collecting multiple Sanctioning Fees from numerous belt holders than collecting it from ONE, true Champion.

If Bute and Andrade were there instead of Andre Dirrell and Andre Ward, (neither of whom would qualify to be there if the contestants were decided upon by a legitimate ranking system) then we’d have a case where an undisputed Champion would emerge at the end of this tournament. Since Bute and Andrade are absent from this contest, even this tournament won’t produce a unified Champion. For fans that believe the myth that Manny Pacquaio and Floyd Mayweather Jr. are the “best Pound for Pound” fighters in boxing, reality doesn’t matter. The criterion for being the “best P4P fighter in boxing” relies on fans suspending common sense and accepting hype in the place of what’s real. In an era absent of real news reporting and rampant commercialism, I can understand how so many might be so gullible.

So far, the first leg of the tournament has seen Jermain Taylor put in a game effort only to be knocked out in the 12th round by Arthur Abraham and Carl Froch managing to win a Split Decision against a very nervous Andre Dirrell, who when he wasn’t complaining to the referee, ran, held constantly and slipped often onto the canvas. I thought Taylor did about as well as I expected and Dirrell exceeded my expectations in being able to actually go twelve against a legit 168 pound titlist after being fed a steady diet of tomato cans since he’s turned pro. Froch had clearly won the fight on my card but it wasn’t impressive. Hopefully Dirrell learns from this cherry popping experience and changes his demeanor in the ring so that he looks like a Fighter next time, instead of a complaining track star.

I have a feeling that this Super Six Tournament is going to produce big ratings for Showtime and stir up interest to some former and hopefully some new fans to boxing. Boxing is a business and fans equal money. If we’re lucky, there might be another tournament to gin up more interest. Hell, maybe someday in the future the promoters will wake up and notice that if you put out a good product, you’ll get a good return and we’ll see boxing in its best form; all divisions having tournaments to decide a Champion for each division. Can you imagine? Every week, a good fight between two fighters who deserve to fight each other? That sounds good to me. After all, we loyal fans have supported boxing in bad times and it would be nice to see boxing rise up above the competition once again and become what it once was, not so very long ago; the most popular sport in the world.

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