Random Thoughts on the Super Six tournament

Andre DirrellBy Chris Acosta: For those of us crossing our fingers, Showtime Sports’ “Super Six” tournament delivered. All the elements were there: evenly- matched contestants, a modern format and an international flair that was sure to bring out the patriot in all of us. Still, there are never any guarantees in how a fight will materialize. Sometimes, styles don’t connect quite right and officiating and judging are always issues which promote anxiety. But all in all, stage one of this event went as well as could be hoped. The first thing that comes to mind for me as a fan is my hope that Jermain Taylor never sets foot in a boxing ring again.

After he was leveled by as ugly a punch as I’ve ever seen by the brutish Arthur Abraham, I immediately thought about his future in boxing, much less the tournament itself. Taylor is a proud man with an over abundance of heart to go along with obvious talent, but he must now be considered irreperably damaged goods. There were questions of the Arkansas native even being allowed in this tournament in thte first place since he’d lost the majority of his previous bouts, including two particularly vicious knockouts at the hands of Kelly Pavlik and Carl Froch.

But in each of those two defeats, he was performing exceedingly well until being taken out. He brought star value to the tournament and was given a chance to redeem himself on the grandest stage which seemed to motivate him like never before. There were legitimate arguments that he carried as many credentials as anyone else and was, for the most part, an entertaining performer. What appears to have eliminated his chances to continue on is that Jermain was really never in this particular fight, which has not happened to him before. In his losses to Pavlik and Froch, he was competitive and dangerous throughout. But against Abraham, there was a sense that his early lead was a mirage. The powerful Armenian blocked most of his jabs and steadily closed the distance at his leisure. And when he opened up, Abraham was frighteningly more physical. So what now? Taylor and his team (and Showtime) have to seriously consider pulling the American out for his own healths sake. Should he soldier on, his next opponent will be Andre Ward and though Ward is considered an average puncher at best, Jermain’s chin will probably respond out of reflex regardless of who is throwing the punch. American Allan Green is probably sleeping with three cell phones propped against the side of his head. He’s kept himself in Showtimes good graces by staying with the network (and opting to not pursue a less prestigious title challenge on a competing one) with the promise that should a contestant pull out ot the tourney, that he would fill in. Is Green more qualified that IBF champion Lucian Bute? Probably not. And comparatively, Bute is a much bigger draw in his adopted Canada than Green is anywhere else. But Allan fills in the American gap that Taylor would leave open and unlike Bute, he’s less complete but a far bigger puncher, meaning that he’ll get hit more but will present more risk than Bute ever time his fists move.

As for the U.K. representative Carl Froch, he’ll move onto stage two against Mikkel Kessler. Carl wasn’t exactly sterling in his split-decision win over Andre Dirrell but he wasn’t all that bad either. What really sticks out with Froch is that he’s unmercifully relentless, constantly coming forward and fighting as though he’s being paid for the miles he puts on a hidden odometer. He’s flawed for sure, hindered with a gangly lack of coordination that will forever make him vulnerable to faster, more athletic fighters. But Froch seems to accept this limitation as a means to overcompensate with heart and a towering confidence. And by the way, did anyone notice his jab? Froch may be overly aggressive at times but he has a knack for jabbing when he suspects that his opponents are only anticipating his heavy artillery.

Dirrell in my opinion, fought well. What seems to be lacking in his game is maturity and experience. The Flint, Michigan native is a truly gifted athlete and there were spots when his balance and reflexes made the Englishman look downright awful. He’s a tough assignment for anyone in the tournament. While many believe that Abraham presents a more demanding test for him in round two, there are conflicting variables. Arthur is arguably stronger than Froch and a more damaging puncher but he’s also less consistent in his attack and less rangy. For a young, distance-based boxer like Dirrell, this will afford him some time to think in the ring. He’ll get to set up his combinations without worrying about tiring himself out. It’s an entirely different proposition: we’ll see if he’s able to make the adjustment. The beauty of this tournament is that each fighter really does bring something different to the table. The consensus is that Kessler should be a heavy favorite but I would argue that point. There’s no mistaking his class: the sharp jab, pinpoint trajectory of his punches, footwork and stamina. And the Dane has wanted badly to reestablish himself after suffering the only loss of his career to Joe Calzaghe a few years ago. He’s a solid boxer with as good a chance as anyone to win the whole event. But one thing which has always troubled me with Mikkel is his relative stiffness. Kessler doesn’t move his head at all which is a real point of concern (but also illustrates just how good he is to have come this far without the grasp of such a basic fundamental).

Andre Ward might seem like little more than a minor inconvenience for Kessler on his way to slaying larger dragons but there is more than meets the eye with this match-up. Ward’s distinct edge in this bout is his mobility. He’s not a runner but rather, a slick boxer who is very underrated in the realm of advantageous positioning. It would serve him well to allow Kessler to lead and then counter. Kessler had trouble with Calzaghe’s speed and boxing ability and his own level of opposition is light versus foes who could match his athleticism. And though Mikkel has good balance, he’s less fluid than Ward which might force him into uncomfortable role of aggressor. He does, however, possess superior firepower and experience and enough pure talent of his own to call upon.

A few more ramblings: How on earth did Gus Johnson keep a straight face (although it looked like he nearly lost it) when Showtime analyst and former light-heavyweight champ Antonio Tarver reffered to Carl Froch as Carl “Crotch”? Good for Antonio that he recognized the oopsy daisy, made the quick apology and continued on as though it never happened. And extra kudos to Showtime- who can seem to do little wrong these days- for appointing Tarver to commentator. Tarver is honest, articulate (blunder above aside) and informative. I’ve noticed something lately: The press row scoring cards are exponentially more accurate than the ringside judges. Why is that? I would suggest that they just allow press row to score the fights but they might suddenly be infected with blurred vision and brain cramps too. Occupational hazard?

Seeing Froch and Dirrell holding hands and kneeling while awaiting the decision was really cool. It was a sign of mutual respect and sportsmanship. This, coupled with the fighter’s countries’ flags next to their names on the bottom of the television screen reminded me of amateur boxing but way better.

The Scorpions always sound good in concert.

Let’s hope that Showtime runs this tournament format in every division. I invited a friend who is strictly into MMA (and hates boxing) and he really enjoyed the telecast. We are all creatures of hype and so it only makes sense to appease that need. Was it just me or did Mikkel Kessler look a little awed at Arthur Abrahams performance?.

Article posted on 19.10.2009

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