by Paul Magno
When Showtime first cooked up the idea of putting together the six biggest super middleweights in one winner-take-all tournament, the boxing world was buzzing at the possibilities. Fans were already salivating at the potential match-ups long before Jermain Taylor and Arthur Abraham kicked off the tourney back in October, 2009.
The idea was a win-win for Showtime. They would be provided several solid dates of TV action as well as the undisputed #1 figure in the 168 lb. class. And, honestly, Showtime would be less than honest if they denied the thought of turning clean cut, God-fearing, Olympic Gold Medalist, Andre Ward into their very own franchise.
Unfortunately, a little less than a year after the tournament’s opening bell, Showtime’s plans have been dashed repeatedly and, now, the entire tournament teeters on the brink of cancellation.
Despite heaps of positive press and the universal approval of hardcore boxing fans, the series has produced luke warm ratings and, although producing some quality fights, has yet to make the impact first envisioned when Showtime Sports executive vice president, Ken Hershman cooked up the idea.
Hershman’s thinking outside the box has inspired a Showtime mini-tournament at bantamweight and a similar 6-man round robin tourney at cruiserweight, but the actual, original Super Six World Classic is, perhaps, on its deathbed.
The first loss was when Jermain Taylor retired from the sport following his brutal KO loss to Arthur Abraham. No real harm done, since Taylor was a long shot to win and could be easily replaced by Taylor’s promotional stablemate, Allan Green.
The next loss came at the end of August of this year when Mikkel Kessler pulled himself from the tournament, claiming an eye injury.
While there’s no solid proof of anything shady going on when it comes to Kessler’s injury, the circumstantial evidence continues to mount. Shortly after the tournament withdrawal, it was revealed that Kessler had a deal in place to face the final winner of the tourney and, conveniently, his doctor is recommending rest right up until the last scheduled bout of the Super Six finals.
The next blow was the revelation that the Andre Ward-Andre Dirrell bout, scheduled for September 25th, was just not going to happen. No venue had been set, no publicity produced and neither fighter was even in training. Showtime threatened legal action, but nobody bought the network’s bluff and the fight between two “best friends forever” will not be happening anytime soon. No postponement info has even been rumored.
The latest shot to Showtime’s gut happened last week when Carl Froch pulled out of his October 2nd bout with Arthur Abraham in Monaco, citing a back injury and claiming that an eight week rest will remedy the condition.
Fans and followers of Froch trust in his honesty and willingness to fight through pain, but the timing of this injury is just too convenient to overlook.
In any case, with nothing happening and questions beginning to mount, Showtime is scrambling for a way to save their innovative creation or, maybe, they’re looking for a way to quickly end the whole thing while still saving face.
Official, on the record, talk may center around injuries, venues, and friendship pacts, but the truth behind the dying tournament may be a little deeper.
Imagine three European stars, accustomed to fighting at home in front of wildly partisan crowds, now force them to stay away from their home bases for extended periods of time. It has no doubt been a tough sell to all fighters involved, especially when these same fighters could be engaging in more lucrative bouts against safer opposition in the comfort of their own hometowns.
With the Super Six producing only a fraction of the impact initially predicted, where is the upside in Kessler, Abraham, and Froch risking another defeat apiece when a tourney win will likely not make them any bigger than they already are?
And on the American side, Ward, despite showing some legit, world class skills in the tournament, is not becoming the star that Showtime imagined and, as a matter of fact, had a tough time selling tickets in his own hometown of Oakland in June when he beat Allan Green via lopsided UD.
So, where things stand right now, of the Super Six, the three Euro fighters may have officially questioned the wisdom of continuing on; Andre Ward and Andre Dirrell may have decided to sit things out and see how this develops and Allan Green will still be moaning about his bad luck.
At this point, only a miracle will save Showtime’s original concept for the World Boxing Classic.
It’s going to take some real personal sacrifice from at least five of the six fighters to push this tournament through to its completion. They’ll have to put their bank accounts and personal agendas aside in the name of the sport and its fans. But as we’ve seen, especially in this cursed boxing year of 2010, boxers and promoters just don’t think like that anymore.