The Super Six World Boxing Classic in the Super Middleweight division kicked off to a super start (ugh...) with the King leveling Taylor with bad intentions (yeesh...) and the Cobra slithering away (sigh...) with a close, disputed decision against whatever nickname Dirrell has...
Arthur Abraham KO12 Jermain Taylor
[PTS: Abraham = +3; Taylor = 0]
Taylor started off well in the first four to six rounds and fought a controlled, but not too conservative, fight with numerous jabs, yet Abraham was operating per script, starting methodically slow and building to a crescendo in the later rounds. The wait came a little longer due to Taylor's speed and power competing with his own power offense (both having their moments), but the plan kicked in near the final four rounds, where Abraham took command of the lead. Taylor looked to be on his way to a close decision loss, but the end came much quicker and more violently as a straight right completely floored Taylor in what seemed like less than a second, his eyes rolling in the back of his head as Abraham and his home arena erupted in jubilation.
Abraham seemed to be in utter control of himself from the opening bell, even when Taylor was peppering him with shots and giving him some trouble with his speed and power, looking very relaxed and not deviating from his outline. In the bout, he also showed some surprising agility when dodging some of Taylor's flurries (with his hands calmly at his sides) and showed off a great, tight defense. I have been down on Taylor in the past, but I really felt sorry for him getting knocked out again, and in the twelfth round for the second fight in a row. He's shown improvement once more but one sudden punch again proves the end for him. Luckily, it's only the first of three bouts to compete in, but now the next two are must wins, if not must-KO wins. As for Abraham, his chances are looking very strong in keeping with the odds.
[C] WBC Champion Carl Froch SD Andre Dirrell
[PTS: Froch = +2; Dirrell = 0]
There was much trash-talking and disrespecting before the bout from both sides, and that animosity showed in the oft-rough, oft-unpretty fight, which was a close affair that had Froch rabbit-punching (and once throwing down) a constantly-grabbing Dirrell, with a number of ugly ballet sequences in the middle as they got tangled up in the heat of the moment. However, the fight was still a good and exciting one, and was something of a proving ground for Dirrell, who finally showed the type of skill and savvy that a real fighter of his potential should be showing: versatility, willingness to stand and trade, and use of inherent talent to impose will. The problem? Dirrell spent much of the first part dancing around Froch's punches with his hands up in the air, most of the middle of the fight landing a few shots and clinching him quickly after, and only in the latter portion mixed it up and used his speed and slickness to catch the champion. Froch fought well enough despite being the slower of the two, but Dirrell wasted prime moments to punish and fluster him by clinching so much. He had everything in him to hold Froch at bay offensively but elected, instead, to grab onto him at every turn to prevent him from getting his shots off. It was unnecessary and not only cost him a point on the scorecards, but it cost him the fight itself, which he lost by two rounds in a split decision.
Without the deduction, just winning one round would have secured him a draw and one tourney point, instead of none. By pushing the fight, Froch's show of action helped give him the victory and two in a fight with many close rounds. His win may be debatable, but it was within reason given the circumstances. Similarly, the rabbit-punching from Dirrell clinching him went unpunished most likely because they were seen as being Dirrell's fault and it gave the impression that Froch was willing to fight and he was not.
Dirrell, in his own words, thought he could go into Nottingham, England and decision the champ in his hometown--and he was almost right. It was closely-fought bout and he had the speed, the maneuvers, and the skills pull off the big upset and didn't showboat, bicycle step, or play around. He really looked like a great fighter standing there and trading, picking off quick shots and counters--like the kind of boxer he is capable of being. However, he wasn't like that for the entire fight, and it cost him dearly.
Two very different, but entertaining and suspenseful bouts. The Froch-Dirrell pairing created a much better fight than I anticipated, while the Abraham-Taylor bout lived up to its high expectations. Both endings were somewhat surprising in their own right, but not totally unexpected either, and they'll both be talked about in the days to come for their own reasons. In all, it was a great start to the Super Six tournament and whets one's appetite for what is to come.
Upcoming Group Stage 2 Bouts
Andre Dirrell's quest for points doesn't get any easier from here, as his next opponent is the favorite and points leader, Arthur Abraham. If Dirrell can put aside the running around and clinching and rely on his God-given talent and speed, he stands a good chance at building a decisive lead on the slow-starting Abraham before the storm bares down on him and begins the real challenge. Neglect to and he'll have worse things to worry about than another possible decision loss.
Carl Froch will have another tough test in Mikkel Kessler, which stands to be closer than his one Saturday night, while Jermain Taylor's chance for redemption lies past Andre Ward, who could be seen as a former version of himself in terms of vaulted expectations and abilities.
EDIT [10/18/09]: Fixed math concerning the amount of rounds needed by Dirrel to win. Originally said he needed to win a round to draw, when he also needed the deducted point to make that happen.