Today, Saturday, October 17, marks the first set of matches in Showtime's "Super Six World Boxing Classic", pitting six of the sport's best super middleweights in a round-robin tournament to crown the division's undisputed world champion.
IBF Middleweight Champion Arthur Abraham, former champion Jermain Taylor, WBC Super Middleweight Champion Carl Froch, WBA Champion Mikkel Kessler, and top contenders Andre Ward and Andre Dirrel, as part of the agreement, will all face each other at some point in the tournament, and perhaps even more than once in the later rounds due to the format. As a refresher, here is the setup as posted in July (second half):
--Each fight will be 12 rounds, with 2 pts awarded per win (+1 per (T)KO), 1 pt. per draw, and 0 pts. per loss (tie-breaking elements will be used when necessary).
Group Stages 1-3
--Each fighter must take on three different fighters within 12 months.
--Lowest two point-getters are eliminated.
--The four highest point-getters face off: #1 vs. #4 and #2 vs. #3.
--The two finalists meeting in 2011.
In the spirit of other tournaments like NCAA basketball's March Madness, I decided to put my predictions in semi-bracket format (minus an actual bracket). The first three bouts listed are already set, but the dates of the rest are to be determined. Originally, I had posted all of the fights that could take place in the Group Stages, but since the actual match-ups were already determined and shown on the telecast and was on their website (I never paid any attention to visit the "Scorecard" section, thinking it was one of those print-and-fill forms you could use while watching fights), I updated everything and eliminated the matches that would not be happening there. My picks and opinions remain as is, except changing language like "if this match happened...", and the sort. Also remaining intact, the Semifinal and Finals sections contain the fighters that I think will make it through. The predicted winners are italicized and like many brackets, could turn out to be very wrong when the real fights go down.
Group Stage 1
[C] WBC Champion Carl Froch vs. Andre Direll
--Froch is a little ungainly and unorthodox, but he has power and technicality and knows when to use it, especially if a knockdown is eminent. Direll is too green for this level despite his skills, thanks to fighting easy prey for so long. His speed and maneuverability will be vital in his try for victory.
Arthur Abraham vs. Jermain Taylor
--One of the biggest pairings in the tourney (and boxing in general), it should be a great, closely-fought bout. Abraham may be moving up in weight, but it's not by much. He has good skill and perhaps more power than Taylor, and is more dangerous of the two, but it will not be a gimme by any means, considering height and reach disparities in Taylor's favor.
[C] WBA Champion Mikkel Kessler vs. Andre Ward
--Ward was on the way to greatness, but has stymied in his expectant growth with the number of easy fights he has taken. I've never been completely sold on Kessler, but I'll give him the benefit in this competition. Ward may dispense some troubles, but the champion should be able to hand him his first loss fairly comfortably.
Group Stage 2
-Dates To Be Determined-
Arthur Abraham vs Andre Direll
--Direll will try to get physical with Abraham, but he'll get picked apart steadily as the fight wears on.
Mikkel Kessler vs Carl Froch
--Draw. A very interesting but even fight, with some rounds belonging to one and other rounds to the other.
Jermain Taylor vs Andre Ward
--Intriguing--and Ward might win it--but Taylor will probably be too much for him to handle.
Group Stage 3
-Dates To Be Determined-
Carl Froch vs Arthur Abraham
--Abraham should be able to adjust to Froch's movements and best him.
Mikkel Kessler vs Jermain Taylor
--Another marquee match, though Kessler should be able to outclass Taylor.
Andre Ward vs Andre Direll
--A no-question match-up to go down in the first section of the tourney, with Ward taking a fight that will possibly be hard to score.
Eliminated: Andre Ward, Andre Direll
--Too inexperienced, not where they should be in those terms.
Mikkel Kessler (#1) vs Jermain Taylor (#4)
Arthur Abraham (#2) vs Carl Froch (#3)
--Kessler and Abraham should be able to advance as the top seeds, though Froch stands the best chance at disrupting that pairing, either here or as one of the finalists.
Mikkel Kessler vs Arthur Abraham
--At this level, it will be a heated battle (no matter who ends up in it), but as noted before, Abraham should have the overall edge and power to win it all.
Arthur Abraham--with his style, skill, toughness, and aforementioned power--may be the projected winner both here and elsewhere, but with the amount of talent involved in the Super Six, it is by no means an assurance. He is "projected" for a reason, and anything can happen in a tournament--Abraham could fizzle early and bomb in the first round, Taylor could achieve the greatness he was once headed for and win it all, or Ward and Dirrell might break out and meet in the finals. It is possibilities like these that make competitions like this so thrilling and uncertain, and it further speaks to the exemplary job Showtime has done in getting the top boxers in the division and their promoters together to stage an event as major and appealing as The Super Six World Boxing Classic.
EDIT [10/17/09]: Post edited to reflect correct scheduling information and terminology as shown on telecast and on the Super Six website. Predictions, opinions, and the like remain unchanged.