Thursday, October 07, 2010

:boxing: Six Degrees of Super Six Mess

Jermain Taylor - Knocked out of the tournament.

Mikkel Kessler - Gone due to eye injury.

Andre Dirrell - Removes himself due to currently-untold injury.

When founding something as ambitious as the Super Six World Boxing Classic, Showtime and others had to have prepared themselves for the worst.  Injuries are no stranger to the sport of boxing, so conducting a round-robin tournament is a big gamble, no doubt.  But I bet at this point, even the cable network didn't think things would have turned out this bad...

Dirrell's unspecified injury and subsequent pullout today is just another shot to the body of a tourney that started with so much promise and stood as a possible beacon of hope to the turbid state of boxing--though not without some bumps.  First, Taylor nearly (and maybe has) had his career ended by a hideous KO by favorite Arthur Abraham.  Then, on the same night, Carl Froch scored a controversial decision over Andre Dirrell.  Co-favorite Mikkel Kessler got whipped by current frontrunner Andre Ward later in the year, which was later followed by a virtuoso performance by Dirrell against the seemingly-unstoppable Abraham--right up until the latter got himself disqualified after hitting former while he was down, which led to a few frightening minutes as Dirrell laid motionless on the canvas.  The consequences gave him two much-needed points (2 pts. for winning, plus an extra point for a stoppage; no points for losing or DQ), and left Abraham in possible jeopardy of making it through to the semifinals, especially after Kessler's unanimous decision victory over Froch (though in 2nd, only a point above the rest of the pack).

The potential upsets and surprises are what made the Super Six such an exciting proposition, yet, perhaps the Taylor KO, Froch-Dirrell, and the Abraham disqualification were some sort of omen of what was to come.  Taylor replacement Allen Green befitted his surname after stinking out Oakland's Oracle Arena against Ward, showing that he did not fit into the tournament. After rediscovering his groove, Mikkel Kessler suddenly bowed out earlier in the year due to an eye injury.  And now, after contract issues nearly imploded Ward-Dirrell (and the Super Six), Dirrell himself is now gone due to injury.

The "saviour" of boxing now needs to be saved, itself.  Placeholder Green (who should have been out of the mix after garnering 0 points to go with the 0 he inherited from Taylor) is now facing a newcomer in veteran Glen Johnson (in for Kessler) for a shot at the semifinals, whereas Ward automatically advances to the semis based on his tourney points (regardless of his next fight's outcome) and Abraham-Froch will continue as planned (without issue, hopefully).  Assumingly, the scab for the Ward fight won't be a part of the tournament, making the fight something of a non-necessity, outside of keeping Ward fresh.  There are four spots in the semifinals and he has one of them, so if Green-Johnson is for one of the remaining three, then it appears as if Froch and Abraham will battle virtually for seeding (e.g. winner gets the lower-seeded Green-Johnson winner, loser fights the top-seed Ward).  On the other hand, a situation like this had a strong possibility of happening, given the nature of round-robin competitions (think World Cup).

With the sudden debacle that the Super Six has turned into, does it bode well for similar future tournaments of its size?  Perhaps it sullies its inherent glamour if the participants (in this case, half) drop out due to unforeseen circumstances.  With a regular boxing match, if an injury occurs to a fighter or negotiations stall, it can be postponed or altogether dropped.  A tournament match doesn't have that type of luxury, and despite best-laid-plans (and the Super Six had some good stopgaps in place), one cancelled match can send the proverbial Jenga tower teetering over.  This is hardly an issue in a Final Four tourney--essentially a "semifinal" out of the gate--where drop-outs can be replaced with little problem or mathwork.  But with six fighters and a three-stage quarterfinal to determine who goes to the semis, you inevitably open the door to a drove of issues and freak mishaps that can strike, even though the fights are well spread-out and are really just a series of five bouts.

Even so, I believe that a Super Six-type boxing tournament is a terrific and worthwhile venture.  Showtime did a great job covering as many bases outside of Fate as they could and something of its nature is more substantial and impactful than a Final Four, as you stand a high chance that the winner will have fought at least every other fighter in the tournament once.  It's unfortunatent that the Super Six is also being contested under Murphy's Law, but at least the strength of its remaining original players (+ Glen Johnson), and the still-present allure of the proceedings are still pushing it forward and away from obscurity.  Green-Johnson should be interesting and Froch-Abraham still looks like a brutal slugfest (and toss-up) despite their losses. Ward, meanwhile, makes for an intriguing match with any of the other three (excluding a rematch with Green).  He may be the favorite to win now, but as we have already seen early on, nothing is set in stone.

Let's just hope we can save all of the drama for the ring--in a good way.

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