TWO STARS RISE
FROM THE "SUPER SIX"
Unique boxing tournament
lunges to an exciting start
By RON MILLER
Two of the vaunted six contenders in Showtime's "Super Six" boxing tournament rose to the top of the heap Saturday in a pair of action-packed 12-rounders that launched the long-awaited series that has stirred excitement among fight fans worldwide.
Arthur Abraham, an undefeated Armenian fighting out of Germany, kayoed American ex-champ Jermain Taylor with only seconds left in the final round of a hotly-contested bout in Berlin. Abraham rose immediately to the top spot in the tournament designed to crown the best super-middleweight (168 pounds) in the world sometime in 2010.
In the companion bout, Carl Froch defended his World Boxing Council (WBC) supermiddlweight title in Nottingham, England, with a split decision win over American Andre Dirrell, the only medal winner (bronze) for the U.S. in the last Olympic Games. Under tournament rules, that win placed Froch in the No. 2 spot behind Abraham. Dirrell suffered his first loss as a pro.
Before these two bouts, there were some nagging questions about the tournament. First, I wondered just how legitimate the series would be if it picked just six 168-pounders from the world rankings and had them fight it out. As it turned out, that all depended on which six were chosen. Well, there's no question that these six opponents were top quality ring warriors. Four of them were undefeated as the series began. Every one of them was a legitimate contender recognized by the myriad ring organizations.
But the two bouts Saturday wound up raising yet another issue that will have to be resolved right away: What happens if one of the contenders is so seriously injured that he won't be able to compete in future rounds of the contest?
Jermain Taylor has now lost four of his last five fights, all by knockout. He was taken to the hospital right after Saturday's kayo and was diagnosed with a concussion. Though I thought Taylor more than held his own against the hard-punching Abraham, the right hand that caught him flush on the chin in the final minute of the boui literally put his lights out bigtime. In my opinion, Taylor should have a long, long rest if he intends to fight again. And he should not resume his career against the kind of opponent he'd face if he stayed in the tournament, especially Carl Froch, who also knocked him out in the last round of a fight Taylor otherwise might have won last year.
In contrast, Dirrell, the least experienced of the six contestants, gave Froch a whale of a fight and, in my view, exposed the limitations of the hard-punching Brit, who had tremendous difficulty coping with Dirrell's elusive style and kept trying to force the fleet-footed and fast-handed Yank into the brawl Dirrell wanted to avoid at all costs.
The two scorecards for Froch were both 115-112 while the lone scorecard for Dirrell had him winning by a single point, 114-113. My scorecard had Dirrell winning by a larger margin, 117-111. Dirrell's hit and run style was not appreciated by the heavily pro-Froch crowd in Nottingham, but I though Dirrell dug in frequently enough to make it clear he's a clever boxer-puncher and not just a frightened kid.
In the earlier bout, I felt the outcome was still up in the air when Abraham landed the kayo shot that put away Taylor, the former undisputed world middleweight king. All three judges had Abraham well ahead, so it's possible I was giving Taylor more credit than he deserved for a solid left jab that looked to me like it was keeping Abraham from getting set, but also landing with considerable impact.
What's going to happen now if Taylor doesn't recover properly from his concussion? The way the tournament works, a defeated fighter has a second chance to regain his momentum when he fights again in the tournament. It wouldn't be fair to the others to bring in a fresh contender to replace him and if Taylor can't fight again soon enough they may have to give his next scheduled opponent a pass onto the next stage of the competition, which also doesn't seem fair.
The next scheduled bout in the tournament pits American Andre Ward against Mikkel Kessler in late November.
Showtime ought to be happy with the two fighters who advanced to the next stage of the tournament, even though neither is an American. Both Abraham and Froch are hard bangers, which means they'll be crowd-pleasers every time they step into the ring.
Arthur Abraham now has a total of three points in the tournament's curious overall scoring system: Two points for beating Taylor and a third point for scoring a knockout. That puts him a point ahead of Froch who only has the two points for defeating his opponent.
I'm hopeful these problems will be worked out quickly so that the tournament will continue to build fan excitement, which the quality of the first two matches certainly has done. Showtime deserves praise for its role in getting such a tournament going, not an easy thing given the exclusive deals some fighters have with networks and promoters and the vagaries of the different ruling bodies of boxing.
The last great tournament of this type was more than 25 years ago when Muhammad Ali was stripped of his world heavyweight title and ABC set up a heavyweight contenders tournament that ultimately ended with Larry Holmes becoming the new champ.
©2009 by Ron Miller. This column first posted Oct. 19, 2009.
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