COMMENTARY | In the wake of the Super Six World Boxing Classic, there were plenty of theories as to where the super middleweight division would be headed.
Andre Ward, the winner of the Super Six, was the undisputed kingpin of the weight class. Carl Froch had emerged as a blue collar favorite after finishing as a clear no. 2 in the tournament and following a five round post-tourney mugging of Lucian Bute. Mikkel Kessler and Andre Dirrell, who both left the tournament early, claiming injury, are planning a return to full-time 168 lb. duty. Added to the mix are former undisputed middleweight champ, Kelly Pavlik, and heavy-handed newcomers, Adonis Stevenson and Thomas Oosthuizen.
By all logic, the Super Six should've jump started the division to such a degree that fans would be reaping the benefits for years to come. Instead, after a solid two years of good match-ups, the 168 lb. class seems to be settling back into its pre-tournament malaise as a division where Euro-champs play keep away with the belts while facing one questionably qualified challenger after another.
In December, heavily favored Mikkel Kessler will face Brian Magee in a contest for the "regular" WBA super middleweight title with full champ, Andre Ward, being forced into facing the winner. But, given that Ward has already beaten Kessler, it's likely that Ward may opt to vacate the title rather than accept the organization's mandate.
This would leave Ward with only the WBC strap and Kessler, should he beat Magee, with the full WBA champ designation. And if Kessler's third reign as 168 lb. titlist is similar to his second, expect low-risk defenses in front of his loyal fans in Denmark.
Meanwhile, Germany's Arthur Abraham somehow managed to sneak back into the championship picture and beat countryman, Robert Stieglitz for the WBO title. Rather than revisit his less-than-stellar 2-3 record against legitimate top 10 super middleweights, you can bet on him going back to his "pick 'em easy, pick 'em old" routine from back when he was a long-reigning IBF middleweight champ. Abraham's first title defense as a super middleweight belt holder will be this December 15 against unknown, unproven French pastry, Mehdi Bouadla-- So it's easy to see the route Team Abraham may be planning to take.
IBF champ, Carl Froch has earned a gimme or two after a tough eight-fight streak against some of the division's very best. He'll be facing light heavyweight import, Yusaf Mack on November 17 and, to be diplomatic, isn't expected to lose. After the Mack fight, Froch still has a contractual tie to a return bout with Bute as well as an IBF mandate to face Adonis Stevenson. Don't be surprised if boxing politics somehow manage to wrest the belt from the British battler. Also, don't be surprised if that belt, by hook or by crook, finds it's way back to Canada-- it's home for almost five years under the reign of Lucian Bute.
And where does all this movement leave Andre Ward, new pound for pound darling and undisputed no.1 super middleweight in the world?
Well, the Bay Area boxer will be left to pick through the division's leftovers. He has either beaten everyone worth beating and/or won't likely get within sniffing distance of the protected non-American fighters. We've already seen Ward bring down light heavyweight champ, Chad Dawson, and rumor has it that his team is exploring a bout with Kelly Pavlik next. After that, expect a bored and big fight-hungry Ward to move up to the 175 lb. class in search of anyone willing to step into the ring and able to generate a decent payday.
Then, what will be left is a division of runners-up, all fighting in their own back yards and all racing to scoop up the most credible of soft touches. It's starting to happen already and how can you blame these fighters? They've learned one of boxing's dirty secrets-- When you have a boxing-hungry home country willing to support you and a sanctioning body willing to protect you, there's just as much money in not challenging yourself.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than 30 years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing.
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- Adonis Stevenson