Super Six format needs tweaks

Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward hopes to add a Super Six tourney championship to his impressive list of accomplishments

Showtime's Super Six World Boxing Classic was, theoretically, going to showcase everything good about boxing.

It would highlight the world's best fighters competing against each other on a consistent basis with a lot riding on each outcome. It would be a showcase of styles, personalities and wills.

And it's worked.

Kind of. Sort of. Mostly.

On Saturday in Atlantic City, N.J., Andre Ward will meet Carl Froch for the Super Six championship at venerable Boardwalk Hall.

It's the kind of matchup the tournament's organizers dreamed about when it was just in the conceptual stage. The tournament, though, hasn't worked out exactly as planned. It hasn't created a star. It hasn't gotten boxing fans riveted on the super middleweight division. And it hasn't had the kind of drama and closely contested bouts that seemed likely when the field was introduced in July 2009.

Arthur Abraham, one of the pre-tournament favorites, performed dismally. After an impressive opening win over Jermain Taylor, he was disqualified in a bout he was losing to Andre Dirrell, and was easily blown out by Froch and Ward.

Taylor got throttled by Abraham and dropped out. Dirrell suffered a concussion in his disqualification victory over Abraham and also left the field. Kessler got battered by Ward and quit, claiming an eye injury.

Only four of the men in the original field – who theoretically were the best 168-pounders at the time – are still ranked in Ring's divisional Top 10. Abraham is ranked 10th, behind guys like Thomas Oosthuizen and George Groves, neither of whom have fought 20 times as a pro.

Far too many of the bouts were one-sided whitewashes. The field changed far too much. The concept of a round robin opening round didn't translate well, because unlike a basketball tournament, it takes many, many months to put together a boxing event.

When the final bell rings Saturday to end the Ward-Froch bout – And remember where you heard it first when Ward wins it – it will have been 26 months from the moment the opening bell sounded.

That simply blunted any momentum the event could have created. There were too many other good fights occurring between Super Six bouts that took attention away from the tournament. After Group Stage I was completed Nov. 21, 2009, it was more than four months before Group Stage II began March 27, 2010.

It was nearly five months from the conclusion of Group Stage II to the start of Group Stage III. From the end of Group Stage III until the start of the semifinals, it was nearly six months. And it has been more than six months since the end of the semifinals until Saturday's finale.

When there is so much time between bouts, fans lose touch with who's done what and what's coming next. Each round meant a re-introduction of the tournament and its concept.

The six-man concept is most to blame. It simply was an unforgivable error to begin the field with six fighters instead of eight, particularly given that one of the men who wasn't in the field, Lucian Bute, was clearly recognized at the time as one of the best super middleweights.

Adding Bute and one other fighter would have made it a three-round event that would have included all of the best super middleweights. As it is, the winner won't be universally recognized as the best, because there will be some support out there for Bute regardless of what happens between Ward and Froch.

That's not what was meant to occur when the concept was put forward.

The round robin impact also took much of the drama out of the event. Fighters could lose in one of the Group Stage matches and still advance, as Froch did in his tournament-best bout with Mikkel Kessler.

The event was a worthy one and Showtime deserves credit for getting through the quagmire that negotiations in boxing frequently become to make it a reality.

If it's attempted again, not only should it be an eight-man field, bonuses should be awarded to the winner of each bout, with additional bonuses going for stoppages and the best bout of a tourney round.

So, as an example in an eight-man field, bonuses of $100,000 in addition to their purses should have been on the line for wins in the first round, with an additional $25,000 bonus available for a knockout. In the second round, the win bonus should have increased to $250,000 with the stoppage bonus going to $50,000. The winner of the finale should have gotten a $1 million bonus with $100,000 extra available for a stoppage.

As a result, if every fight was a knockout, the total amount of bonuses paid out in that scenario would have been $2.2 million.

It clearly would have been worth it, as it would have brought much more intensity to the field and encouraged fighters who were well in front to go for it in the final rounds.

The Super Six World Boxing Classic was a good try, and Saturday's finale should be an excellent bout.

It wasn't, though, what it could have been.

That's all too often the case in boxing.

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