The "Super Six World Boxing Classic" features two reigning super middleweight champions, a reigning middleweight champion and a former middleweight champion. The man who will ultimately win it, however, is one who has hardly faced a serious challenge in his five years as a pro and is moving up to the 168-pound class from middleweight.
Andre Ward, the 2004 Olympic gold medalist, is the most skilled fighter in the field. He'll prove that and establish himself as the top super middleweight in the world by coming out on top of the tournament, which will take nearly a year and a half to complete.
Ward will be joined by fellow unbeaten prospect Andre Dirrell, World Boxing Council super middleweight champion Carl Froch, World Boxing Association champion Mikkel Kessler and ex-middleweight champions Arthur Abraham and Jermain Taylor. Abraham was the reigning International Boxing Federation 160-pound champion, but surrendered his belt to join the elite field.
Kessler has the most impressive record of the bunch and has been a borderline top 10 pound-for-pound member. His only loss was in a 2007 super middleweight title unification bout with Joe Calzaghe in Wales.
Kessler will be a formidable foe and will, coincidentally, be Ward's first-round foe when the tournament kicks off in the fall. Dates have not been set, though fights will take place in Europe and USA.
Ward, though, is quick enough to cause Kessler problems and strong enough to hurt him if Kessler is able to turn the fight into a slugfest.
Abraham figures to be Ward's most difficult challenge in the field. He's is the kind of fighter who will rise to the occasion, and he'll find a way to pull this out.
The first round will be a round robin with fighters earning two points for a win and a point for a draw. They'll also earn an additional point for stopping their opponent. Each boxer will face three men in the first round, with the top four scorers advancing to the semifinals.
The winners of the semifinal bouts will then move on to the finals.
The other first-round matches set so far feature Froch against Dirrell for the WBC title and Abraham against Taylor. After the first three fights are completed, the second series of first-round bouts will be announced.
It's a unique concept and one that will likely produce a well-known and highly respected champion.
Each of the men is good enough to win it.
The man who will win, however, is Ward, the only American gold medalist from the last three Olympiads.
Before we delve into the mailbag and I respond to your questions and comments, I'd like to remind you to follow me on Twitter. You can send me questions for the mailbag there or just choose to talk some boxing.
Arturo Gatti will always be remembered as one of the finest warriors in boxing history. Whenever he was extensively punished in the ring, he never tried to convince his trainer or the referee that he could continue. You would just see it in his disposition and demeanor that he was truly still willing to fight. Also, he never was a sore loser and that made him more special.
The thing that made Gatti so special is that he tried as hard as he could to win in every round of every fight he was ever in. Not many men can say that, but it's true of Gatti.
I just wanted to say I thought your column on Arturo Gatti was very well written, and a great tribute to his legacy. I saw four of his fights and was never disappointed by any of his performances. He was my favorite fighter and I, like many others, will definitely miss him. Thanks again, Kevin. You did a great job.
Thanks, Giovanni. It was easy to be a fan of Gatti's because there was always so much action. Not sure which fight was his greatest, but I'll always fondly recall the comeback against Wilson Rodriguez. It was amazing.
Arturo Gatti may not have been the most talented fighter, but I have never seen anyone with his courage, his intensity and his will to win. I was awed by his first fight with Micky Ward, and I've watched his bouts against Ivan Robinson dozens of times. Somehow, I think he's met up with Diego Corrales up there and the two of them are talking about the many great fights they left us with as memories.
If all boxers fought the way Gatti did, boxing would be the most popular sport in the world, without question.
Thoughts on the 'Super Six'
I read about the planned super middleweight tournament that will be ongoing for the next two years. Why can't a promoter organize a boxing tournament playoff style? My idea is to rate boxers of a certain division from top 3 to 18. This is the top 16 boxers other than the champion and the No. 1 contender. Then they go to a play-off style tournament – No. 3 fights No. 18, No. 4 fights No. 17, and so on. I am thinking the first round will be Thursday night, second round will be Friday, semis will be Saturday and the championship Sunday. The first round will be a five-rounder. The second round will be a six-rounder. The third round will be a seven-rounder, and the championship a 10-rounder. Whoever wins the tournament faces the No. 1 challenger for the right to face the champion. What do you think?
It sounds good on paper, Marco, but it won't work. Professional fighters can't compete over a short span like that. What if someone wins in the first round and gets badly cut? How does that person compete the next day, and would it be fair to have him fight a second day against someone who came out of the fight clean? You have to allow for the safety of the boxers, so a plan for guys to fight four times in four days, potentially, wouldn't work.
Vic Darchinyan was a plodding, slow and technique-challenged fighter who was shown up by Joseph Agbeko on Saturday in their bout for the IBF bantamweight title. Despite Agbeko's obvious lack of technical ability, his raw power and Ghanaian toughness, plus his size edge, soundly trounced the brash, trash-talking Armenian. Darchinyan had boasted before the fight that after beating Agbeko, he was planning to move up several weight classes and was aiming to claim more championships, even looking at fighting Manny Pacquiao. Was he planning to beat Pacquiao with his fat lips? He couldn't even beat Agbeko. He should look to first avenge his knockout loss to Nonito Donaire. A Donaire fight is the logical matchup, since they would be about even in weight and size. I feel that there would be a lot more interest in this fight than any other match at the moment.
I have no problem with Darchinyan trying to move up and rack up championships, though I considered it a stretch, at best, to think he would ever face Manny Pacquiao. That was not happening no matter what. And Darchinyan would have been easily destroyed had it occurred. But he aimed high and tried, which I wish more fighters would do. Now that he's lost, I'd love to see a rematch with Donaire. It would be an exciting fight and would make both men plenty of money.
What's up with Pavlik?
What is going on with Kelly Pavlik? After his fights with Jermain Taylor, you couldn't hear enough about him. Now, after losing to Bernard Hopkins, one of the greatest fighters of our generation, Pavlik seems to be off everyone's radar. In light of Felix Sturm's unanimous, although unimpressive win over Khoren Gevor on Saturday in Germany in his WBA middleweight title bout, wouldn't now be a good time to set up that fight and unify a couple of belts?
Pavlik was to fight Sergio Mora on June 27, but withdrew from the bout because of an injury. Top Rank, which promotes Pavlik, is trying to reschedule him for the fall, with a target of September. One of Pavlik's problems is that there aren't a lot of credible middleweights. Arthur Abraham was the best possible opponent, but he isn't well known in the U.S. and he would have demanded a significant purse. That made a Pavlik-Abraham fight very difficult to make financially. Top Rank CEO Bob Arum also tried to make a bout between Pavlik and Sturm, but had difficulty convincing Sturm and his team to fight in the U.S. Sturm is based in Germany and is reluctant to leave, as it is a boxing hotbed and he is paid well to fight there.