The boxing world wasn't exactly turned upside-down when Andre Ward upset Mikkel Kessler this past Saturday, but a big portion of it certainly sat up and took notice.
Kessler was considered by many as the tournament favorite, and while Ward was highly regarded, fans just didn't know if he was ready for the level of competition he'd face in the Super Six World Boxing Classic.
Now they do.
Ward boxed exactly the fight he needed to against a stronger and more experienced opponent, frustrating Kessler with his hand-speed and movement. He tied up often and did a lot of jumping in and out, which didn't make for an aesthetically pleasing fight all the time—Kessler and his team went a step further by suggesting the fight was dirty—but his tactics led to a surprisingly easy night.
With the first stage of the tournament's round robin portion complete, Ward's victory announces him as a real contender to win the whole thing. The beauty of the Super Six format is that anyone could still win it, but we learned enough from the first round of fights to have a better guess at who's going to be around at the end.
That makes this a perfect time to evaluate each boxer's chances of taking the silver cup. I won't pretend to be an expert on setting odds, but here's one writer's attempt to size up the field going forward:
Arthur Abraham: 2 to 1
King Arthur was my personal pre-tournament favorite, and he did nothing to change that opinion with his spectacular knockout of Jermain Taylor. The extra point he earned for the KO was important, because even if the wheels come off in his next two round robin bouts, it may very well be enough to get him into the semifinals anyway.
I don't expect that to happen, though. No one has been able to figure out Abraham's style yet, and even though Andre Dirrell and Carl Froch will give Abraham two very different looks, neither fighter was impressive enough when they fought each other to make anyone think either will be able to pull it off.
Abraham may very well run the table. I'd be surprised if he doesn't make the final, and stunned if he isn't at least in the semis.
Andre Ward: 4 to 1
Ward has the physical tools and charisma to be a star, and now he is in great position to take the next steps down that path. Regardless of what you thought of the uglier parts of his fight with Kessler, he proved a lot and has to be taken seriously.
Ward's path to the elimination round should only get easier from here. He should be a huge favorite against Jermain Taylor (or a substitute) in his next match, and even though Dirrell's speed will be a test, it's one that S.O.G. should be able to pass.
My one qualm about Andre's chances to win the whole thing is that he often left openings for counters on Saturday. Such openings would play right into Abraham's hands, but Ward has plenty of time to work on closing that hole in his game before he'd run into King Arthur.
Mikkel Kessler: 8 to 1
Assuming he's able to heal from the cuts he suffered against Ward and get his mind right, the Viking Warrior should be far from finished. Kessler's lateral movement is an Achilles' heel , but his next fight is against Froch, who should be much easier to find.
A victory over The Cobra should fix any remaining confidence issues he'd have, leaving him with a date against Taylor, who looks like the weak link in the field. It's not hard to see Kessler with two wins and the No. 2 or No. 3 seed once the semifinals begin.
Once he's there, his biggest problem would be facing Ward again, or perhaps Dirrell. Don't count Kessler out yet.
Carl Froch: 15 to 1
Yes, Froch has two points under his belt, but they didn't come easy. I'm still not convinced he deserved the decision against Dirrell, and he just doesn't appear to have enough weapons in his arsenal to emerge as the overall winner.
Even if Froch advances out of the round robin, it's fair to wonder what he'll have left in the tank. His fights against Kessler and Abraham stand great chances of turning into slugfests with the kind of action that takes something out of both combatants.
The Cobra has a way of finding a way to come through when the chips are down, so he can't be completely dismissed. He just looks too limited to bet the house on him ending up as the last man standing.
Andre Dirrell: 40 to 1
I truly believed Dirrell's athletic ability would make him the wild card in the tournament. That may yet prove to be the case, but man, he really needed those two points against Froch.
The Matrix looks to have the toughest road to the semis thanks to upcoming fights against Abraham and Ward. If he beats one of them, it will be the kind of upset that will shake up the whole Super Six.
Dirrell said during the Kessler-Ward broadcast that he still feels confident. He'll need that belief in himself and a lot more than that if he's going to make a run.
Jermain Taylor: 500 to 1
Surprisingly, Taylor recently revealed on Twitter that he's planning on staying in the World Boxing Classic. Many observers assumed he'd look to drop out after that vicious knockout at the hands of Abraham last month.
This analysis is easy: Taylor has now lost four of his last five, with three coming by KO. If he wins four bouts in a row against top competition, which is probably what it would take for him to win the tournament, it will go down as one of the most amazing turnarounds in the history of any sport.
Never say never in boxing, but that's about as close to never as you can get.
Nick Tylwalk is the editor and co-founder of BoxingWatchers.com , where this piece originally appeared.
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