While boxing in 2009 will be remembered by mainstream sports as the year of Manny Pacquiao, Showtime's Super Six tournament may have been the most exciting development for the hardcore fight fans.
The sport has long been criticized for not setting up the type of matches that fans want to see—fights with two top contenders. Too often we see the best boxers protect their records by fighting safer opposition.
In this tournament, we have six men at the top of the super middleweight division who are taking an amazing risk by agreeing to at least three consecutive fights against top competition. As we all know in the boxing world, two or three losses in a row can often mean the end of a fighter's career, so compliments to all six of these boxers for making this happen.
The rules are fairly simple. Each fighter gets three preliminary matches, and will be awarded two points for a win, one for a draw, and zero for a loss. There is also a one point knock out bonus for stopping your opponent. After the three match round robin, the top four fighters will enter a single elimination tournament for the championship.
The first round gave us a sensational knockout, a surprising upset, and a close fight ending in a controversial decision. While we haven't seen the truly great fight yet that we expect to, there is a lot to be excited for.
The Super Six is currently wide open, and I'll give a shot at clearing some possible outcomes with a few predictions. Now, I don't generally put much stock in fight picks, but this is just a bit of a fun look ahead at how the next round might play out.
Arthur Abraham vs. Andre Dirrell
Abraham is coming off his sensational knock out of Jermain Taylor, and is in first place with three points. Dirrell lost a close and controversial split decision to WBC champ Carl Froch. Very tough spot to be in here for Dirrell as he goes into this fight coming off his first loss, and taking on the man currently favored to win the tournament.
I think the young American shows a bit more heart and effort than he did in his first fight, in which he allowed Froch to dictate the type of fight he was in. His speed will give Abraham trouble and there will be some flashy moments where he seems to even outclass his man. The problem will be that in trying to throw more punches, he will leave himself open to the strongest puncher in the tournament. I'm taking Abraham by late knock out in a competitive fight.
Mikkel Kessler vs Carl Froch
Before Kessler was shocked by Andre Ward in the first round, I would have picked him to beat Froch easily. After that fight, in which Kessler looked much slower than he has in the past, this becomes a much tougher fight to predict.
Still, I think he manages a decision win over Froch, who can't match his skill or experience, and will have to fight on Kessler's home turf in Denmark.
Andre Ward vs Jermain Taylor
Many people have questioned Taylor's decision to stay in the tournament after being knocked out three times in his last four fights. I don't see that being too much of a problem here as Ward isn't the huge puncher that Abraham was. Ward did look supremely confident dominating pre-tournament favorite Kessler in round one, however.
Taylor will show heart and may give Ward some trouble early but the younger man will be stronger down the stretch and I see him winning a comfortable decision.
This would leave us in about the same place we are now, with the exception of putting Kessler in position to advance to the knock out stage. Baring any major upsets at this point it looks like Abraham, Ward, Kessler, and Froch are the most likely men to find themselves in the final four.
After the results of the first stage, I think the fight everybody would want to see in the finals would be the powerful veteran Arthur Abraham matched up against the skillful up and comer Andre Ward.
Of course at this point everybody is still alive, and there could be another upset in the mix. Either way, congrats to Showtime and everybody involved for giving us some good, competitive fights to look forward to in one of boxing's deepest divisions.