On 17 Oct., 2009, the first matches took place for the Super Six World Boxing Classic, a super-middleweight tournament organized by Showtime to determine the WBC, WBA and Rings Super-Middleweight Champion.
The original competitors to enter the tournament were then-WBA Super-Middleweight Champion Mikkel Kessler, then-WBC Super Middleweight Champion Carl Froch, 2004 Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward, former middleweight champions Jermain Taylor and Arthur Abraham and 2004 Olympic bronze medalist Andre Dirrell.
Later tonight Andre Ward and Carl Froch will face off in Atlantic City, NJ in a fight which required 10 events, eight fighters and over two years to make happen.
A round-robin style tournament over three group stages would decide the top-four fighters who would then face off in semifinal matches to determine the finals. By the end, eight boxers would have competed in the classic.
In Group Stage 1, Arthur Abraham defeated Jermain Taylor, Carl Froch defeated Andre Dirrell to retain the WBC Super-Middlweight Championship and Andrew Ward defeated Mikkel Kessler to take the WBA Super-Middleweight Championship.
Jermain Taylor withdrew after his loss to Arthur Abraham.
In Group Stage 2, Andre Dirrell defeated Arthur Abraham, Mikkel Kessler defeated Carl Froch to take the WBC Super-Middleweight Championship and Andre Ward would the WBA Super Middleweight Championship after defeating Allan Green, who replaced Jermain Taylor.
Mikkel Kessler withdrew after defeating Carl Froch and vacated his WBA title by doing so. Andre Dirrell withdrew after defeating Arthur Abraham.
By the time Group Stage 3 came around a year after the tournament began, only three of the original six competitors would still be involved, with a number of controversies ranging from injuries to who should fight for the vacant WBC, and the risk of Ward losing the WBA title in a non-tournament fight.
Only two fights would officially take place as part of Group Stage 3. Part of the deal with Showtime was that each fighter could take a non-tournament fight if scheduling permitted.
After Andre Ward won his non-tournament bout against Sakio Bika to retain the WBA title, and Carl Froch defeated the only other fighter to have competed in all three round-robin fights, the semifinals were locked in.
The undefeated Ward would face off against Abraham, who went 1-2 during the round-robin but took a tune-up bout beforehand. Froch faced off against Glen Johnson, who had only competed in one tournament fight and was was 4-2 in his last six fights.
Ward defeated Abraham to retain his WBA title, and Froch defeated Johnson to retain his WBC title, and everyone at Showtime had a big sigh of relief.
The whole ordeal required six different promoters, risked the loss of one title and required another to relinquish his. This is where boxing shows its true colors.
While things appear to have worked out with the No. 1 and No. 2 Rings-rated boxers facing each other, there were numerous points of potential failure, which should been expected given how many hands were in the cookie jar.
The UFC has always been under constant attack by some of the top promoters in boxing. Arguments against the UFC have ranged from its illegitimacy as a sport to the way all the best fighters are kept under the same umbrella with exclusive contracts.
The most important fact to point out is that when almost all the best MMA fighters fall under the same roof, their promoter, in this case Dana White and the UFC, can make the fights fans want to see happen.
The other nice thing about having such a large stockpile of world class fighters is that it would never take two years to fill a vacant championship, in this case the Rings title. It also takes away any confusion about who the champion is.
This tournament alone had two champions enter it, and each of those belts were put on the line outside of it. Thus is the problem you run into when you don't put fighters under exclusive contracts.
But it's not all Showtime's fault since they were dealing with Lou DiBella, Dan Goossen, Mick Hennessy, Matchroom Sport, Kalle Sauerland and Gary Shaw, of course.
Let's not also forget the fact that it would never take the UFC 10 events and eight fighters to determine a champion in the event of a vacancy. Even the newly announced flyweight division will only required four fighters and two events to crown a champion, and you don't hear anyone complaining.
The Super Six World Boxing Classic was a great idea in theory, and fortunately for Showtime, Andre Ward and Carl Froch, things were able to workout well, but there were too many chances for the whole thing to fall apart. Regardless of the outcome tonight, boxing once again showed their true colors when it comes to making great fights happen.
The UFC is far from perfect, but their areas of vulnerability are increasingly shrinking and they are constantly improving in depth of talent, number of fights, growth and exposure to a wider audience.
I doubt boxing will ever be able to say the same. Once Mayweather and Pacquiao retire, you can bet the PPV model will be all but dead for boxing. Who do you think will be standing by to charge $44.99 to see the best fighters in the world take on the best challengers?
If you guessed the UFC, then you're one step ahead of the top boxing promoters. And that's the bottom line.
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