6.10.09

Super Six: A Case For and Against Each Man Winning the World Boxing Classic

First it seemed like a pipe dream that couldn't possibly come true. Then it felt far enough in the future that it would never get here.

Yet here we are, less than two weeks away from the start of Showtime's Super Six World Boxing Classic. A half-dozen of the world's best super middleweights are getting set to take part in a tournament that will last into 2011, with the promise of fame and fortune going to the winner.

For boxing fans, one of the most appealing aspects of the tournament is that despite the differences in age, experience and nationality among the participants, all six men are (on paper anyway) fairly evenly matched. Handicapping the field is tricky, and it's not hard to make compelling arguments for why each fighter can win the whole thing - or why you could see each one coming up short.

So I'm going to do just that. In no particular order, here are the boxers who make up the Super Six and the biggest factors that could help them succeed... or fail:

Andre Ward

Why he'll win: Ward has youth on his side. At 25, he's a full seven years south of the oldest competitor, Carl Froch. He's already gone 12 rounds twice in 2009, so he's shown the ability to keep up his movement and activity level while going the distance. That could prove vital when fighting top ranked foes every few months.

As a former Olympic gold medalist, S.O.G. also has the full compliment of boxing skills. Ward looks smooth om both offense and defense and has no glaring weaknesses in his game.

Why he won't win: Of the Super Six, only Jermain Taylor has a lower KO percentage, so there are legitimate questions about Ward's power. He dominated Henry Buchanan and Edison Miranda earlier this year, but he was never able to put either man away.

It's another significant step up to the level of the competition he'll face in the Classic. Ward may be able to take a decision against any man in the field, but winning five in a row is a tall task.

Andre Dirrell

Why he'll win: In terms of pure athleticism, Dirrell may top everyone in the field. He's got ridiculous hand speed and can throw combinations that can dazzle judges. The Matrix also likes to switch from southpaw to orthodox repeatedly in the middle of fights and is comfortable fighting either way.

Dirrell has less wear and tear on him than any of his potential opponents, logging under 100 rounds as a pro so far. On paper, at least, he's the tallest man in the tournament and has the longest arms as well.

Why he won't win: There's stepping up in competition, and then there's leaping, which is what Dirrell is about to do. None of his former victims were top ranked contenders when he beat them, so there's no telling how he'll fare against the best in the world at 168 pounds. He's still raw in some areas and is more of a work in progress than anyone he'll face.

It's also worth noting that Dirrell has never fought 12 rounds and has gone past eight rounds just once. So while he should be able to go the distance without a problem, he has no experience to fall back on should one of his bouts last into the the championship rounds.

Jermain Taylor

Why he'll win: In contrast to the other two Americans, Taylor has been to the top of the mountain. A former undisputed middleweight champion, he owns a pair of wins over a man (Bernard Hopkins) just about any boxing fan would say is better than anyone in the Classic.

Even when he was on top of the sport, Taylor has always been more athlete than boxer, but that sometimes works to his advantage because his style can be awkward. And motivation shouldn't be a problem - he's lost three of his last four fights, and his career could go into a tailspin with a poor showing.

Why he won't win: A tendency to fade late plus a questionable chin have been tough problems for Taylor to solve. He's lost two fights by knockout, and one of those came at the hands of a fellow Super Six member (Carl Froch).

Taylor was never a huge puncher at 160 pounds and his only win at 168 was by decision. If he can't get ahead on the cards early and make his foe respect his power, he may be facing some tough sledding.

Mikkel Kessler

Why he'll win: This may be the best boxer casual boxing fans don't know. The 30-year old Dane has skill and stamina, plus enough pop to get anyone's attention. He's tied with Taylor for the most pro rounds boxed of the six participants, so it's unlikely he'll see anything new.

Kessler shouldn't be intimidated, as he's fared well against top competition in the past. He completely dominated Librado Andrade when they met in 2007, and he gave a good account of himself while dropping a decision to Joe Calazghe - no shame there - eight months later.

Why he won't win: It's possible that Kessler may actually be a bit rusty, at least in terms of fighting elite opponents. By the time he takes on Ward in November, he'll have gone 13 months with just one bout, and that was against the hopelessly outgunned Gusmyr Perdomo.

Kessler has never fought in the U.S. and will be facing hostile crowds against any of the Americans. He'll have to be mentally tough because it's quite possible his opponent will be the rooting favorite in every one of his tournament matches.

Arthur Abraham

Why he'll win: King Arthur fights in a very deliberate style that's served him well over the course of 30 straight wins. Though he's a slow starter, he's excellent at covering up and avoiding serious damage while he figures out his opponent. He's got an uncanny sense for when to go on the attack, and he throws hard, accurate shots when he decides to flip the switch.

Abraham has made a trip to the U.S. to fight once before and won't be rattled by taking on the Americans on their home turf. It goes without saying that any fight that ends up in his adopted home of Germany, like his opener against Taylor, will give him tens of thousands of fans urging him on.

Why he won't win: Most of Abraham's career has been spent at middleweight, so it remains to be seen if the same approach that wilted people at 160 will work at 168. If he can't make his Super Six opponents respect his power, he may have to get out of his comfort zone and fight more aggressively in the early rounds.

Abraham is also the shortest man in the field and has the shortest arms. Against taller men like Dirrell and Froch, those disadvantages could be tough to overcome when added on top of the weight factor.

Carl Froch

Why he'll win: If there's a definite underdog in the tournament, it's probably Froch. His chances seem to be discounted by many fans, but that "me against the world" mentality can be a powerful motivator. He shouldn't lack for confidence since he's already beaten Taylor.

Speaking of that last round KO, The Cobra proved he's never out of a fight. Froch isn't the fastest or most gifted boxer in the Six, but he's resilient and has already demonstrated his chin and heart.

Why he won't win: Not to put too much stock in a single fight, but he was about 15 seconds away from losing to Taylor before he pulled out the knockout. He won't be able to lure headier fighters like Abraham or Kessler into the same type of situation, and it's not hard to envision him coming out on the wrong end of a decision against everyone else in the Classic.

Froch did beat speedy Jean Pascal last December, but he's certainly going to be at a hand speed deficit against the likes of Dirrell (who he fights first) or Ward. He'll have to be accurate and hope judges prefer quality to quantity.

Posted by The Franchise

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dirrell is the future!

The Franchise said...

Perhaps, but is he the present?

That's what we're about to find out...

Anonymous said...

abraham wins the whole tourney