Super Six tourney fails to impress

The Super Six World Boxing Classic has been hailed as an innovative tournament that broke the mold of current boxing matchmaking, guaranteeing fight fans the big fights between the top contenders that promoter politics has denied them. But in the final it became clear that far from being a break from the boxing’s current flaws, the tournament actually embodies them.

Firstly, there was the question of the setting. WBC champion Carl Froch has a strong fanbase in the United Kingdom, particularly his hometown of Nottingham. WBA champion Andre Ward has a strong fanbase in California, particularly his hometown of Oakland. In either location the fight would have been greeted as the biggest fight in the city’s history, guaranteeing both the home and away fighters a passionate response from a partisan crowd. It would have come across to the fans at home as a huge deal, with the eventual winner coming across as a superstar on television.

Instead we were greeted to a fight conducted in front of a near-silent crowd of less than 6,000 in Atlantic City. It’s bad enough that after more than two years this tournament has so spectacularly failed to pierce through the public consciousness and that the two finalists still can’t elicit a reaction outside of their hometown. But the failure of the organizers to adjust their plans accordingly only magnified the failure.

Secondly, there was the question of the judging. The fight was a brutally one-sided schooling by Ward against the always-game Brit. Froch, in his Super Six fights against Glen Johnson, Andre Dirrell and Jermaine Taylor, at times struggled against slick, American fighters who know how to control the distance and expose his lax boxing guard. Being faster and better technically than anyone he’s faced before, it was no surprise that Ward successfully exploited these flaws in Froch’s game. More than that, Ward’s upper-body strength — he’s been accused of manhandling opponents in previous fights — once again served him well, as he repeatedly bullied Froch on the inside. Ward outfought and outclassed a champion that had only one previous loss on his record, putting in the best performance of his career.

And yet on the scorecards of two of the judges he was only one round ahead of Froch. In a fight that the sole British judge gave 118-110 and we at Inside Fights had 119-109 in favor of Ward (and feel generous to Froch for doing so) somehow two judges managed to give five rounds to Froch. That means that they were alarmingly close to giving Froch a thoroughly undeserved draw or a frankly ludicrous victory. Unlike the recent Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez fight, the right man still managed to win, but this is another fight that shows the pathetic level of judging and the chronic problems with the 10-point-must scoring system.

Thirdly, the fight continued the alarming slide in British boxing. UK fighters have crossed the Atlantic for world title fights nine times this year and only twice did they return home with the gold. Add to that David Haye losing his WBA heavyweight title to Wladimir Klitschko and Felix Sturm narrowly repulsing Matthew Macklin and Martin Murray in Germany, and you’re left with just two British fighters holding pieces of the world title. And those are the highly dubious “world” titles of interim WBA lightweight champion Ricky Burns and WBO light heavyweight champion Nathan Cleverly. The poor run of form in the ring is matched by severe downsizing business-wise with Sky Sports pulling the plug on pay per view, mainstream media outlets ceasing to cover the sport and the country’s largest promoter, Frank Warren, being forced to move all his fighters onto a new niche channel.

Fourthly, and most importantly, this fight just simply did not deliver what the Super Six promised. Carl Froch is a great fighter but he was always a heavy underdog against Ward, not least because where he had lost against Kessler, Ward had excelled. The loss to Kessler made Froch’s claim on the WBC title heavily dubious, with both Froch and Abraham coming off defeats when they fought for the belt vacated by Kessler.

In reality the fight that everybody wanted to see was Andre Ward versus Lucian Bute, the two undefeated fighters in the division. The protracted nature of the Super Six has actually gotten in the way of making that fight and with the trophy now in his possession Ward may feel there’s little for him to gain by continuing to campaign at 168 pounds. It’s notable that he would not be intent on fighting Bute in the immediate aftermath of his victory.

So while Andre Ward deserves to be congratulated for his tournament victory, no one should be under any illusions of the extent to which the Super Six will go down in the history books as a sad failure.