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Dec 02nd
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Home Boxing Exploring the Super Middleweight Tournament in Depth
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Exploring the Super Middleweight Tournament in Depth

Over the next year and some change it is Showtime’s goal to put on a 168 pound tournament that will determine who the best fighter is in the Super Middleweight division.  First of all it shows that the 168 pound division has come a long way in a short time.  Traditionally the super middleweight division borders that of the cruiserweight division in terms of being the most unpopular in the history of boxing.  For example, it wasn’t until the last few years of his career did Joe Calzaghe, arguably the greatest 168 pounder in history, start getting respect for being one of the best fighters of this, or any, generation.  With Calzaghe retired (we think, this is boxing after all), a group of fighters have a chance to take over the top spot in a now popular division.  On paper the tournament seems like one of the best things to come along in boxing in a number of years, but is it as good as it appears?

Tournaments are always tricky things to set up in boxing.  So many things have to go right for every scheduled fight to take place.  For example, two of the six participants in the tournament, Mikkel Kessler (41-1 31 KO’s) and Andre Ward (19-0 12 KO’s) have September 12th “warm-up” fights scheduled.  How many times in history has a proposed “warm-up” fight ruined the mega fight it was supposed to warm-up in the first place?  Ward and Kessler are tentatively scheduled to fight in November, just two months after this “warm-up” fight.  So many things can go wrong.  At the least one of the fighters gets a cut.  A cut can take a lot longer than two months to fully heal.  Perhaps one or both of them are in a lot tougher fight than they imagine, or worse, they lose.  As we’ll discuss soon, a few other fighters are on stand-by, but this would not be the way Showtime would like their tournament to start.

What if a fighter loses in the first round and says “that’s enough for me”?  In no way am I suggesting any fighter is the tournament is a quitter, but what if a fighter gets brutally knocked out in the first round, what reason would they have to continue?  Also, it might not be a fighter’s choice, but a choice of their management.  The name that comes to mind in this scenario is Jermain Taylor (28-3-1 17 KO’s).  Taylor, the former middleweight champion of the world, has come across some tough times in the ring lately.  Taylor has lost three of his last four titles, including getting stopped in two of them.  It doesn’t get any easier for Taylor, as he is scheduled to fight undefeated Arthur Abraham (30-0 24 KO’s) in his first round fight, scheduled for November 17.  Abraham relinquished his IBF middleweight title to step up in weight and participate in this tournament.  While Abraham has never really been considered a super middleweight, he boasts an impressive record of 14-0 with 14 KO’s when he has fought over the 160 pound weight limit in his career.  In short, this will be a very hard fight for Taylor to win, and if he loses by KO, which he’s prone to do, who’s to say he won’t drop out of the tournament at that point? 

Did they get the right fighters to be in the tournament?  In the other scheduled first round fight Carl Froch (25-0 20 KO’s) is scheduled to fight the largely untested Andre Direll (18-0 13 KO’s) also on November 17.  Froch earned his way to the tournament with his TKO stoppage of Taylor in his last fight, but you can make an argument that there were more deserving fighters of the tournament than Direll, and maybe even Ward for that matter.  On the outside looking in of this tournament are Sakio Bika, Allan Green, Lucian Bute, and Librado Andrade.  Bika has been outspoken about not being invited to the tournament, saying he wasn’t even contacted.  The rumor is that Green priced himself out of the tournament.  Bute and Andrade have some unfinished business as they are scheduled to square off a second time on November 28.  It’s this journalist’s guess that one or two of these fighters will find their way into the tournament before it’s over.  One rumor already surfacing is that the event organizers would love to get the winner of Bute-Andrade II into the tournament.  That would mean that at the end of the tournament you would potentially (assuming no draws, pull-outs, cancellations, etc.) have a unified champion. 

That takes care of addressing the potential issues with the fights and the fighters themselves, but what about the promotion and production of the tournament?  I want this tournament to work, as I know most other members of the media and fans of the sport do too.  But for it to work it has to be done right.  Over the last two years you can make a very solid argument that Showtime has routinely put on better fights than HBO.  However, the one thing HBO knows how to do better than any other network that puts on fights is promote and produce it.  The 24/7 series is one of the best things to come along in boxing in a long time, and if Showtime can produce a show like this leading up to the matches it will go a long way to making sure this event is a successful one.  Each fighter has their own compelling story that should be put out there before they all get into the ring.  I feel Showtime lacks in this department, but this would be as good of a time as any to turn that around.  Also, I’m a bit concerned with the promotion of the event.  I know it’s still a few months before the first round fights are to go underway, but there is hardly any mention of the tournament on Showtime’s boxing website.  They have two of the three super middleweight belt holders, two former Olympian stars, and two former middleweight champions.  This promotes itself.  I hope to not only see this on the website soon, but to also see posters, commercials, and fliers as well. 

Americans love tournaments.  It’s why every March millions of us stay home from work to watch the first two rounds of the NCAA Basketball Championships.  Again, this event basically promotes itself, and with just a little bit of effort I believe it can be a huge success. 

Contributed By: Robert Jones

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