by Cliff Rold
With the tournament unfolding commensurate with the stilted pace of modern boxing, stars fighting twice a year at maximum with ample injury delays and cancellations to go around, it was hard for some not to view the “Super Six” Super Middleweight tournament as disappointing.
It’s fair to say it was less than the initial components hinted it could be.
It is unfair to say it was not a success.
By the time it was over, three undefeated fighters weren’t anymore, a super talent was fulfilled, and fans were treated to some memorable battles and moments. Rather than debate among pundits and on the internet about who could do what, fans got real answers about all of the participants and real quality matches throughout.
What is developing now is the halo effect of the lengthy endeavor. A halo effect is felt in boxing when a centerpiece casts an angelic shine bright enough to light beyond its reach, illuminating future events. It is often felt on the basis of one critical fighter, a figure whose star shines so bright he can make both his opponents, and his opponent’s opponents, bigger.
Sugar Ray Leonard had a halo effect. His battles with Wilfred Benitez, Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns made all of those men bigger. Their subsequent fights amongst each other, and with Marvin Hagler in the case of Duran and Hearns, would not have been as big without Leonard’s straw stirring the drink.
An exhibition of Leonard’s strong halo was the way it roped in men he didn’t fight. Carlos Palomino and Pipino Cuevas are both in the International Boxing Hall of Fame, aided in part by their brushing shoulders with some combination of Hearns, Duran, and Benitez.
They were fine fighters in their own regard, but their connection to the Leonard era undoubtedly brought greater focus to their careers. Compare them to excellent, accomplished Welterweights post-Leonard like Marlon Starling and Donald Curry. It’s hard to say Palomino and Cuevas were any better than those men. It is not hard to say Curry, Starling, and others in the demanding late 1980’s Welterweight field suffered for lack of a centralizing figure.
Oscar De La Hoya also had a halo effect. He was a big part of what pushed Felix Trinidad, Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao into their highest degrees of pay-per-view stardom; a critical piece of Bernard Hopkin’s accomplishments moving into full mainstream sporting focus; and a benefit even to those who didn’t get him in the ring.
Shane Mosley never became the sort of superstar his talents suggested he could be. His connection to Oscar made fights with Vernon Forrest and Winky Wright bigger, and more makeable, events than they might have been without his southern California rival.
To be sure, there was no single participant in the “Super Six” who provided a halo on his own. Nor did the tournament alone make names for the participants. Each was a known commodity in their own right before the tournament began with the biggest star, former Middleweight Champion Jermain Taylor, its earliest exit. Tournament winner Andre Ward, 5-0 against the field, remains a boxing rather than sports attraction.
The broader impact of the tournament ensemble is happening in its aftermath. It is in the effect of the aftermath that the “Super Six” is comparable to the halo produced by a tournament of lesser fistic profile.
While its halo declined with each subsequent season, the first year of reality T.V.’s foray into boxing, “The Contender,” had a notable impact on the boxing landscape. Participants Peter Manfredo and Alfonso Gomez got big dates with men like Joe Calzaghe, the late Arturo Gatti, and Miguel Cotto. Participant Jesse Brinkley used “The Contender” to build a solid fan base in Reno and an eventual title shot at Lucian Bute.
And then there was the first “Contender” winner, Sergio Mora. While his career was plagued with inactivity, he managed to upset the late Forrest for a Jr. Middleweight belt in 2008 and garnered a date with Mosley in 2010.
Some or all of those fighters may have earned opportunities anyways, but the course would have been tougher. “The Contender” provided a rocket towards the front of the line and made fights happen.
Now we begin to see the halo of the “Super Six” take shape.
This Saturday, fans will see IBF 168 lb. titlist Lucian Bute hit the road for a dangerous showdown with the “Super Six” runner-up Carl Froch. It is Bute’s second fight in a row versus a former tournament entrant, defeating Glen Johnson last year. It is no coincidence. Oddly excluded from the “Super Six,” Bute can now measure himself against the men who competed there.
Bute is one of the top ticket draws in the sport and has little reason to travel. Froch’s “Super Six” performance, and the increased profile he earned, provided impetus for a passport stamp.
In the case of Ward, HBO aired his pro debut but quickly got out of the Ward business. The full court press has been on since the tournament, likely to culminate with a showdown against Light Heavyweight Champion Chad Dawson on their air. Ward-Dawson isn’t going to break box office records, but the straight line to recognition Ward received from winning the “Super Six” shortened the distance he may have had to travel through the usually route of earning a mandatory and trying to lure big names to a difficult fighter.
Would last weekend’s Mikkel Kessler-Allan Green fight have made much sense without their “Super Six” history? Probably not. Green’s exposure, even in two bad losses, and his missing a planned bout with Kessler in the tournament when Kessler withdrew with injury, certainly played a role in making the bout. Now we have Kessler, a one-punch knockout victor over Green, as a strong potential foe for both Bute and Froch, whomever emerges victorious on Saturday.
And what of the questions never resolved in the tournament?
What of the controversial decision win for Froch over Andre Dirrell? What of the Olympic teammate clash of Ward and Dirrell, aborted when Dirrell withdrew with injuries lingering after he was clipped foul by Arthur Abraham in the tournament’s second round? Would it be difficult to envision an Abraham-Dirrell II clash if Abraham wins his scheduled shot at titlist Robert Stieglitz this summer? What about a Kessler-Abraham fight? The initial favorites in the “Super Six” share a promoter after all.
As all of their careers go forward, as they are mixed and matched with each other and mixed and match with the rest of the quality fields at Super Middleweight and Light Heavyweight in the years to come, the men of the “Super Six” are unified by a shared, elevating thread. It is the halo they will continue to ride as they collect their purses and the halo they will share with new foes like Bute and Dawson.
It is a spreading glow boxing fans will be basking in for a while.
But wait, there’s more…
Cano Upends Jr. Pintor: http://www.boxingscene.com/cagey-ivan-cano-turns-back-undefeated-mauricio-pintor--53017
Kessler Wastes Green: http://www.boxingscene.com/kessler-sends-left-hand-message-light-heavies--53057
After Kessler-Green: http://www.boxingscene.com/kesslers-booming-baby-step-review-ratings-update--53085
Updated Ratings: http://www.boxingscene.com/forums/view.php?pg=boxing-ratings
Picks of the Week: http://www.boxingscene.com/boxingscenecoms-television-picks-week--53086
Cliff’s Notes…Back next week.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]