by David P. Greisman (photo by Jan Sanders)
It is now all about the numbers. Six fighters. Six fights in. Three fights left to decide which four will go on.
One has already clinched a spot in the next round of the Super Six super-middleweight tournament. The remaining five must approach their next bouts with the clearest of motivations:
Win and you’re in.
This is exactly what we wanted.
Which would you rather watch: a one-sided 12-round drubbing, or the drama of ebb-and-flow, back-and-forth action?
Would you rather see a World Cup led by Brazil, Italy, Germany and Argentina, powerhouses working their way through pretenders, dominating all comers while on a collision course for a championship? Or would you rather see upsets and close calls, delighting in parity, watching with uncertainty as the tournament unfolds toward its conclusion?
Every fighter has fought twice in this “Group Stage,” bouts that earn them two points for a win, one point for a draw, and an additional point if they win by knockout. Andre Ward is the only fighter to win both of his bouts, beating Mikkel Kessler by decision last year and Andre Green by decision this past Saturday.
Four of the other fighters have won one and lost one: Arthur Abraham knocked out Jermain Taylor but was disqualified against Andre Dirrell. Dirrell lost a decision to Carl Froch but beat Abraham. Froch beat Dirrell but lost a decision to Kessler. And Kessler lost to Ward but won a decision over Froch.
Taylor withdrew from the tournament after getting knocked out by Abraham. Green replaced him and lost to Ward.
And so Ward has four points and has earned himself a spot in the semifinals. Abraham has three points. Dirrell, Froch and Kessler each have two points. Green has none.
None of them is out of it. This is exactly what we wanted.
This is not what the fighters wanted.
All would prefer to be in Ward’s position, to have momentum instead of pressure, to have their fate wholly in their hands. But in a way, they do.
Win and you’re in.
Here are the third-round bouts: Andre Ward will face Andre Dirrell, Arthur Abraham will face Carl Froch, and Allan Green will face Mikkel Kessler.
Four points has worked out to be the threshold at which a fighter is guaranteed to advance. A decision win would put Dirrell, Froch and Kessler precisely at four points.
Abraham merely needs a draw with Froch to be guaranteed a spot. Not that he’ll be looking for one, just as Ward won’t be taking it easy despite his spot already being certain.
For Abraham, Dirrell, Froch and Kessler, there’s no added need for a knockout, for the security of an additional point
That’s not the case with Allan Green.
With zero points, Green potentially could get a decision win over Kessler – bringing him to two points – and still not advance if Froch beats Abraham and Dirrell beats Ward.
(A caveat: I’m not certain of how the tiebreakers work if, say, Ward, Abraham and Green win their third-round fights. That would leave Kessler, Froch, Dirrell and Green with two points. The first tiebreaker is how the boxers fared head to head, but what if Kessler’s beaten Froch, Froch has beaten Dirrell and Green has beaten Kessler?)
Green must either get a decision win and hope for help with the tiebreakers, or he must knock out Kessler and hope either Froch or Dirrell loses.
This is drama.
This is exactly what we wanted.
We have seen undefeated fighters in Abraham and Dirrell lose their perfect records.
We have seen fighters rebound from losses with clutch victories – Dirrell out-boxing Abraham before winning by disqualification, Kessler rebounding from his humbling at the hands of Ward by going to battle with Froch.
We have seen prospects step up in class and show that they belong.
Dirrell, much derided for using his legs more than he uses his fists, finally showed an ability to put his skills and athletic ability together in his win over Abraham.
Ward, long questioned for the slow manner in which his career has moved, showed against Kessler and Green that he has a veteran’s poise and a mastery of the tricks of the trade. He controls distance on the outside. He knows the savvy (and dirty) nuances of in-fighting: He digs his head into his opponent’s face. He holds and hits. He uses arm positioning to control when his opponent punches and to feel when shots are coming.
The first two rounds of his fight with Green tested what clinches would be like – what his opponent would do, what the referee would let them do, what he could get away with.
We will now either see Andre Ward further cement his supremacy or see Dirrell take a crack at being the top dog.
We will see if Abraham can regain the respect he had entering the tournament and after the first round, or if Carl Froch will once again overcome those who criticize him as too slow, too flawed.
We will see if Kessler still deserves to be considered the man to beat at super middleweight, as he was before the tournament began, and if he can get a shot at redeeming himself for the loss to Ward. And we will see if Green truly deserved to be in the tournament to begin with instead of waiting as an alternate, an unproven outsider.
It is now all about the numbers. Except it’s still all about the fighters.
Six fighters, six fights in, three fights left to decide which four will go on. Win and you’re in.
The next fight is in three months.
This is exactly what we wanted.
The 10 Count
1. How much does venue matter?
Andre Dirrell felt he lost to Carl Froch because their fight was in the United Kingdom.
Froch felt he lost to Mikkel Kessler because their fight was in Denmark.
And promoters have grumbled about Andre Ward getting to fight at home in Oakland for all three of his Super Six bouts. Both of Ward’s bouts in the tournament so far have been there.
But this tournament isn’t just about the fighters – it’s about making money.
That’s why it was interesting to read that Ward-Green was nearly called off last week due to slow ticket sales, according to ESPN.com scribe Dan Rafael.
Apparently Dan Goossen, who promotes Ward, had agreed to pay $140,000 of the ticket sales to Lou DiBella, who promotes Green. But Goossen tried to cut $50,000 from what he’d promised DiBella because of how slow ticket sales were, Rafael wrote.
The announced attendance for Ward-Green ended up at 8,797. It’ll be interesting to find out how many of those tickets were discounted or given away, and whether that’ll have any bearing on where Ward-Dirrell ends up.
And there’s no guarantee that 8,800 people in attendance means 8,800 people paid – or even 8,000, 7,000 or 6,000.
2. What if I were to tell you that there weren’t really 51,000 people at Cowboys Stadium for Manny Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey – not even when you include the free tickets?
Also: What Don King show last year gave away more than 11,000 free tickets?
And: What HBO-endorsed star couldn’t even sell 1,000 tickets for a title fight earlier this year?
Bill King of the Sports Business Journal did some great reporting while working a story about holding boxing fights in stadiums, getting the kind of information that, frankly, I wish more boxing writers, including myself, would look into.
Pacquiao-Clottey sold 36,371 tickets and then gave away more than 5,000 complimentary tickets (for sponsors and media outlets and the like), bringing the total attendance to 41,841 – “well short of the 50,994 that the hype-conscious Cowboys announced, but still an epic number for stateside boxing,” King wrote.
More from the article:
Vic Darchinyan’s fight with Joseph Agbeko on Showtime last year had 11,772 people in attendance – only 757 paid, bringing in $52,503 in ticket revenue. Darchinyan and Agbeko were paid a combined $205,000.
Andre Berto’s title defense against Carlos Quintana on HBO earlier this year had 3,508 in attendance, but only 972 paid, bringing in $105,759 in ticket revenue. Berto and Quintana were paid a combined $1.25 million.
That empty-looking crowd for Paul Williams’ fight with Kermit Cintron on HBO? There were 3,653 people there, with 2,422 of them having paid for their tickets, bringing in $135,640 in revenue. Williams and Cintron received a combined $1.765 million.
And Vitali Klitschko’s fight last year with Chris Arreola on HBO brought an impressive 14,192 to the Staples Center, though more than 6,500 of them got in for free. The 7,647 tickets sold brought in $868,330 in revenue. Klitschko and Arreola were paid a combined $2.9 million.
It’s no surprise the Klitschkos fight so often in Germany. It’s downright necessary when there’s no HBO money for their bouts – which there was for Klitschko-Arreola.
These numbers only serve to underscore two themes that too many of us have raised too often: that promoters don’t really promote anymore, but rather make do on network license fees and/or site fees; and that HBO is often bidding against itself by giving hefty paychecks to some of its fighters when it’s not necessarily getting its money’s worth in terms of ratings.
Any attendance numbers released by promoters should be questioned and then scrutinized through promoters’ official tax filings with boxing commissions. How many of us would’ve repeated “51,000 at Cowboys Stadium” into perpetuity?
3. Are you in Europe? What’s the “Super Six” tournament coverage like on television and in newspapers there? Please drop me a line at [email protected]
4. The metaphorical wisdom of Teddy Atlas and Joe Tessitore, as brought to you on ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights” during Round 5 of Sherzod Husanov-Jhon Berrio:
We start, of course, with Atlas: “Berrio’s the kind of guy, you know, if he goes to a restaurant, he doesn’t look for the appetizer. He’s not looking for the starters.”
Tessitore: “He’s got a steak knife in his hand right away.”
Atlas: “Yeah, he’s looking for the entrée.”
Tessitore: “He wants to get that wild right hand to connect.”
Atlas: “I’m not even sure he’s using a knife and fork.”
Tessitore: “No, just savagery. Just picking up the steak. Digging right into it.”
5. Boxers Behaving Badly, part one: How the heck has Mike Alvarado now gone to jail twice since last year without there being an article in the local press about the initial arrests?
The Denver Post did have an article earlier this year about Alvarado’s release from jail following a probation violation – he had been on probation for “traffic- and driving-oriented offenses and an earlier domestic violence charge.”
But each time Alvarado has violated his probation, most of us have found out through a passing mention by ESPN.com scribe Dan Rafael.
Alvarado, an undefeated 29-year-old welterweight prospect, was supposed to be on this week’s Latin Fury pay-per-view “but is off because he was in jail [last] week on a probation violation,” Rafael wrote.
Alvarado had been slated to face Paulie Malignaggi about a year ago. Instead, he spent the remainder of 2009 behind bars. He came back this April and scored a win, bringing his record to 27-0 (19 knockouts), but now it is uncertain when he will fight again.
6. Boxers Behaving Badly, part two: A British lightweight has pleaded guilty to assaulting a 17-year-old girl on New Year’s Day, kicking and punching her and leaving her with numerous injuries, according to the Southern Daily Echo.
Castle, who is either 30 or 31 depending on your source, admitted to assaulting the girl with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. In turn, prosecutors dropped sexual assault and kidnapping charges.
Sentencing is scheduled for next month.
Castle is 20-5 with 11 knockouts. His last fight was in July 2009, a loss on points.
7. Boxing Managers Behaving Badly: Fernando Vargas’ former business manager – some dude named Joseph Louis Pecora – has been arrested and charged with stealing a sizable sum of money from the former 154-pound titlist, according to the Ventura County (Calif.) Star.
Pecora has been charged with grand theft by embezzlement and forgery. The arrest comes a couple years after Vargas realized that one of his bank accounts had been emptied out.
How much money is Vargas missing? The article doesn’t say. Vargas’ attorney said Pecora got about $400,000, but he also said Vargas “thought he had millions of dollars in the bank, and now he might have to start training to get back in the ring again.”
Goodness, I hope not. Vargas put everything he had in the ring and wisely set himself up to retire comfortably when he could no longer compete. It would be a shame if he had to take more punches and more punishment all because he was (allegedly) taken advantage of.
8. This year in fake injuries:
First, Tavoris Cloud pulled out of an April fight with Glen Johnson and was soon spotted ringside at an HBO card, switching his limp (according to multiple boxing writers at that fight). His “hamstring injury” was believed to be colloquial for “I’ve left my promoter and signed with Don King.”
And, earlier this month, we found out that the “back injury” Marcos Maidana had that postponed a fight with Timothy Bradley (and later canceled it altogether) was just another way of saying “managerial issues.” Maidana’s now-former manager conjured up the injury.
Meanwhile, Albert Haynesworth is apparently missing training camp with the Washington Redskins because he’s suffering from a really bad case of enlarged ego.
9. Worse contract: Haynesworth with the Redskins or Gilbert Arenas re-upping with the Washington Wizards?
10. I get my sense of humor from my father. He gets, depending on your perspective, either the credit or the blame.
His favorite joke, after all, goes like this: “A horse walks into a bar. The bartender looks at him and says, ‘Hey, why the long face?’ ”
And so, in tribute to Father’s Day, I note that Andre Ward made Allan Green feel like Green’s favorite superhero…
(Remember, it’s Dad’s fault…)
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His weekly column, “Fighting Words,” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com. He may be reached for questions and comments at [email protected]