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Finish Line Within Reach For Showtime Tournaments

By Jake Donovan

At last, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Showtime cleared a major hurdle last month after the completion of Andre Ward’s dominant Super Six semifinal win over Arthur Abraham. Sure there were pre-fight talks of Abraham’s camps whining about officials, but the two combatants showed up as scheduled when all was said and done, paving the way for an eventual finale later this year.

With that win out of the way, Ward now awaits the winner of this weekend’s showdown between Carl Froch and Glen Johnson, which airs live on Showtime from the Adrian Phillip Ballroom at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

While Ward awaits the winner, fans breathlessly await what on paper figures to be the most exciting of all of the Super Six matchups to date.

The added bonus is that at stake is a spot in the Super Six finals, one that has picked up steam now that the tournament is back in full flow.

On the bracket front, it’s not the only good piece of news to come from America’s #1 Boxing Network in recent days.

Late last week, it was confirmed that the Showtime Bantamweight Tournament now has a penciled-in date for its delayed finale, as undefeated Abner Mares and defending two-time titlist Joseph King Kong Agbeko are set to square off on August 13 at a site to be determined.

Add to the fact the highly successful box office returns for Manny Pacquiao’s 12-round whitewash of faded former great Shane Mosley, and it’s a long overdue steady stream of joy for the Showtime brass.

The wave of momentum comes at the right time, as you’d be hard-pressed to come up with a matchup more deserving of additional exposure than what’s in store this weekend.

So much more than alphabet hardware is at stake for two rugged professionals who – while at opposing ends of their respective careers – command the respect of their industry peers every time they step foot in the ring.

Froch (27-1, 20KO) has said plenty prior to each and every one of his Super Six-sanctioned contests, ranging from getting inside his opponents head to wondering aloud why in the world he’s forced to hit the road when a rabid audience awaits him at home.

While far from a blockbuster draw even in his hometown of Nottingham, England, Froch managed to pull a sizeable crowd for his Stage One win over Andre Dirrell in what remains the closest contest of any of the Super Six contests to date.

That October ’09 night in jolly ol’ England was the only night Froch was able to keep it close to home. Since then, he’s traveled to Denmark to face hometown favorite Mikkel Kessler, Finland for his virtuoso performance over Arthur Abraham, and now across the pond to meet Johnson in Atlantic City.

With a win this weekend will come a fourth consecutive road trip for Froch, as the Super Six finals is also slated to take place in the United States.

What’s not as guaranteed is Froch’s invitation to the big dance.

Prior to his inclusion as a late addition to the Super Six, Johnson was pondering his next career move. The then-41 year old light heavyweight contender was coming off of a spirited performance, albeit a losing effort against undefeated defending titlist Tavoris Cloud.

Forever a man’s man, fans celebrated Johnson’s ability to turn back the clock and give young stud like Cloud a serious run for his money. However, it was his second title loss in a span of three fights and there existed the fear it would be his last moment in the sun.

Then came the call.

Mikkel Kessler was slated to face Allan Green – another Super Six sub – in a Stage Three bout, before becoming the third member of the original half-dozen to bow out of the tournament.

Event handlers were scrambling to keep their major investment alive by any means necessary. So they reached out to Johnson, who gladly jumped at the opportunity to fight as a super middleweight for the first time in more than a decade.

Take the risk, earn the reward.

Johnson entered the tournament with his only chance of advancing to the Final Four coming in the event that he was able to score a knockout.

He did exactly just that, scoring a dramatic eighth round stoppage of Green, just the second knockout of the tournament and enough to earn him the number-three seed when all was said and done.

There were grumblings that he was permitted to advance after just one fight, while other entrants put in so much more work. The flip side to that argument is that Johnson was able to put a dent in the standings with just one swing of the bat, while others had 2-3 chances to surge ahead and failed.

Seizing the moment has been just as commonplace as has winding up on the wrong end of tough luck for Johnson over the years.

A second chance to reverse a controversial draw with Clinton Woods resulted in the transplanted Jamaican netting his first major championship in 2004. One fight later, he took full advantage of being handpicked as a comeback opponent for Roy Jones, knocking the future Hall of Famer out cold for what remains the biggest victory of his career.

The year ended with yet another huge upset, rallying late to score a split decision over Antonio Tarver, with the win capping a campaign that also earned the veteran 2004 Fighter of the Year honors.

It’s been up-and-down ever since then, always managing to get by the best of the rest, but falling short when it came time to put one more career-defining win on the resume.

Yet another last chance comes this weekend, when he attempts to become just the second fighter to hang a loss on the career of Froch, who has emerged as the ultimate dark horse contender of the tournament after being given little to no chance of faring well, never mind winning the whole thing.

Given the ups and downs – mostly the latter, it seems – endured by Showtime, many wondered if there would even be an end to speak of in this tournament.

Such threatened to become the case in the bantamweight series. But with all of the bad news came plenty of good to go around.

For everyone who has remained committed towards making something of this groundbreaking series, this weekend marks one step closer towards mission accomplished – and for the first time in a long time with a clear view of the finish line.

Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]
User Comments and Feedback (Register For Free To Comment) Comment by SlimTim on 06-01-2011

As dramatic as it makes it sound, Glen Johnson needed only a win, not necessarily a knockout to advance to the semi finals of the tournament. With Dirrel dropping out, that left only Ward, Froch, AA and Green who had…

Comment by Walt Liquor on 06-01-2011

[QUOTE=JakeNDaBox;10630226]The biggest hurdle was the politics. I mean, Froch and Abraham seemingly *****ed about something before every single fight... but still showed up. But the promoters and managers were the real killers here, because none of them lived up to…

Comment by JakeNDaBox on 06-01-2011

[QUOTE=mushahadeen;10629555]great idea, terrible execution.[/QUOTE] The biggest hurdle was the politics. I mean, Froch and Abraham seemingly *****ed about something before every single fight... but still showed up. But the promoters and managers were the real killers here, because none of…

Comment by budhram on 06-01-2011

Kudos to the Showtime brass for getting this show to this point, and keeping it interesting. We have seem some very compelling matches. We have seen paper champion (Abraham) exposed and future star (SOG Ward) born. We were given insights…

Comment by mushahadeen on 06-01-2011

great idea, terrible execution.

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