By Jake Donovan
An idea doesn’t need to be perfect in order to be innovative.
Over the course of the two-plus years since the initial announcement, the Showtime Super Six World Boxing Classic has certainly endured its share of pot holes along the way. Three fighters dropped out. There were multiple delays due to substitutions and injuries, including its finals matchup between Andre Ward and Carl Froch being pushed back seven weeks.
Oddly enough (or perhaps fittingly, depending on your viewpoint), the man responsible for the concept of the tournament – Ken Hershman – won’t even be a part of the ride for next weekend’s finals since has flown the coop in an accepting a lucrative offer across the street with HBO.
Through it all, the end is now well within sight as the groundbreaking tournament reaches its climax next Saturday at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, airing live on SHOWTIME in an unprecedented evening that features live boxing and MMA broadcasts running back-to-back.
There’s no question that all involved will breathe a huge sigh of relief once it’s officially over, but don’t mistake that for frustration or anxiety to move on to the next project.
“I know internally from every corner of our company, some of the corners of our parent company at CBS, as well as externally, the anticipation has been palpable,” states Showtime spokesperson Chris DeBlasio. “The reaction we have gotten as we head into the Finals has been overwhelmingly positive considering the endeavor of the World Boxing Classic, the very first of its kind.
“We can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s been a wild, wild ride for the fans, the fighters and certainly for those of us behind the scenes on the back end (at Showtime).”
The event adds to what has become a very big final month of 2011 for the network.
Last weekend saw a rematch to the Showtime bantamweight championship, with Abner Mares scoring a controversy-free unanimous decision over Joseph Agbeko. A new name has emerged on the American boxing scene from the same broadcast. Veteran bantamweight titlist Anselmo Moreno of Panama made a splash in a dominant win over former two-division champion Vic Darchinyan.
The all-bantamweight broadcast served as a brilliant lead-in to next weekend’s widely anticipated super middleweight showdown, which is near the top of the list of the most significant fights in the history of the division.
Perhaps the best selling point for the fight is that the finals bout features two fighters who never considered bolting from the tournament. Such was the case with Andre Dirrell and Mikkel Kessler due to injury (even if Dirrell’s sudden exit continues to be viewed with skepticism) and Jermain Taylor due to general concern of his career after having suffered his third knockout loss in the span of five fights.
Of Froch’s four tournament fights, three have come against tournament originals including the lone loss of his career to Kessler. The Brit bounced back with a dominant points win over Arthur Abraham and a gutty performance over late Super Six entry Glen Johnson, who emerged to the semi-finals with an upset win over fellow “super sub” Allan Green in his first fight at super middleweight in a decade.
Ward has barely lost rounds, never mind fights, en route to advancing to the Super Six finals. The run began with a career-defining title fight win over Kessler, followed up with decision wins over Green, Sakio Bika and Abraham.
The tournament reviews have been mixed over the course of the past two years. It’s been mostly positive, but the delays and substitutions were legitimate points of contention with those anxious for the series to move along or even attempt to come close to keeping pace with the original schedule.
Good or bad, the folks at Showtime are grateful for what it has provided for all involved.
“We appreciate the media and your coverage and support, attention - positive, negative and otherwise,” DeBlasio states. “All of it has added to the intensity of the tournament, of the notoriety that both Andre Ward and Carl Froch are getting at this point and we’re thrilled to reach the final with two of the original six.
“Your teams deserve to be here. You’ve made a commitment to this. You’ve survived a gauntlet, the best fighters of the super middleweight division.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com and an award-winning member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Contact Jake at [email protected] .