Take your mind back to last year, summer 2009, when the Super Six Tournament was announced, the combatants were named. Recall which guys emerged as favorites to take the grand prize. Mikkel Kessler, right, with just a single loss, to Pound for Pound ace Joe Calzaghe? And Arthur Abraham, with that unbeaten mark?
Well, a lot of things can happen in a year. Sorry to be so screamingly obvious, but sometimes we tend to forget that this sport is the theater of the unexpected, and absurd. The guys that we tabbed as favorites are now fighting with question marks tattooed on their backs, like those old Golden Palace temporary tats we used to see on boxers looking to scrape up a few extra bucks on fight night. Except these question marks won't get erased with sweat and then soap and shower. Nope; the only way Dane Mikkel Kessler can restore himself to prominence in the eyes of Super Six followers is with a killer comeback performance, something that's no slam dunk, as he's meeting another fighter with a question mark hanging heavy on his back, Carl Froch. In a ram vs ram collision, they tussle on April 24, in Denmark. The Brit Froch entered the tourney towards the middle-high end of the pack as we assessed the likely SS victor; he was undefeated, and his “best” wins–against Jean Pascal and Taylor before the Armenian-born Abraham rendered JT's career arc likely over–weren't to be dismissed. But he struggled against Andre Dirrell, as his mauling-brawling ways didn't overwhelm the speedier pugilist Dirrell, who switched up his style to give Froch a taste of his own roughhousing ways.
So we wonder if Kessler is past his peak.
And if Ward can handle the pressure of being elevated to a possible tourney frontrunner?
If Allan Green can shake his persistent tendency towards streakiness.
And we wonder if the scouting reports have finally sunk in and the blueprint to deal with Froch is readily available to all. Dirrell (18-1, 13 KOs) will help us get the answer, but he's not exempt from the uncertainty. We wonder whether Dirrell's blend of slickness and aggressive-defensiveness will work as well on another guy who likes to be the advancer, but who now presumably takes the 26-year-old Michigan native completely seriously.
On a Thursday conference call to hype the March 27th Abraham-Dirrell clash which will unfold at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, and on Showtime, Dirrell gave some hints on how he'll deal with the Armenian/German tactically. “You just can’t stand in front of Arthur Abraham,” Dirrell said. “His power is right there in front of him and he’s got strong hooks. He’s very explosive. I’ve seen the Taylor fight and I saw Jermain stand in front of Arthur. That’s something that you just can’t do.”
The 30-year-old Abraham (31-0, 25 KOs) sounded like he has a good handle on Dirrell's manner in the ring. “My sparring partners copy Andre Dirrell’s style every day and they run away a lot,” he said. “So, I’m prepared for that. If you compare Dirrell and (Jermain) Taylor they have different styles. Taylor is more a fighter and more aggressive while Dirrell is more of a technical guy who is very fast. I expect him to be running a lot because that is his tactic. He will be running around. That’s what he likes to do.”
Another known unknown–we cannot predict whether the “home court” advantage truly be an advantage, or will fighting in front of his peeps bring Dirrell down? You know friends and family will bombard his cell with ticket requests leading up to the bout. And perhaps his ego will kick in, and he'll press for a stoppage instead of playing to his strength, of selective and sporadic confrontation. On the call, it sounded like he'll use the home court advantageously. “This isn’t just big for Detroit or for Flint but for all of Michigan,” he said. “Detroit is one of the legendary spots in boxing so that’s why I wanted to bring the fight there — to show the Detroit boxing fans that boxing is not dying. It’s coming here and it’s here to stay.”
A final boldfaced question mark that really nobody outside of Dirrell and his inner core team can answer, and even they won't fully have a handle on it till 12 or fewer rounds has elapsed on March 27th…how is his back? Dirrell injured his back during sparring three weeks ago, and this clash with Abraham originally set for March 6 in California had to be moved to late March. He addressed the matter on the call…but for me, this back injury makes me shift my (Monopoly) money to Abraham. He'll be advancing on Dirrell in that Terminator style, and if Dirrell's core is compromised, and he doesn't have the same mobility we saw against Froch, then he'll get damaged. “I was sparring with one of my sparring partners and I turned and when I stepped to the side of him before I turned all the way to face him I took a punch across my body and that’s how I threw my back out,” Dirrell explained. “It’s unfortunate I hurt my back, but I’m 90 percent back and still pushing forward and getting everything ready with preparations for my victory over Arthur Abraham.”
Regarding the bigger picture… I was out front when this tourney was announced with my belief that one or more of the guys entering the tourney wouldn't be in the mix when the thing reached fruition. We've already had one pullout, as Jermain Taylor's apparent chin fragility and possible lingering damage from accrued punishment resulted in his auto-ejection from the Showtime-crafted round robin. I'll go out on a limb and say we'll see another fighter pull out before we get to the final stage. Who? I only have an inkling, a gut feeling. I think Kessler's closer to the end of his road than anyone else in the mix…
And here's the bottom-line beauty to this whole Tournament. All these questions, all these unknown factors and variables, are proving to be a compelling drama to follow. We're building up a greater familiarity with these fighters, because of this multi-fight format. TSS U, let's fire off some Super Six-based predictions in the comment section. Who will win this whole thing? Who will get dropped and stopped along the rest of the way? Weigh in!