Last night's final stage two fight of the Super Six World Boxing Classic gave us a new points leader (Andre Ward) and a disappointing entrant (Allan Green). While Ward is clinched to go into the semi-finals of the tournament whether he wins, loses or draws in his next bout, everyone else is still alive, though Green is hanging on by a mere thread and will need a knockout victory.
Let's take an early look at the three deciding round robin fights. It's must-win for everyone but Ward.
Andre Ward (22-0, 13 KO) v. Andre Dirrell (19-1, 13 KO)
Ward's tournament wins have been dominant. He made Mikkel Kessler look completely one-dimensional, and then made Allan Green look like nothing more than an Oklahoma club fighter with a big mouth. He didn't lose a round against either of them, and has shown a loaded tool box and a variety of ways he can beat an opponent. Ward is looking like not just the real deal at 168, but like a genuine possible P4P contender.
Dirrell, his friend, figures to give him his toughest matchup on paper. Unlike Kessler and Green, Dirrell has the speed and reflexes necessary to keep up with Ward's pace. But Ward showed a bully mentality against Green and Kessler, figuring that Green couldn't deal with pressure (he couldn't), and that Kessler would be bewildered if taken out of his gameplan (he was). Ward's style-spoiling rise to professional prominence has made me think of the likes of Joe Calzaghe, Bernard Hopkins and Evander Holyfield. He's sort of fighting like a pastiche of all three of them.
Friend-versus-friend fights often aren't very exciting, and we all know that Dirrell can put on a serious stinker. He was able to take advantage of Arthur Abraham's slowness last time out, but Ward moves as well as Dirrell. Dirrell will have a height and reach advantage, but so did Green. I expect Ward to try and pressure and crowd Dirrell much as he did Green, and for him to try and bully Dirrell, figuring his friend and opponent doesn't have the guile to rise up and overcome him. Dirrell showed real fire against Abraham, but will he have it against Ward? I have my doubts. Right now, I'd guess Ward UD-12.
Carl Froch (26-1, 20 KO) v. Arthur Abraham (31-1, 25 KO)
Froch's first round win over Dirrell was debated, and his second round loss to Kessler was, too, though not to the same degree. He also went from an awful fight to a very good one, where both he and Kessler showed a strong desire to win and the guts to take some shots if need be.
This has been an intriguing style clash I've looked forward to since the tournament was announced. Froch is a wild brawler at his best, the kind of guy who knows very well what he is but will always complain that his boxing skills are underrated. They aren't; they're passable, but he's best when he's letting it fly.
Abraham will have to start off quicker than he has in the past, but he won't. I'd expect Froch to build up a lead in this fight. No matter where they're fighting (and this will be on neutral ground in the U.S. apparently), Froch's style is going to please more people. Abraham is intensely methodical. This fight could go any number of ways. Froch's wide shots could break down Abraham's high guard, and given that Arthur is no brilliant counter-puncher, will he get much back? Both can take a good shot, but Abraham will be the best puncher Froch has faced to date, and Carl has taken some hard punishment in fights against Kessler, Jermain Taylor and Jean Pascal. Any missile from Abraham could end this fight at any time, but that's the risk you run against him no matter who you are. It might be a mild upset, but as of this moment, I'm liking Froch to squeak out a narrow and controversial decision. My mind could completely change by fight week. Froch SD-12.
Mikkel Kessler (43-2, 32 KO) v. Allan Green (29-2, 20 KO)
Kessler is no Andre Ward...but Allan Green doesn't belong in this tournament. Green isn't going to trouble Kessler because Green isn't on his level. Kessler has fought guys like this numerous times and beaten them all -- does anyone really now believe Green is a level above Dimitri Sartison or Librado Andrade? Mikkel will cruise, but I don't think he'll stop Green. I don't think he has the killer instinct, and he's not going to wear Green out the way Ward did. It'll be a decent beating, but it won't ever get ugly. Kessler UD-12.
If those predictions were to come true, my final standings would be:
- Andre Ward, 6 points
- Mikkel Kessler, 4 points
- Carl Froch, 4 points
- Arthur Abraham, 3 points
- Andre Dirrell, 2 points
- Allan Green, 0 points
That would mean we'd have Ward-Abraham and a Kessler-Froch rematch in the semis. I'd also guess we'd hear a renewal of the bitching from the Dirrell camp that they were robbed in England (and rightly so, from my chair), because a win for Dirrell would have switched he and Froch out of the semi-final spot.
The third stage is shaping up to be incredibly exciting. These fights are huge for everyone involved. Once again, kudos to Ken Hershman and Showtime. The tournament has been a blast.