If you thought the Super Six World Boxing Classic coming down to four fighters would keep things running smoothly, think again. Dan Rafael of ESPN.com reports that the camp of Arthur Abraham is fuming over the selected officials for his May 14 semifinal bout with Andre Ward.
Sauerland Event promoter Wilfried Sauerland, Abraham's promoter, said Tuesday that Abraham would pull out of the fight if the California State Athletic Commission refuses to appoint neutral officials to the bout.
Sauerland claims there was a pre-existing agreement that the fight would be handled by neutral officials.
"Contrary to what has been previously agreed on, the California commission all of a sudden insists on installing a Californian judge as well as a Californian referee," Sauerland said. "That is totally unacceptable. This turnaround comes as a huge and unpleasant surprise.
"Two months ago, everybody involved agreed that this tremendous fight would be served by neutral officials. We agreed to have one judge from California, one from Europe and one from neither Europe nor the U.S. The referee is supposed to be neither American nor European either. Unless this issue is sorted, King Arthur will not leave the country. We have put his flights on hold."
Ward (23-0, 13 KO) benefited from a California-based referee (Jack Reiss) in his November 2009 Super Six fight with Mikkel Kessler. It was a fight in which Ward roughed up Kessler and used his head quite a bit. Even Ward supporters largely admitted that the same tactics would likely have been penalized in another setting. Instead, Ward won a wide 11-round technical decision when the fight was stopped on cuts.
Criticism of the selection of officials is nothing new for the Super Six tournament, nor is the possibility of fighters pulling out or canceling very late in the game. The tournament has, in the mind of many, been snake-bitten almost from the start.
Abraham (32-2, 26 KO) has lost his last two tournament fights. He lost by DQ to Andre Dirrell last March, and then in November was thoroughly outboxed by Carl Froch in Helsinki. His last fight was a non-tournament bout in Germany against Stjepan Bozic on February 12, which drew a lot of criticism for the way the fight ended, with many claiming a fix. He has made it to the semifinals because of a first stage knockout of Jermain Taylor, who hasn't fought since, and many speculated that Abraham might be reluctant to finish out the tournament with Ward being such a heavy favorite against him.
Ward promoter Dan Goossen, for their side, says the situation is in the hands of the California commission now. There is likely enough time for the situation with the officials to be made acceptable for all parties. Two weeks is late notice, but could certainly be worse. And the truth is, if Abraham pulls out of this fight, the tournament might as well be called off, as it would be left in shambles.