Home Cooking in the Super Six? Abraham-Taylor, Froch-Dirrell, More!
By Joseph Hirsch: Six fights have taken place thus far in Showtime’s “Super Six World Boxing Classic.” Of the six matches, the home fighter has won in each and every instance. Before his bout with Mikkel Kessler in Herning, Denmark, Carl Froch was asked if he thought that hometown refereeing had anything to do with the outcomes of the fights. He responded that the right fighter had won the right fight in every instance, and that the reason he had been given the nod over Andre Dirrell was simple: he had beaten him.
Froch braved a private chartered flight and volcanic ash in order to defend his belt against Kessler. Their fight was easily one of the most exciting matches of the tournament thus far, as was predicted, and in the end Kessler nicked the decision by a close but significant margin. After the fight, Carl Froch stated that the hometown advantage was a significant factor, and that if he had fought Kessler in his backyard of Nottingham, he would have won the fight.
In order to ascertain whether or not there have been questionable decisions in the tournament, made by both referees and judges, it might be important to look a little more closely at each fight which has taken place:
Arthur Abraham vs. Jermaine Taylor (Berlin, Germany): Abraham knocked Taylor out, obviously negating any sort of claims of favoritism. Taylor was treated fairly by the ref, and was never needlessly deducted or penalized. Abraham did nothing untoward with either his head or his elbow, and the tournament was off to a grand start.
Carl Froch vs. Andre Dirrell (Nottingham, England): After twelve ugly, frustrating rounds, Froch was awarded a controversial split decision. Both fighters were guilty of foul tactics, but only Dirrell was deducted a crucial point. This was a difficult fight to score, and did a lot to deflate the hopes of the fans which were so high after Abraham’s clear and decisive victory.
Andre Ward vs. Mikkel Kessler (Oakland, California): Kessler, the tourney favorite, came to Ward’s backyard to defend his belt and make his first appearance in the Super Six. Ward beat him to the punch every time, yet opened some nasty cuts with questionable head-butts. There was excessive clinching as well. Ward was probably the more skilled fighter, and could have probably won without the extra tactics, but the ref did very little to issue any warnings or intercede in the fight. A case could be made that if the fight had been in Denmark, the judges would have watched Ward more closely, and Kessler would have had a better chance.
Andre Dirrell vs. Arthur Abraham (Detroit, Michigan): This fight was rife with controversy from the early rounds. Dirrell set the pace and controlled the fight from a distance. The Dirrell who had backpedaled incessantly against Carl Froch was nowhere to be found. Things seemed like they were on a trajectory for Dirrell to clinch a wide decision, when Arthur Abraham seemed to knock his opponent down. The ref ruled the action a slip, and the fight continued. Abraham seemed to believe himself the victim of low blows and looked to the ref for some kind of help, but no warnings were issued. Perhaps frustrated, Abraham took a swipe at Dirrell when he slipped on a canvas wet spot. While the action was late, it was nowhere near as blatant as the blow to which it was compared, the hit Roy Jones delivered to Montel Griffin. Andre Dirrell went into convulsions on the ground and Abraham was disqualified, handing him his first loss. One wonders what would have happened had this fight taken place in Germany.
Mikkel Kessler vs. Carl Froch (Herning, Denmark): This was a back and forth war, fairly close and exciting throughout. After the fight, before the verdict was rendered, Froch could be heard saying, “They’re going to take it off me, the bastards.” His camp seemed to know what was in the wind. The verdict was announced, and Kessler had a belt again. Ironically this was the closest fight, yet seemed the least controversial.
Andre Ward vs. Allan Green (Oakland, California): Ward is the only fighter to have won both of his fights, and the only fighter to have fought at home both times. Green, who entered late by subbing for Jermaine Taylor, claimed in pre-fight interviews that no one in the tournament could beat him, despite the fact that he already had a loss courtesy of the eminently beatable Edison Miranda. The vast majority of this fight was fought in a phone booth. Ward clung tightly to Green for most of the bout, managing to get off impressive blows at a claustrophobic distance. Many judges would not have allowed this kind of smothering, in-fighting tactic. Referee Keith Hughes, who was in charge of the Berto-Collazo fight, was recently interviewed about his take on this match. Had he been in charge of the Ward-Green action, he says he would have broken up the fighters and forced them to resist clinching. Every fight fan knows how much more spectacular a fight is when the holding is cast to the wayside and the participants punch each other instead.
Neither Green nor Ward altered tactics all night. Ward had his second consecutive win, and was now in control of the scoreboard with four points. Whether or not one agrees that there has been hometown judging or refereeing at work, most fight fans should be able to agree that if the third round of action goes down as slated for September and October, and if the hometown fighter has still won every match fought thus far, the luster of the Showtime tournament will have been tarnished.
Perhaps the tournament’s hosts have learned their lesson, as the only venue agreed upon for the next round is Monaco for the Abraham vs. Froch fight. Points have become a crucial issue at this late stage, and we owe it to all of the fighters involved to give them a fair fight.