On a day when I ought to be mighty happy that Showtime is putting together a boxing event of such audaciousness it’s hard to believe we ever got to the news conference announcing it, all I can do is fume at how idiotic the coverage by the Associated Press was. On one level, the reporter, Dave Skretta, seemed to recognize how monumental this six-man super middleweight tournament is — and the tournament idea got deservedly big coverage from a number of big outlets. But on another level, it’s like he got stuck in a time warp that ignored everything that has happened since 2007 in boxing, or else he’s just like every other mainstream media reporter who’s too lazy to have done anything but recycle the same easy no-thinking-required storylines about the mythically on-death’s-door state of the sport. (All right, as it happens, I DO have some things to say about the announcement today, too. But after a rant.)
Writes Skretta of the Showtime bossman:
Ken Hershman knows his plan is ambitious, a six-man super middleweight round-robin tournament designed to crown a single champion. He also understands that if he pulls it off, it could go a long way toward reviving the sport of boxing.
Eliminating the nonsense is precisely what boxing fans want.
The primary complaint for years has been that there are too many champions in too many weight divisions, and that the best don’t want to fight each other. Greed has often taken precedence over interesting and exciting fights, alienating those fans that are left.
As mixed martial arts booms in popularity, boxing languishes behind.
“Boxing is still successful,” promoter Dan Goossen said, refusing to believe the sport is in jeopardy. “But what we haven’t done is grow the business.”
- Here’s where I have a bone to pick with Hershman — I don’t think he should over-promise with this tournament. There is a chance the tournament will produce a single champion, maybe even a good chance. It kind of depends how the tournament works out, and what happens in the meantime for the most important super middleweight left out of the tourney, Lucian Bute. What it will produce is a dozen (if my math is right) really high-quality fights and, at worst, the man who can argue he is the best super middleweight, if not the champion (“best” is an opinion; “champion” is something obtained by a certain action). If Bute is still going strong then, the tournament victor ought to fight him, and THEN we’d have one true champion.
- On that tip, Hershman said Bute wasn’t even invited, but didn’t say why. It’s too bad.
- Before I come across as too critical, I still think all of the parties — Showtime, the boxers, the promoters — are heroic for agreeing to this tournament. I know some people want a shorter tournament and I respect that. But Steve Kim reported today what I believed to be the case: The parties were only willing to take a chance at fighting tougher competition if they knew they’d be guaranteed two more big fights no matter what happened. With the way some boxing fans are so unforgiving of a single loss, this was a crucial concession, because who wants to be some one-and-out victim of a tournament like this when you’re fighting one of the (no worse than) two or three best opponents of your entire life? And, all in all, it’s not the worst thing in the world that this tournament will produce more fights than seven bouts. They’re all good bouts. Not the worst thing in the world at all. Oh, and according to Kim’s chat with Hershman, Showtime had to go light on its schedule this summer to make the tournament happen, but the tournament won’t affect its schedule of other boxing events going forward.
- Andre Dirrell had the best quotes from the tournament. I provide them here: “My heart is going 100 miles per hour.
It is beating like hell. This is the biggest stage of my career… I am ecstatic. I have this tingling feeling. I had that feeling when I came through the curtains today. I had that same feeling at the Olympic Games each time I entered the ring. I know it is my time. It is my time to shine… I have been hungry for a long time. I just want to get it on. I am the only one here not wearing a suit. I want to wear a suit.” I have no idea who will win this tournament; I lean toward Mikkel Kessler or Arthur Abraham. But I think Dirrell is the dark horse because of his athletic gifts.
- Here are the rules, just to give y’all the technical info: “All bouts will be contested under the unified rules of boxing; All bouts scheduled for 12 rounds; Both the World Boxing Council (WBC) and the World Boxing Association (WBA) titles will be on the line at the outset of tournament competition; Each boxer will fight three bouts against different opponents in the Group Stage– round-robin, points-based competition; Points will be awarded after each bout. Scoring is as follows: Win – 2 points (with a 1-point KO/TKO bonus) Draw – 1 point Loss – 0 points. Following the Group Stage, the top four point scorers qualify for the Semi-Finals with the bottom two eliminated (In the event of a tie on points, a tie-break mechanism is in place); Semi-Finals will match the point leader against the fourth place fighter and the second versus the third in single-elimination bouts (In the event of a draw in the Semi-Final bouts, a tie-break mechanism is in place); The winners of the Semi-Final bouts advance to the Final.”