Thursday’s Boxing Notebook

By Francis Walker, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: July 15, 2009

NEW YORK (BASN) — For the first time in boxing history, a round-robin boxing tournament featuring six of the world’s best fighters at 168 pounds has been structured and will be conducted by SHOWTIME Championship Boxing.

The idea was officially announced at a press conference at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Monday by Senior Vice President and General Manager of SHOWTIME Sports, Ken Hershman.

The “Super Six World Boxing Classic” will feature super middleweight champions Mikkel Kessler (WBA) and Carl Froch (WBC), IBF middleweight king Arthur Abraham, former undisputed world middleweight titlist Jermain Taylor, and unbeaten contenders Andre Dirrell and 2004 Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward.

“Throughout my career, I have been involved with some of the most major and historic events in the sport,” Hershman said. “The legendary Corrales vs. Castillo fight which in my opinion is the best fight in history, the Tyson/Holyfield ear biting incident, and the Tyson-Lewis fight.”

“But never have I been more proud then I am of this tournament or prouder of the work we have done. Getting five promoters together is a Herculean task in itself — plus six of the best fighters in the division. That is a staggering accomplishment.”

Point structure and elimination process

The structure of the tournament is so unique. Each fighter will have the opportunity to compete against one another in a series of scheduled twelve rounds bouts during the first three “Group Stages” of the tournament. There is also a point system in place:

A win is 2 points (with a 1-point bonus for a KO/TKO).

A draw is 1 point for each fighter. A loss equals 0 points.

The four highest point scorers will move on to the semifinal rounds, while the two fighters with the least point totals will be eliminated. The winners of the semifinal bouts will meet in the final round of the championship series in early 2011.

Group Stage 1: Abraham (30-0, 24 KOs) vs. Taylor (28-3-1, 17 KOs)

When Jermain Taylor unseated Bernard Hopkins of the world middleweight championship in 2005, here was a lot of pressure placed on the Little Rock, Arkansas native to be the class of the 160-pound class. That was until he ran into a guy named Kelly Pavlik.

In April, Taylor was ahead on the judges scorecards heading into the final round of his WBC 168-pound title challenge of Carl Froch before getting KO’d in the final 20 seconds of the fight.

Having lost three of his last four bouts (two by knockout), Taylor will challenge Arthur Abraham, who has proven to be a more dominant middleweight champion than himself.

“I don’t really care who I fight,” Taylor said. “With me there’s always plenty of action in the ring. Arthur Abraham is a brawler. I’m going to box him. That’s the key to winning the fight and beating a brawler. Who wants it more…we will find out soon.”

Unable to lure middleweight champions Pavlik (WBC/WBO) and Felix Sturm (WBA) into unification bouts, Abraham relinquished the IBF 160-pound championship having made 10 successful defenses during a lengthy 3 ½-year reign.

Abraham’s performances were filled with excitement, action, and drama which included a highlight reel knockout of Elvin Ayala in the final round last year. Abraham fought Edison Miranda with a broke jaw and managed to win a 12-round decision.

Abraham would repeat his dominance of Miranda in a non-title, catch-weight bout last year at 166 pounds. Abraham starched Miranda inside four rounds.

Abraham-Taylor is a bout that will feature one fighter on a roll and clearly one fighter on the decline. The two will meet on October 10, at the O2 World Arena in Berlin, Germany, where Abraham resides and has fought his entire career.

“I want to win, Abraham said. “I came here to participate and win. Each fighter, they are all exceptionally good, one better then the next. But I am here to win.”

Carl Froch (25-0, 20 KOs) vs. Andre Dirrell (18-0, 13 KOs)

Making the second defense of the WBC title, Froch will be matched against an unbeaten super middleweight prospect in Dirrell. That bout will occur on October 10, in Nottingham, Nottinghamshire in the United Kingdom in Froch’s hometown.

Froch survived a knockdown in the early rounds and rallied to knockout Taylor in the final seconds to retain his world title. Froch has found a new confidence and appears focused on winning.

“I’m going to be the last man standing,” Froch said. “I’m a world champion and I’ve worked so hard to get here that I’m not giving my belt up for anyone.”

Froch added: “This is what boxing is supposed to be about with the best fighting the best. These are the kind of challenges I’ve always wanted and I’m really fired up for this tournament. It forces the best fighters in the division to all face each other and that’s something that has been missing from boxing in recent years.”

But Dirrell is bigger than Taylor and hits much harder. Dirrell has KO’d his last six opponents and has displayed plenty of speed, power, and combination punching at a rapid pace. This could be the most explosive bout of the tournament.

“I begged for that fight,” Dirrell said of Froch. “Froch is tailor-made for me. He hasn’t showed me anything. I think this will be my easiest fight. If he can beat me, then he’s a true champion. I will be victorious.”

Dirrell added: “I’m focused on getting the WBC title. Then, I’ll get the WBA and leave the tournament with both belts. Kessler stands out the most. He has only one defeat and has the most experience. My concern is not getting cut. I am naturally gifted and I will let the world know who I am. It’s a big plus that everyone knows they have three fights. I’m super hungry. All these are top guys and it’s going to take the best to beat the best. But I’m in a beautiful position. I’ve had only 18 fights. I’ll be unbearable.”

Mikkel Kessler (41-1, 31 KOs) vs. Andre Ward (19-0, 12 KOs)

Kessler, who recently signed a promotional pact with Wilfred Saurland of Saurland Event, will defend his WBA super middleweight title against Ward.

“This is a big opportunity for me to test myself,” Kessler said. “I never thought this would happen but when I got the call I said, ‘of course, I want to be a part of it.’ This is a big opportunity for me and all the fighters. A big thank you to all, and may the best fighter win.”

Kessler is a two-time 168-pound champion. He unified the WBC/WBA championships in 2006 before losing it in 2007 to Joe Calzaghe, perhaps the greatest super middleweight champion in history. Calzaghe retired undefeated after 20 successful defenses and a pair of light-heavyweight victories against Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones, Jr. at light-heavyweight last year.

Last year, Kessler KO’d previously unbeaten Dimitri Sartison (KO 12) for a vacant WBA title and has made one defense.

Ward, the former Olympic gold medal winner in 2004, has been moved along slowly throughout his career and will undoubtedly face his toughest test. It will be Ward’s first attempt to win a world championship. At age 25, Ward is five years younger than Kessler. The question is, however, after only 19 professional bouts against limited opposition, is Ward truly ready for the world stage?

A Warrior dies

It is with tremendous sadness that I discuss the sudden and shocking passing of boxing warrior Arturo Gatti. The 37 year-old Italian was reportedly murdered by his wife in a Brazilian hotel room while vacation this past weekend.

Gatti will always be remembered for his amazing display of courage under fire each and everytime Gatti stepped inside the ring. Gatti’s countless blood bath performances is what made him such a popular figure in the sport.

Gatti was one of those fighters where it didn’t matter whether he won or lost because, Gatti was going to give a great fight regardless of who the opponent was.

Gatti was a household name at HBO Sports, as the network giant televised 21 of his 49 fights, including his last 12. Gatti was also an extremely successful ticket-seller, as the majority of his bouts were split between Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall/Convention Center and New York’s Madison Square Garden.

Gatti will best be remembered for his three classic fights with Mickey Ward between 2002-03. The seesaw, back-and-forth, brought fight fans drama never before seen in an action fight.

That trilogy between Gatti and Ward, who later became of Gatti’s closest friend and trainer, is what will catapult them into the International Boxing Hall of Fame someday.

Gatti will also be best-remembered for his two 10-round defeats to Ivan Robinson in 1998. Gatti lost the first fight on a split-decision and was a heavy favorite going into the rematch with hopes of a third fight. However, a point deduction late in the fight cost Gatti a victory, as the Robinson won via a close unanimous decision.

Gatti has had many, many memorable moments inside the ring. Perhaps the most exhilarating moment was when he was given one more round of his first defense of the IBF 135-pound title against Wilson Rodriguez at the Theater in Madison Square Garden in March 1996.

Gatti has absorbed a hellacious beating and both his left and right eyes were swollen shut. The doctor at ringside gave Gatti “one more round” which was more than enough for Gatti to knock Rodriguez out in the fourth round.

From that night forward, the rest of Gatti’s fights were a matter of life and death. Although Gatti has suffered losses to Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather, he was always was given another chance to comeback to fight another day.

Even a warrior like Gatti couldn’t fight forever. That was evident during his seventh-round TKO stoppage loss to Alfonso Gomez in July 2007. Gatti simply didn’t have the speed, power, or the reflexes to contend with Gomez. It was sad to see Gatti struggle the way he did, as he announced his retirement immediately following the loss.

Gatti ended his professional career with a record of 40 wins (31 by knockout) against only 9 defeats. In December 1995 at Madison Square Garden, Gatti defeated Tracy Harris Patterson (W 12) to win his first world title – the IBF super featherweight championship.

Gatti became a two-division champion in January 2004 after he dominated Glaunaco Blanco for twelve rounds to capture the WBC junior welterweight crown.

Gatti’s career was one tremendous highlight reel of relentless drama and exhilarating action. Rest In Peace Arturo. He will be missed.

Alexis Arguello remembered

When Alexis Arguello died on July 1, it burnt a hole in the hearts of many that have supported him, followed his career, and loved him for his fighting spirit. Arguello reportedly shot himself in the early hours of July 1, but it is possible that he could have been murdered. Arguello was elected Mayor of Managua, Nicaragua last November and was heavily involved in politics.

Arguello was the pride of his native Nicaragua the way Felix Trinidad was (and still is) to Puerto Rico. Arguello has an incredible boxing career that spanned more than 25 years. Arguello won 82 of 90 professional bouts, 65 by knockout.

Arguello won world championships as a featherweight, super featherweight, and lightweight. Arguello fought every top fighter from Boza Edwards, Jose Luis Ramirez to Ray Mancini and Rubin Oliveras.

Perhaps Arguello will be best-remembered for his two knockout defeats to Aaron Pryor. Arguello shockingly lost to Pryor, but was remembered for being a gentleman and sportsman like in defeat.

Darchinyan loses to Agbeko

Hoping to become only the second Australian since Jeff Fenech to win three world titles in as many weight divisions, Vic Darchinyan (32-2-1, 26 KOs) dropped a 12-round unanimous decision to IBF bantamweight champion, Ghana’s Joseph Agbeko (27-1, 22 KOs) on Saturday.

The judges scored the bout 116-111 and 114-113 (twice).

“He’s not better than me but he was today,” Darchinyan said. “I went for a big punch and I paid for it. It was a close decision and I lost.”

Darchinyan’s one-punch KO attack didn’t work against a seasoned and experienced world championship boxer in Agbeko. Darchinyan was outsmarted from the opening bell and was taken out of his element early in the bout. Darchinyan suffered cuts on both eyes and had a laceration across the bridge of his nose.

The loss to Akbenko came as a surprise to many because Darchinyan has been on a tear. In his previous three fights, he pounded Dmitri Kirillov (KO 5), Cristian Mijares (KO 9), and Jorge Arce (TKO 11), en route toward unifying the WBC/WBA and IBF world super flyweight championship.

One loss shouldn’t kill a fighter’s career, especially someone with Darchinyan’s power. He will be back.