Thursday August 26th, 2010

At the time, it seemed like a good idea. Actually, it was a great one.

Get six of the top fighters in one weight class to commit to a series of fights that will consume nearly two years of their careers? If the nonsensical statements uttered during the Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather negotiations taught us anything, it's that promoters have a hard time agreeing on a breakfast order, much less the parameters of a significant fight.

Showtime did it, though. Under the guidance of top exec Ken Hershman, the cable network got Mikkel Kessler, Andre Ward, Arthur Abraham, Carl Froch, Andre Dirrell and Jermain Taylor to sign on the dotted lines. A true super middleweight champion will be crowned, the network crowed during a press conference in New York. For the first time in a long time, there will be one face of the 168-pound division.

Quickly, however, things have unraveled. First, Taylor was forced to withdraw, the end result of an Abraham right hand that knocked him out of the tournament and into retirement. With Lucian Bute unavailable and Kelly Pavlik unwanted, Showtime turned to Allan Green, an untested power puncher with no significant wins on his resume.

Kessler was next, withdrawing this week with an eye injury that will require nine months to heal. With the Super Six entering its final stage, it's most accomplished fighter (Kessler) and most recognizable American (Taylor) are on the sidelines.

This tournament needs a save, and a big one. Early word is that Green -- who was battered around in a unanimous decision by Ward in June and who was likely facing a night as human chum for Kessler next month in Denmark -- will be cut, with Showtime dangling a 175-pound fight for Green as a carrot to walk away without complaint.

With Green out, the Super Six suddenly becomes a Final Four. Abraham-Froch, scheduled for Oct. 2 in Monaco -- another utterly idiotic decision caused by Froch's lack of any confidence to win a decision in front of tens of thousands of fans in Germany while, Abraham wasn't interested in fighting in front of a few thousand Froch fans in Nottingham -- becomes a de facto semifinal, with Ward-Dirrell's fight serving as the other.

Of course, that's assuming Ward and Dirrell actually fight. Officially, the two are slated to tango on Sept. 25. But there has been no promotion. No tickets have been sold because there is no venue.

There isn't likely to be one anytime soon, either. Gary Shaw, who promotes Dirrell, is refusing to take his fighter to Oakland, Ward's backyard. He has a point. Ward has already fought at home twice during the Super Six while Dirrell's lone appearance in his home state of Michigan came in his disqualification win over Abraham in March.

Dan Goossen, Ward's promoter, wants nothing to do with a fight in the midwest. He has a point, too. Dirrell-Abraham drew only about 3,500 fans to Detroit's Joe Louis Arena, while Ward has averaged crowds of 9,500 in his wins over Kessler and Green.

With both sides bickering, it's Hershman who needs to step in. Oakland makes the most sense. The network is already being forced to swallow an Abraham-Froch fight that likely won't draw a fraction of the crowd it would in Germany. Ward has carefully cultivated a fan base in Northern California in recent years while Dirrell has largely ignored his home turf. A Ward-Dirrell fight at Oracle Arena would exceed 10,000 fans and could draw as many as 15,000. An energetic crowd is part of the appeal of a big fight, a fact Froch and Abraham will soon become keenly aware of.

Sweeteners can -- and should -- be added to make a trip to Oakland more appealing to Dirrell. And if he is still not comfortable with winning a decision on the road, well, he shouldn't have been in the tournament to begin with. Great fighters win the fights in front of them, regardless of where they are held.

The loss of Taylor and Kessler has put the Super Six in a precarious decision but not one beyond repair. With the clock ticking towards a planned spring final, it's those in positions of power who need to make the right decisions.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.