1. Andre Dirrell turned the Super Six on its head Saturday with a victory over the previously unbeaten Arthur Abraham in Detroit. What did you make of the decision to disqualify Abraham for an intentional foul?
CHRIS MANNIX: Foul doesn't even begin to describe Abraham's actions, and the subsequent spin being delivered by him ("The referee did not stop us") and his promoter ("[Dirrell] deserves an Oscar for his performance") only adds to the unseemliness of his behavior. There's no question Abraham knew Dirrell was down when he hit him with that crushing right hand. He also knew he was behind on points and absorbing a beating unlike any he had taken during his professional career. He saw a way out, and he took it. Unfortunately for him, this kind of incident will stick with him for a while.
It's a shame, too, because the ending took away from the beauty of the fight. This was Dirrell's coming-out party. Recognizing the mistakes he made in the Carl Froch fight (too much holding, complaining), Dirrell went out and masterfully outboxed one of the division's biggest punchers. His conditioning was perfect and his game plan was flawless. He kept the fight in the middle of the ring and turned Abraham into a desperate fighter.
The Super Six is now wide open. Andre Ward has to be considered the favorite, but after watching Ward pummel Mikkel Kessler (the previous favorite) and Dirrell thump Abraham, would anyone be shocked if Ward falls to Allan Green? It wasn't the outcome Showtime wanted, but with interest in the tournament waning, it was exactly what it needed.
RICHARD O'BRIEN: It was the right decision. Abraham's promoter, Wilfred Sauerland, insisted, absurdly, that his fighter couldn't have known that Dirrell was off his feet. Dirrell spent a few hours in the hospital. It could have been much worse.
Dirrell looked good in the bout, though there are still some questions. His speed is terrific, but he is not always sharp with his combinations. Also, while he was well ahead going into the 11th, he was a bit shaky in the last two rounds. All in all, though, he's improving and should be stronger the next time out. For now, though, I'd say this makes Ward the slight favorite in the tournament.
BRYAN ARMEN GRAHAM: What should have been the brightest moment of Dirrell's young career -- a beatdown of an undefeated opponent in the most-watched fight of the tournament so far (thanks to Showtime's free preview) -- was tarnished by a plain-and-simple cheap shot. Dirrell should have spent the wee hours of Sunday morning alongside friends at a hometown after-party instead of with physicians at Detroit Receiving Hospital.
That said, when it comes to the Super Six, cue Ethel Merman: Who could ask for anything more? Just four fights into Showtime's super middleweight tournament -- not even halfway through the group stage -- we've seen upsets of both co-favorites. Maybe the Super Six has yet to capture the interest of the mainstream American sports fan, but the upward trend in the ratings should only continue as the do-or-die fights in Group Stage 3 and the elimination rounds come to pass.
2. Marcos Maidana retained the WBA super lightweight title Saturday with an impressive knockout of Victor Cayo. Where does Maidana stand in the stacked 140-pound division and who should he fight next?
MANNIX:Jeff Lacy. Chris Arreola. Heck, Arthur Abraham. I've been sold on big punchers before and been burned, so I'm withholding judgment on Maidana until I see him take out a more technical fighter with a solid chin. That won't happen, of course, because Golden Boy Promotions isn't stupid enough to put Maidana in with a Juan Manuel Marquez or a Timothy Bradley yet. And I don't disagree. Maidana needs more work. I'd like to see him face Kendall Holt, a veteran 140-pounder with skills and a good chin. A rematch with ex-champ Andriy Kotelnik works for me too. Or perhaps the winner of the upcoming Nate Campbell-Victor Ortiz fight. He needs someone who can give him rounds, not someone against whom he can blast away. The big fights will be there -- a showdown with Amir Khan seems inevitable -- as long as Maidana proves he can handle it.
O'BRIEN: Maidana has a tattoo of a revolver on his left ribs, which seems only fitting, given the gut shot with which he ended the bout against the talented but definitely outgunned Cayo. It was an impressive win and one that further cements Maidana as maybe the most exciting figure in what really is a live division right now. Say, wasn't he supposed to fight Khan? Somehow Khan has ended up taking on the far-less-threatening Paulie Malignaggi. But if Khan wins that one, he'll be faced again with the prospect of Maidana, who has been the WBA's interim champ since beating Ortiz last summer. While wating for Khan, Maidana will most likely face IBF/WBC titleholder Devon Alexander sometime in the summer. Here's a match I'd like to see, though: Maidana against Edwin Valero, the WBC lightweight titlist with the 27-0, 27 KO record, who has talked of moving up to 140 for his next fight. Hell, Khan could get knocked out just sitting ringside for that one.
GRAHAM: Maidana is running out of careers to derail. A showdown with Khan is the obvious next step -- the fight was nearly made in January -- but Freddie Roach is way too smart to match his chinny protege against the hard-punching Argentine. For now, at least. In the meantime, I'd like to see Maidana cut his teeth against Alexander with an eye on Bradley for 2011.
As an aside: If HBO wants to one-up Showtime's super middleweight tournament, why not tap the abundance of talent at 140? Imagine a modified round-robin with Maidana, Bradley, Holt and Khan. Plug in a couple of more rising stars (Ortiz? Alexander?) and former champions (Malignaggi? Ricky Hatton?) and you've got yourself a trump card. Just saying.
3. David Haye makes the first defense of his WBA heavyweight title against John Ruiz on Saturday in Manchester, England. How do you see the fight playing out?
MANNIX: Part of me is hoping Haye loses, if only because I have a frightening feeling that if he wins his manager, Adam Booth, and his promoter, Golden Boy, will move heaven and earth to avoid a fight with one of the Klitschkos. They will shove Arreola, Tomasz Adamek and Bernard Hopkins in front of Haye and the biggest heavyweight fight out there -- Haye vs. either Klitschko -- will never get made. Ruiz, I believe, would fight a Klitschko. And I think he can win this fight, too. Ruiz is crafty and knows how to win on points, something Haye (21 KOs in 23 wins) rarely does. If Ruiz can avoid getting caught, he has the skills to win a decision. But given that the fight is in Manchester, Ruiz will have to win a lot of rounds to do it.
O'BRIEN: This is a classic matchup: the Quiet Man against ... well, against David Haye, who doesn't know the meaning of the word quiet. Haye loves to talk and most of the time he's pretty entertaining. This fight, though, will require more than just verbiage, and it's a match that points up Haye's problematic position in the heavyweight division: Having beaten Nikolai Valuev last fall (with a disciplined-if-less-than-electrifying performance), Haye holds the WBA title and is a fresh face in a wrinkled division. He can be aggressive and he punches with authority (at least against cruiserweights), but he doesn't strike me as the guy who's going to clean up the heavyweights.
Haye is hoping, of course, for a big-money showdown with one of the Klitschkos. (Vitali, who faces European champion Albert Sosnowski on May 29, told The Guardian in England that both he and Wlad want to fight Haye and that the brothers will "probably have to toss a coin.") But first, the former cruiserweight champ has to get by mandatory challenger Ruiz. And that's no easy task. The 38-year-old Ruiz has a reputation as a "boring" fighter, but he is extremely well-schooled and as tough as anyone in the sport. He will give Haye nothing, and punish him in little, but telling, ways through every round. Haye's best chance will be to jump on Ruiz right from the first bell and try to get him out early. But Haye, despite his record, is no David Tua (who handed Ruiz his only KO loss -- in one round, way back in 1996), and he'll be hard-pressed to hurt Big Jawney. The fight's in Manchester, of course, so once again Ruiz will be up against the possibility of a hometown decision. Either way, though, this is one I want to see.
GRAHAM: Normally, I'd sooner clear my schedule for a Ken Burns documentary on the history of basket weaving than watch a Ruiz mandatory, but I'm finding myself intrigued more by Haye-Ruiz than Jones-Hopkins.
It's very hard to stop Ruiz, so I see Haye winning on points. Too much speed. But it's a tougher fight than most expect. Ruiz is kind of a poor man's Glen Johnson -- a specialist at taking away the opponent's Plan A. He's always coming forward, tangling you up, keeping you off balance, never letting you get into a rhythm. He's what's known as a "junk player" in tennis. Haye met the unique set of challenges Valuev presented, but Ruiz should give fight fans a better idea of Haye's long-term viability as a heavyweight.
4. Reports of a rematch between Juan Manuel Marquez and Juan Diaz on July 10 in Las Vegas have surfaced. Is this a fight you want to see?
MANNIX: I'm hard-pressed to hate on a Fight of the Year rematch, so I'll take this one, sure. Both Marquez and Diaz are coming off lopsided losses and this is kind of a do-or-die fight, with the winner moving on and the loser, perhaps, looking at the end of his career. The fact that it's on pay-per-view is a little irritating but it should be entertaining and there really isn't another fight out there for either fighter that I want to see. It's a good, solid matchup.
O'BRIEN: In a word, yes. Their first bout, in February 2009, was everybody's Fight of the Year. And while both men have lost since then -- Marquez was drubbed by Floyd Mayweather and Diaz split a pair of bouts (and that's being generous) with Malignaggi -- they remain exciting, viable fighters. This could be a throwback to the days when a couple of losses didn't necessarily drop a guy into the "opponent" class. Marquez and Diaz match up well and a second bout would be an opportunity for the winner to get his career back in gear and move up to that loaded junior welter division we were talking about.
GRAHAM: Nine months ago, a Marquez-Diaz rematch might have been salable as the main event of an HBO pay-per-view card -- as it's rumored to be -- but not after both fighters suffered one-sided defeats in the interim. Still, if the sequel is anywhere near as thrilling as the first installment, it could be worth the price tag.