By Charles Jay
The Super Six has been potentially one of the best things to happen in boxing, and can continue to be; that is, if it isn’t a “one-off.” In other words, if that’s not all there is. I realize it’s probably an impossibility, but I would like to see it serve as a template by which, gradually, the game of boxing comes to be played. And kudos to Showtime for putting it together.
The sport that your father and grandfather grew up watching was a much different one. In those days, fighters fought other tough fighters just to stay active. Often. if you watch one of those fights from the early days of television, you would be more likely to hear the announcers talk about the fighter’s record THAT YEAR than their career record. That’s how busy these guys were. They fought for the paydays; they fought to ply their trade. They fought more often, period. Of course, a lot of that was tied up in the fact that boxing was more popular, relative to many of the other sports, had more participants, and therefore had more promoters who were putting on shows.
Whatever the reason, the fact – and my point – is that the practice of “steering” a fighter was not as prevalent as it is today. Guys fought whoever was out there and made sense in terms of box office, and as always, whatever money offer came down the pike. There was some mob involvement, no doubt, and obviously there were going to be fighters getting their shot based on connections. But the idea of preserving an “0′ in the loss column wasn’t really widespread, because that didn’t mean so much.
Guys pick and choose opponents a lot more now, and this is something that is going to happen, given the freelance nature of the sport. But when you are engaged in a tournament format, you don’t have the chance to do that. You’re going to fight whoever the draw tells you to fight, and there’s a legitimacy in that type of scheduling that is refreshing.
The Super Six actually took it one step further, because you were engaging in something of a round robin, so the idea of a “luck of the draw” was minimized. You were bound to fight anybody, whether you wanted to or not. That is antithetical to the way business is usually done in boxing, and whenever that’s the case, that’s probably a good thing.
In Showtime’s case, they were fortunate to be able to grab six of the world’s top seven or eight fighters in the division. And even if there were fighters who decided not to opt in, the last man standing in something like this has accomplished something no one else in his division has managed to do. Sure, the format is going to lend itself to some imperfections here and there; promotional entanglements may keep some fighters out of such a competition, and once the action gets underway, you are going to have guys who will get hurt, or may just retire (see Jermain Taylor) and others will be inserted. But on balance, it’s better than a landscape where fighters sometimes win world titles because they avoided potential threats.
I’d like to see Showtime, and other entities, replicate this in every division they can. While it is true that they may not get all the top fighters in the other weight classes, or only may get some of them, at the conclusion of a structured competition that is so earnest in its progression, if you get world-class fighters involved, whoever could navigate that minefield and come out the other end is well-deserving, at the very least, of a spot as the next logical challenger for a legitimate world championship.