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Original Issue

Knockout Tournament

A new made-for-TV competition could give boxing a boost

Lost in the discussion of how the rise of mixed martial arts has hurt boxing is the good job boxing has done of hurting itself. Corrupt rankings, meaningless titles and fighters so afraid of blemishing their records that they dodge any serious challenges have caused many fans to drift away from the sport.

But they may want to come back for this. On Saturday, Showtime will air the first two bouts of the Super Six, which over the next 15 months will pit six fighters from boxing's most competitive division, the super middleweight, in a tournament in which two championship belts are at stake. The brainchild of Showtime senior vice president Ken Hershman, the Super Six will feature WBC champ Carl Froch, WBA champ Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham, Andre Dirrell, Jermain Taylor and Andre Ward, who have a combined record of 163-4-1. "We felt the best fighters were not always involved in the best fights," says Hershman. "This rectifies that."

Each fighter is guaranteed three fights; a win is worth two points and a tie is worth one, and there's a one-point bonus for a knockout. The top four fighters then advance to a single-elimination showdown. "The competitiveness of this makes it risky," says Dirrell's promoter, Gary Shaw. "But it's worth it. The winner is going to be a superstar."

Those not in the field seem to agree. Contenders such as Allan Green and Sakio Bika have expressed frustration at being excluded, while middleweight belt holder Kelly Pavlik says he would be interested in moving up one weight class to fight the winner. And the newly minted champion could lure former unified super middleweight champ Joe Calzaghe out of retirement. "This is terrific for the sport," says Shaw. "We're all so afraid of the loss that we put on mismatches or weaker fights. This could change boxing."



SIX SHOOTERS The field includes two champs and Dirrell, a former Olympic bronze medalist who is 18--0.