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Everything you ever wanted to know about “Six” … but were afraid to ask
Columnist Eric Raskin breaks down each fighter's chances of moving into the Super Six tourney semifinals.Arthur Abraham (right) has a better chance than Andre Dirrell of advancing to the semifinals of the Super Six World Boxing Classic. Photo / John Booz
Typically, the mathematical skills required to follow boxing are fairly basic. You need to be able to add up 10s and 9s on a scorecard. When Joan Guzman is fighting, you need to understand that 144 is greater than 135. And if you care about the minutia of fight contracts, you might need to be able to calculate what 75 percent of a particular winning purse bid is. That’s about as far as you need to go.
But Showtime’s Super Six World Boxing Classic tournament has brought a little extra math into our lives, with its relatively complex quasi-round-robin format and points-accumulation system. You still don’t need to be able to ace the AP calculus exam to keep up, but a bit of number crunching is required – especially now, with the tournament exactly at its midpoint.
There are six fights down and six to go in the Super Six, with the last three being the single-elimination portion of the event. That means there are just three fights remaining in the round-robin “Group Stage.” But there are still endless possibilities for how this is going to shake down.
And who better to help you clarify those possibilities than presumably the only professional boxing writer on the planet who spent four years working toward a mathematical-economics degree before deciding to be a sports journalist? It’s finally time to put that $25,000-a-year education to use.
Here, RingTV.com presents a complete, math-intensive breakdown of each fighter’s outlook entering Group Stage 3:
Current score: 4 points
Upcoming opponent: Andre Dirrell
What does he have to do to advance?: Not a thing. Ward guaranteed himself a berth in the semifinals with his shutout win over Allan Green this past Saturday night, as it’s mathematically impossible for more than three other fighters to equal his current point total. However, Ward still has plenty to fight for. A victory over Dirrell makes him the No. 1 seed entering the semis, which means he has the advantage of facing the No. 4 seed. And against Dirrell, he also has his perfect record to preserve.
Chances of advancing: 100 percent. Duh.
Current score: 3 points
Upcoming opponent: Carl Froch
What does he have to do to advance?: Probably nothing. The only way Abraham wouldn’t advance is if he loses to Froch and Dirrell beats Ward. And even if both of those things happen, Abraham would still advance if Green defeats Mikkel Kessler by decision. However, if Kessler and Green draw or Green wins by knockout, then Abraham would be in a tie for fourth place with one of them. So the only way Abraham would be flat-out eliminated with no need for tiebreakers is if Froch defeats him, Dirrell defeats Ward and Kessler defeats Green.
(Quick sidebar discussion on the tiebreaker system: Showtime is planning a detailed release later this week on how the tiebreakers will work but the public relations folks couldn’t get clearance to provide that information in advance. However, we do know a few things already. We know that the first tiebreaker is head-to-head results and the second tiebreaker is total rounds won on judges’ scorecards. That limited knowledge leaves plenty of questions, such as what happens with head-to-head results in the event of a three-way tie? And is the “total rounds won” calculation adjusted for total rounds fought, since a fighter shouldn’t be penalized for winning by quick knockout? Hopefully these questions will be answered when the formal press release is issued by Showtime.)
Back to what Abraham has to do. If he wins against Froch, he’s in – and he’s probably a top-two seed. If he loses, then he might need help.
Chances of advancing: For the purposes of this article, we’ll assign nice, round percentages to the likely results of the Group Stage 3 fights. Abraham-Froch looks like a 50-50 type of fight. Ward is about a 75-25 favorite over Dirrell. And Kessler is about a 75-25 favorite over Green. You can quibble with those percentages if you like, but they’re all in the ballpark of conventional wisdom. So a scenario in which Froch, Dirrell and Kessler all win, thus eliminating Abraham outright, has less than a 10 percent likelihood of becoming reality. And since Abraham still might have a chance of winning a tiebreaker if it comes down to that, the figure drops even lower. All things considered, he has about a 93 percent chance of moving on to the semis.
Current score: 2 points
Upcoming opponent: Allan Green
What does he have to do to advance?: If he wins, he’s in, and that’s good news for Kessler fans since the Dane is fighting the man who appears to be the least “super” of the six. Nothing against Green, but his resume is a cut below that of everyone else in the tournament right now, and let’s face it, it’s no accident that he’s the one guy who wasn’t invited to participate initially.
But what if Kessler doesn’t win? Well, a draw would guarantee him at least a tie for fourth. And if he loses to Green, he could still sneak in on tiebreakers. For example, if Ward and Abraham both win and Green decisions Kessler, then Ward and Abraham would both advance while Froch, Dirrell, Kessler and Green would all be tied with two points. Two of them would move on, two wouldn’t, and the tiebreaker procedures for determining how that would shake down are almost certain to make Ken Hershman’s head explode.
Chances of advancing: Start with the 75 percent chance of him beating Green, add a couple of percentage points for a possible draw with Green and then add a few more for him losing but still making it in on a tiebreaker, and we’ll say it’s 82 percent likely that Kessler is around for the single-elimination portion of the tourney.
Current score: 2 points
Upcoming opponent: Arthur Abraham
What does he have to do to advance?: Like all of the fighters currently sitting on two points, Froch just needs to win and he’s in. If he gets a draw against Abraham, he’d still be guaranteed a spot as long as Ward defeats Dirrell. And if he loses, he still has realistic tiebreaker hopes. For example, let’s say Froch loses to Abraham and the other fights go as conventional wisdom says they should, with Ward beating Dirrell and Kessler topping Green. That means Ward, Abraham and Kessler advance, and Froch and Dirrell are tied for fourth with two points each. Froch decisioned Dirrell back in Group Stage 1, so he would win that tiebreaker.
Chances of advancing: If he’s 50-50-ish to beat Abraham, plus you add in the slight chance of a draw and you consider Froch’s tiebreaker edge over Dirrell, the Englishman is sitting in a decent position. It’s a bit odd to think that a fighter could win once and lose twice and still advance, but look at Froch and then look at his girlfriend and you’ll be reminded that stranger things have happened. The computations here are pretty complicated, but Froch looks to be about 77 percent likely to make it to the semis.
Current score: 2 points
Upcoming opponent: Andre Ward
What does he have to do to advance?: Those four magic words again: Win and you’re in. And if Dirrell manages a draw against Ward, he would win a tiebreaker at three points apiece over Abraham but not over Froch, so he’s really only screwed on tiebreakers if he gets a draw and Abraham-Froch is also a draw. And even if all of that happens, he’d still advance if Green decisions Kessler.
Of course, a loss to Ward – which is the most likely outcome, unfortunately for Dirrell fans – is bad news for “The Matrix.” If Dirrell loses, Froch wins and either Kessler wins or Green wins by knockout, that’s all she wrote for Dirrell. If Dirrell loses and Froch also loses, then the American needs to pray for a three-way tie because he can’t win a two-way tie with Froch.
Chances of advancing: Well, there’s our not-so-scientifically calculated 25 percent chance that he beats Ward. Beyond that, the scenarios are not encouraging. We’ll call it 36 percent that Dirrell moves on – which is a shame, because he might just be the second best fighter in the tournament at this moment and he had a tough draw that involved him missing out on the Green-Jermain Taylor soft spot.
Current score: 0 points
Upcoming opponent: Mikkel Kessler
What does he have to do to advance?: Obviously, Green has the steepest uphill battle in front him. He probably needs to knock Kessler out, and even then, he might end up having to win a tiebreaker (and he didn’t exactly rack up points in the “total rounds won” category against Ward). A draw against Kessler does Green no good at all. If Green wins on points, he’ll be tied with Kessler and would need either Froch or Dirrell to lose so that he’d be in a three-way or four-way tie for last place.
Because Green was a late sub in the tournament, replacing Taylor after Group Stage 1, it’s my opinion that he should automatically win any tiebreaker because he will have earned the same number of points as someone else in fewer attempts. But that isn’t necessarily the way Showtime sees it.
Chances of advancing: Basically, this boils down to the percentage likelihood that Green defeats Kessler by knockout. We know Green can hurt you if he hits you. We know Kessler is easier to hit than he was four or five years ago. Green looked hopeless against Ward, but Ward deserves much of the credit for that, and you could certainly make the argument that the Oklahoman will perform better against Kessler. Still, he probably needs to knock out a man who has never been knocked out before. We’ll call it 12 percent that Green makes the semis – which means we’re 88 percent likely to hear some excuses out of his mouth when Group Stage 3 is over.
• You have to give it to Andre Ward – he’s one tough S.O.G. It’s not crazy at all to put him in the pound-for-pound Top 10 right now, and he and Lucian Bute both keep making it really hard to rank either of them No. 2 at 168 pounds.
• Good for referee Raul Caiz Sr. for letting Ward and Green fight on the inside. Many refs step in and break them up because they’re standing close to each other. Holding is against the rules; infighting is not.
• How sad is it that Grimace and Barney both had to die so Dan Goossen could have his sport jacket made?
• Poor Jerson Ravelo – how many times do we have to watch one guy get knocked out on a single episode of Friday Night Fights? First, in previewing Ward vs. Green, they showed clips of Ravelo getting battered around by both of them, and then he went out there and got drilled by Maxim Vlasov. When you’ve been brutally KO’d four times in your last seven fights, it’s time to take a long, hard look at things.
• Speaking of guys on a bad run, with Omar Nino’s win over Rodel Mayol Saturday night, I’ve now closed Bill Dettloff’s lead in “Quick Picks” from eight points to two in the span of four episodes of Ring Theory. Bill, I’ll be happy to give you Angelo Dundee’s phone number if you need someone to yell in your ear, “You’re blowin’ it, son!”
Eric Raskin can be reached at RaskinBoxing@yahoo.com. You can read his articles each month in THE RING magazine and follow him on Twitter @EricRaskin.