Carl Froch hopes Super Six will be lucky number

Guardian Kevin Mitchell13th July, 2009

Carl Froch, who has been kicking his heels in Nottingham since he retained his WBC super-middleweight title with a last-round knockout of Jermain Taylor in April, fights next against the unbeaten young American southpaw Andre Dirrell in the UK probably on 10 October.

Froch's title will be on the line, as Dirrell is the mandatory challenger but, more importantly, the contest will be the first of three preliminary bouts he fights in Showtime's innovative £30m Super Six tournament, announced in New York today, to find the best 12-stone fighter in the world over the next 18 months. "It's hard to say if there will be more money fighting this way or not," said Froch, "but it puts me in a position where it is guaranteed over a series of fights."

If the tournament is a success - which is no given on the evidence of similar ventures in the past - it will provide a significant boost to the ailing boxing business in the United States. It ignores the timetables of the world governing bodies and, in a radical departure, brings together competing promoters and managers.

ITV, attracted by the format, are considering showing the tournament on a new pay-per-view channel. Winners will be awarded league points, plus a bonus point for stoppages, the top four going through to the semi-finals, with the final loosely scheduled for mid-2011.

Froch will vie with the Dane Mikkel Kessler for favouritism, ahead of a strong field: Taylor, the German-based IBF middleweight champion Arthur Abraham, who is moving up to super-middleweight, and the 2004 Olympic gold medallist, the American Andre Ward.

The six fighters have an impressive combined record of 161 wins, four losses and a draw, with 117 knockouts - although two unbeaten super-middleweights are missing because of contractual problems with their handlers, the IBF champion, Lucian Bute, and WBO title-holder, Karoly Balzsay.

Kessler fights Ward on 7 November - although the details have not been finalised - which leaves Taylor to meet Abraham in the first round in Berlin on 10 October.

Froch knows how tough it is going to be to get through four fights to reach the final, not a scenario he had planned after winning the title against Jean Pascal last year. But offers for a title defence have been thin on the ground as television coverage has dried up.

"He's very big at the weight and he's undefeated," the Nottingham boxer said of Dirrell ahead of the press conference. "I was in his shoes this time last year, a hungry, unbeaten prospect looking for a world title so I know exactly what this fight will mean to him.

"He was an excellent amateur. Since he's turned pro he's beaten quite a few prospects and he's very highly thought of in the US. He's a bit of an unknown quantity for me right now but we'll watch plenty of him in action and come up with a gameplan for him."

Dirrell, who won middleweight bronze in Athens in 2004, losing 23-18 to the excellent Kazakh Gennady Golovkin (17-0 as a pro), is heavy-handed and slick. He has been brought along quietly as a professional but his last four fights have been stoppage wins over opponents with decent records.

Froch's promoter, Mick Hennessy, said: "The Super Six tournament will truly be box office material. I've already put a proposal to ITV with regard to them showcasing the series on a newly created ITV box office platform.

"Not only would it give their viewers a world-class marquee sporting event, it would also generate a large revenue stream for ITV and I'm sure that's something that would certainly interest their shareholders in the current economic climate."

The idea is the brainchild of Ken Hershman, Showtime's senior vice-president and general manager. "It began as an intriguing concept," Hershman said, "and, through a tremendous amount of hard work on everyone's part, we are going to pull off one of the most exciting events in boxing history. The 168-pound division is the most talent-rich in boxing right now. And the Super Six tournament structure will deliver one compelling match-up after another."

History says otherwise. Don King's attempt to organise a heavyweight tournament sponsored by The Ring magazine and ABC in 1977 ended shambolically amid allegations of ratings rigging and bribes. King had more success with a middleweight tournament on HBO in 2001, but that involved only four fighters.

This idea, though, looks as if it has a chance.