Saturday, Oct. 17, sees the opening of the Super Six World Boxing Classic, an event which the BBC's Ben Dirs is hailing as "that rare thing, a triumph of common sense and concord in boxing." The tournament will see six of the wolrd's best super middleweight fighters battle it out in a round-robin contest over two years, with only one man remaining victorious.
As part of this momentous event, MCM will be previewing and predicting the upcoming fights, beginning with Saturday's opening bouts: Carl Froch vs. Andre Dirrell in Nottingham, England, and Jermain Taylor vs. Arthur Abraham in Berlin, Germany.
Bout 1: Froch vs Dirrell
One of the alluring features of the Super Six World Boxing Classic is that in pitching six of the world's top ten middleweights against one another, the tournament is providing boxing enthusiasts with so many intriguing style matchups that involuntary salivation has become the order of the day.
Case in point: Carl Froch, the seemingly impervious pressure fighter, and Andre Dirrell, the quick and slick switcher-boxer.
Let's look at the attributes of both before settling on the possible outcome.
Carl "The Cobra" Froch
Since attaining the WBC super middleweight belt in 2008, Britain's Carl Froch (25-0, 20 KO) has become, with the possible exception of Mikkel Kessler, the man to beat in the division. Tall and rangy, Froch possess an iron chin with fists to match.
Starting out as a pro at the mature age of 25, Froch mowed down his domestic competition before capturing the world's attention a year ago by defeating a determined Jean Pascal for the vacant WBC title—a contender for fight of that year.
This he followed up with the now infamous KO of Jermain Taylor on U.S. soil in April, driving himself back from a near-points loss by stopping Taylor with a minute to go in the 12th.
Froch is, in the very best sense of the word, a pressure fighter. Slow to start, he mounts increasingly devastating assaults on his opponents until they inevitable tire or crumble in the later rounds. But what adds to the danger of his considerable power is the fact he rarely rushes a stoppage; Froch is a ruthlessly accurate puncher unafraid to cede to patience before his opponent falls.
That said, Froch is not without his weaknesses, the most fundamental of which is his defense.
Fighting hands down, Froch attempts to evade punches with a Mayweather-esque shoulder role, a style he himself has admitted he has yet to master. Although an extremely solid chin means this chink has never been fully exploited, faster movers like Pascal and Taylor have been able to build upconvincing point leads against him.
The above defect is further exasperated by the fact that Froch isn't a particularly speedy mover himself. Relentless though he may be, he applies his pressure gradually—more boa constrictor than cobra. Again, faster punchers can easily—and frequently do—bag the earlier rounds.
If Dirrell can bend these faults to his will and evade Froch's gradual pressure, the Nottingham man could be looking down the barrel of his own demise on Saturday.
Andre "The Matrix" Dirrell
Although Olympic bronze-medal winner Andre Dirrrell (18-0, 13 KO) is certainly the least experienced fighter in the tournament, a strong case can be made for his being the most talented.
He is, many feel, an unknown quantity who will only become known once he gets into the square with Froch. His three biggest victories—a snoozer against Curtis Stevens and KO wins over prospects Anthony Hanshaw and Victor Oganov—will hardly be seen to have prepared him for the step up in class represented by facing off against Froch.
Nonetheless, the Olympian is seen to have the attributes to trouble his opponent.
Firstly, his speed is close to venturing into the stratosphere of Michigan peer, Floyd Mayweather Jr. And given that he utilises it on equally fast feet, Dirrell is more than capable of administering potshots all night as he fights on his bike.
His style, too, has the potential to upset Froch's incremental assaults.
Dirrell comfortably vacillates between orthodox and southpaw, disrupting the successes of his opponents just as they appear to have the matrix figured out. The early advances made by an aggressive Hanshaw, for instance, were quickly nullified by these switches. Whether or not Froch has been able to fully prepare for this in sparring, we'll have to wait and see on the night.
But aside from his lack of ring experience as a pro, there are several factors in Dirrell's game that his opponent can be satisfied about.
The first is his stamina. Although he is an extremely athletic fighter, in his more challenging encounters Dirrell has appeared to tire in the later rounds. This, I think, is the result of the energy he has needed to exert while fighting on the back foot, a feature which should play into the hands of Froch's gradual aggression.
Another major problem appears to be circumstantial: weight. After Froch's proclamation that he looked "as gaunt and drawn as a boiled chicken," Dirrell's followers cannot but be concerned by the fact that their man only made the weight on the second time of asking earlier today.
Coupled with his visible nervousness during the final press conference and the fact that he will be fighting before a partisan Nottingham crowd, this news would not appear to bode well for the American.
Prediction: Froch KOs Dirrell in Round 10
For many commentators, Dirrell and Froch are the "sleepers" of this tournament. One is young, talented and hungry; the other is determined, powerful and patient.
But for me, particularly based on Dirrell's weight issue, the sleeper that will emerge victorious tomorrow is Froch. I think that despite his awkward style and raw talent, we will see Dirrell succumb to Froch by KO in 10.
My reasoning is threefold:
1. Froch will try to pressure the younger fighter from the outset in an effort to test his chin and stamina. Given the "misjudgment" over his weight (in arguably the biggest fight of his career to date), I do not see Dirrell passing this test. Nor can I see him holding Froch back with either speed or switching for very long: Inevitably, I believe Froch will catch up with him.
2. Dirrell is not known as a strong puncher and, putting aside the possibility of cuts, I don't believe he will be able to rattle Froch the way he has previous opponents. Expending his energy running, the American will eventually be forced into fighting the fight Froch "loves" to fight: slugging it out in the centre of the ring until one man goes down.
3. I think Froch’s critics draw too one-dimensional a portrait of him. In my opinion, he is one of the most intelligent boxers out there. He has a terrific instinct for the tone and pace of a fight, and he benefits from recognising his weaknesses and using this awareness to his advantage during bouts.
Simply listen to his "discussions" with trainer Robert McCracken between rounds during the Taylor fight, in which they objectively break down what is happening inside the ring, often preempting the television commentators. This tells me there is little Dirrell can throw at Froch that he can't figure out.
My prediction is the result of insight, instinct, and research. But whether or not I'm correct, the beauty of the Super Six World Boxing Classic is both Froch and Dirrell will live to fight again. I encourage you all to tune and enjoy what is certain to be an important, thrilling night of boxing.