ATLANTIC CITY - The Super Six Boxing Classic hasn't always been super or classic, but it appears to have achieved the purpose its creator envisioned when the tournament was launched with such fanfare in 2009.
Thanks to Carl Froch's highly entertaining, 12-round majority decision over veteran Glen Johnson on Saturday night, the finale in the defection-wracked tournament will pair Froch, the WBC super middleweight champion from Nottingham, England, against WBA super middle titlist Andre Ward, the 2004 Olympic gold medalist from Oakland, Calif. The showdown will be held sometime this fall in a city to be determined.
It might not be a stop-the-world event on the scale of, say, Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr., which increasingly looks as if it will never happen. But it figures to be one of the better matchups that can be made in the foreseeable future, involving fighters who clearly want to test one another where it counts, in the ring, and not just in a long-distance war of words.
"[Ward is] a great fighter, an Olympic gold medalist, but it's going to be a totally different fight from this one," said Froch (28-1, 20 KOs), who had a sizable and very vocal number of British fans in the announced attendance of 2,286 in the Adrian Phillips Ballroom of Boardwalk Hall. "He was a great amateur fighter, I was a great amateur fighter. We're both great professional champions, and that's what it's all about. Me and my trainer [Robert McCracken], we have the formula to beat Ward. You'll find out what the formula is when we fight."
Ward (24-0, 13 KOs), who scored a unanimous, 12-round decision over former IBF middleweight champion Arthur Abraham (32-3, 26 KOs), an Armenian based in Germany, in the other semifinal bout May 14 in Carson, Calif., was part of the Showtime broadcast team on Saturday and he claimed to have been mostly impressed by what he saw of Froch.
"Froch got hit with a lot of shots he didn't have to get hit with, but each time he took one of those heavy shots, he responded," Ward said. "That's what champions do.
"I think this was the way we all thought it would happen, and should happen. Nothing against Johnson, but me and Froch is a bigger fight, a better fight. If you put the best Carl Froch up against the best Andre Ward, you can't help but have a great fight."
Neither Ward nor Froch were among the favorites when the original field for the Super Six, conceived by Showtime executive vice president Ken Hershman, was announced; Denmark's Mikkel Kessler and Abraham were. But Hershman's idea of staging a tournament to determine the finest 168-pound fighter on the planet was well-intentioned, even if the Group Stage format was unwieldy. Three of the original six fighters dropped out at various times and IBF super-middle champ Lucian Bute was a nonparticipant.
Now that Bute (28-0, 23 KOs) is signed to a multifight deal with Showtime, it could be argued that the Ward-Froch winner actually will be less of an "undisputed" champion than the survivor of a de facto semifinal, the real champ to be determined in a showdown with Bute. But that's not to say what has transpired to date hasn't been without merit. Ward has emerged as a top-10 pound-for-pound guy, and Froch, previously unknown to U.S. audiences before the Super Six began, is establishing himself as someone American fight fans will want to see because, well, he's skilled and fun to watch.
"I think Carl Froch is one of the most television-friendly fighters there is," said Johnson's co-promoter, Lou DiBella, a former senior vice president of HBO Sports. "People who think that's an easy fight for Ward are not thinking clearly."
Truth be told, the 42-year-old Johnson (51-15-2, 35 KOs), of Miami by way of his native Jamaica, was no day at the beach for Froch. A replacement for the injured Kessler last September, Johnson landed 219 of 546 total punches (40.1 percent), according to statistics furnished by the SportsMEDIA Technology Corp., and 105 of those were power shots. But he was far less active than Froch (274 of 672, 40.8 percent), and he threw only 20 combinations compared to 53 for the Briton.
"I got greedy," Johnson said, admitting that he had a knockout on his mind. "[Froch] was able to take my best punches, and that surprised me."
Judges John Stewart and Mark Green saw Froch as the winner by respective margins of 117-111 and 116-112, with Japan's Nobuaki Uratani dissenting by submitting a 114-114 scorecard.
Another European, Hungarian light-heavyweight Zsolt Erdei (33-0, 18 KOs), continued to impress in only his third bout on U.S. soil, knocking down Byron Mitchell (28-8-1, 21 KOs) twice en route to a sixth-round stoppage. Erdei, 37, the former WBO light-heavy champ, has his sights set on newly crowned WBC 175-pound titlist Bernard Hopkins, who was at ringside.