It was overshadowed Saturday in the Bay Area by Robert Guerrero’s HBO victory over Vicente Escobedo. But Showtime’s Super Six event Saturday established a Final Four for the tournament among elite 168-pounders, in which Oakland’s Andre Ward has been supreme.
Glen Johnson, 41, a recent addition to the Super Six field, became the fourth semifinalist by knocking out Allan Green in the eighth round of their Saturday bout in Las Vegas.
Ward will be seeded either No. 1 or No. 2, but we still can’t discern whether his semifinals opponent will be Johnson or Carl Froch. Fourth-place Froch fights second-place Arthur Abraham on Nov. 27, the night Ward fights a non-Super Six bout against Sakio Bika in Oakland with Ward’s WBA world title at stake.
Not in the tournament but now in the wings is IBF champion Lucian Bute, who signed a contract with Showtime last week and surely will meet the Super Six champion in a match worthy of much ballyhoo. Ward still figures to be that guy.
Ward has six points in the tournament, counting his forfeit victory over Andre Dirrell, who this fall became the third original member of the field to withdraw. Abraham has three for his one victory by knockout, and now Johnson has three points for his knockout win. Froch has two points, but a win Nov. 27 would put him in second place with four or five.
Although Showtime told me recently that the tournament rules will not be altered to prevent a Froch-Abraham rematch in the semifinals, it also told me that Abraham still had a shot at first place, which means he must hold some tiebreaker advantage over Ward at six points. But surely they can manipulate a tie like that to pit Ward against Froch in the semis and Johnson against Abraham. That’s the set-up that probably will ensue.
(Showtime didn’t like the thrust of the preceding paragraph. It insisted Wedneday that its tiebreaker criteria are straightforward. It turns out a knockout criterion could propel Abraham past Ward, and that Johnson could win third-place tiebreakers with both Froch and Abraham. I’ll explain in a subsequent post.)
Johnson, moving from 175 to 168 after a 10-year absence from that weight class, would seem to present an ominous obstacle for Ward, especially if you think Saturday’s knockout trumps Ward’s decision victory in June.
Actually, the Johnson-Green fight was pretty even. Green was jabbing effectively and moving in and out to win rounds. Johnson, unlike Ward, was not able to pin Green inside for long spells. But he was able to land a big right in the first round, a rabbit punch at the end of the fourth that rattled Green and a rabbit punch in the eighth that set up the straight right that put Green down.
Green could have gotten up, but he was thoroughly preoccupied by his vain attempt to persuade referee Robert Byrd (one of the sport’s best) to enforce rabbit-punching rules. Green has a Hasim Rahman propensity for losing his head in the heat of battles he’s equipped to win. Even though he was leading on two scorecards after seven rounds, you never believed Green would pull out the victory over the dogged and crafty veteran.
Although Ward didn’t stop Green in June, nobody gave Green a single round in that fight (well, except yours truly, who gave Green the first round in Showtime’s Press Row Scoring).
There’s a tendency to mistakenly think of Johnson as the present-day Mike McCallum because of his age and his Caribbean origins, but Ward should be able to outpoint Johnson decisively if they should meet in the title match. In fact, I think the other two guys pose more problems for Ward than Johnson does.
Where Bute fits into this picture in the next year isn’t clear. But he and Ward are definitely on the collision course that could propel Ward to superstar status. It’s all in sight now.