With little fanfare, Edmonton-based Super Channel has emerged as an oasis of excellence on the vapid landscape of televised boxing in the Great White North.
Since its launch by Allarco Entertainment in the fall of 2007, the privately owned national pay TV network has quietly pursued what for my money is the most consistently compelling fight coverage since the golden age of The Gillette Friday Night Fights in the 1960s. Think HBO -- without the Hollywood hype that too often detracts from the U.S. network's product between the ropes.
That said, scoring a KO over the Canadian competition wasn't exactly a tough fight for Super Channel.
Apart from clips on the eminently watchable In This Corner with Russ Anber and Darren Dutchyshen, TSN is pretty much content to limit its boxing coverage to Toronto super bantamweight Steve Molitor. And SportsNet, with its puerile emphasis on cartoon 'rasslin and MMA (exactly what "showdown" was Showdown Joe ever part of?) doesn't even register on the radar.
Super Channel came out smokin' again this week, announcing a partnership with Hennessy Sports Canada and Showtime Championship Boxing to televise the inaugural Super Six World Classic, a round-robin tournament featuring a half dozen of the planet's top super middleweights.
The international lineup -- IBF middleweight champ Arthur Abraham, U.S. Olympic medalist Andre Dirrell, WBC champ Carl Froch, WBA titleist Mikkel Kessler, former undisputed middleweight champ Jermain Taylor and Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward -- sports a staggering combined record of 161-4-7, with 117 knockouts. Only bad timing prevented the inclusion of Montreal's unbeaten Lucian Bute (24-0) and Mexico's Librado Andrade (28-2), who are fighting for the IBF's 168-pound title on Sept. 28.
The tournament opens in Europe on Oct. 17, with Froch defending his WBC belt against Direll and Taylor taking on Abraham, and both fights will air live on Super Channel. The third opening-round bout -- Kessler defending his WBA strap against the unbeaten Ward -- is set for Nov. 21.
Each of the six fighters has signed to face any, and potentially all, of the other five contestants, and all bouts are scheduled for 12 rounds. In the first three group stages, each man will face three different opponents over 12 months in a points-based competition, with two points for a win (plus a bonus point for a KO or TKO), one point for a draw and nothing for a loss.
The top four fighters after the third group stage will advance to the semifinal (1 vs. 4 and 2 vs. 3), with the lowest two being eliminated. The two survivors will square off in early 2011 for the Super Six World Boxing Classic trophy.
According to Showtime Sports senior vice-president Ken Hershman, who did most of the spadework in pulling together the fighters, managers and promoters, this inaugural event could become the template for future tournaments, with the ultimate goal of cleaning up boxing's plethora of "world" champions.
"The stars have truly aligned," said Hershman. "This began as an intriguing concept, and through a tremendous amount of hard work on everybody'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 the sport right now. And the Super Six tournament structure will deliver one compelling matchup after another. I can't wait to get started."
And, thanks to Super Channel, I can't wait to watch it.