In this week's fights-in-the-works post, have to start with the latest wrinkle in the Super Six. Sakio Bika has stepped in as the next opponent for super middleweight Andre Ward after Andre Dirrell pulled out, although it won't be an official part of Showtime's super middleweight tournament. My first reaction was, "Good replacement. Sakio Bika's ranked sixth by Ring, and there's nobody better available." It's still true.
But there is some skepticism about the replacement since Bika, like Dirrell, is managed by Al Haymon. I admit the thought didn't occur to me at first. I suppose the fear is that Dirrell never intended to fight Ward, and that at a certain point, Bika would come in and Haymon would get two of his clients things they wanted, which is why Bika didn't take the chance to replace Mikkel Kessler when he had one?
For this to work out for Haymon et al -- and let's point out that there's zero evidence on this theory that anyone has brought to light -- a few things have to happen, and you have to explain away some holes. Bika very well might have genuinely been interested in replacing Dirrell rather than Kessler because of grieving over the death of his father, as explained when he turned down the first opportunity; with Ward-Bika scheduled weeks after the Allan Green fight where he was to meet Kessler, it's wholly possible the extra time will give him the space to prepare the way he wants. But while Dirrell theoretically gets what he wants, Haymon ends up getting less money out of this deal than he might have in the short term. With Bika not an official part of the tournament, where Dirrell was, that means there isn't the same potential money in a semi-final fight had Dirrell beaten Ward. Furthermore, Bika had the chance to enter the tournament earlier had he fought Green in a box-off to replace Haymon's Jermain Taylor, but his team turned it down for "undisclosed reasons."
In other words, if things had gone as well for Haymon as they could have here, he would have ended up with a Taylor fight, a Green-Bika box-off, Bika entering the tournament by beating Green and participating in at least two but possibly more fights, and Dirrell staying in the tournament rather than allegedly faking an injury for at least one more fight and a minimum of three total. Instead, he got one Taylor fight, will get one Bika fight rather than three or more, and loses a Dirrell fight and potentially two more. In order for this to have been engineered from the beginning, Dirrell better make a helluva a lot of money fighting on HBO soon. I doubt Haymon is so benevolent toward Dirrell and his interest in not fighting Ward that the manager would leave so much potential money on the table.
It's possible I'm totally missing something here, but nobody's showed me. If indeed Haymon had totally wrecked the Super Six single-handedly, I would be very angry. So far, there are only theories that appear somewhat elaborate from where I'm sitting.
In the meantime, Ward-Bika is a good fight. Bika is as tough as they come, and I don't see him being bullied the way Ward bullied Green and Kessler. It could be a head butt-fest, which means it could be ugly, but I bet it's a gritty fight. It also would give Ward the chance of moving further up the pound-for-pound list and more and more staking his claim as the man who is next in line as the best American fighter.
Other fights in the works: