Not quite Super Six
Super Six? More like the Coulda Been Super Six. Or the Shoulda Been Super Eight. Or even the Shoulda Been Fantastic Four. One day boxing will get it right, but that time hasn't arrived just yet. What is more, don't expect it to arrive on Saturday, when Nottingham's Carl Froch clashes with American Andre Ward in Atlantic City for an admittedly intriguing tournament finale.
Still, let's not be churlish. While American broadcaster Showtime might not have achieved its aims - to turn the super-middleweight division into boxing's most vibrant, raise the profile of the sport in general and create a break-out star - it should at least be praised for trying.
For as long as anyone can remember boxing has been undermined by internecine politics, the best fighters not fighting each other, the public not getting what it deserves. So persuading eight of the 168lb division's brightest stars to sign up in the first place was a bona fide coup.
But there is no escaping the fact the idea was hamstrung from the very beginning by an unwieldy format. From first bell to last will have taken 26 gruelling months, the tournament meandering all over the globe, public interest waning further with each cancellation or withdrawal.
Froch is a heavy underdog for his bout with Ward in Atlantic City on Saturday. Photo: Getty
This is largely down to the decision to have the six participants fight on a round-robin basis in the early stages. This lack of immediacy - whereby a defeat for a fighter did not necessarily mean they were toast - meant the whole enterprise lacked drama and clarity, two properties the sport is crying out for.
Throw injury drop-outs into the mix (Mikkel Kessler, Jermain Taylor and Andre Dirrell), fighters consequently having to take bouts against opponents not locked into the tournament (Ward and Arthur Abraham) and the inevitable postponements, and you were left with a rather ramshackle affair. It certainly wasn't the slick, easy-to-follow product Showtime would have been hoping for.
Far better would have been an eight-man, knockout tournament - long-reigning IBF champion Lucian Bute was an eyebrow-raising omission - or, even better, a four-man tournament with both semi-finals staged on the same night at the same venue.
A four-man tournament consisting of the four major title-holders is boxing's Holy Grail, but that kind of talk is so outlandish it is liable to land you in a lunatic asylum.
Undefeated Romanian-Canadian Bute is the elephant in the room. So protracted has the tournament been that there are some who argue the winner of the Super Six might not even be the best super-middleweight out there and that Bute, who has defended his belt six times since the tournament began in October 2009, has a decent claim to that honorific crown.
Whether that is the case or not, it may be that the winner of Froch-Ward has to face Bute in 2012 in order to convince everyone he is unequivocally the main man at 12 stone, which some fans might argue renders the whole Super Six enterprise just a little bit pointless.
This view, however, ignores the fact the Super Six has produced some pretty decent entertainment - which is, lest we forget, what boxing is supposed to be about. Froch's domination of Abraham was a masterclass, his match with Kessler was compelling, while former Olympic champion Ward has looked like a budding superstar pretty much throughout.
I say 'budding', but Ward - who I expect to beat Froch quite handily on Saturday - ever blossoming into a break-out act seems unlikely. Despite his undoubted talent, Ward remains what he was before the tournament started: a low-key sportsman in what is still, regrettably, a fringe sport in his home country.
As for Froch, who has spent the last few years complaining bitterly he does not get the due he deserves, the fact he did not make the BBC Sports Personality shortlist tells you the kind of recognition the 34-year-old craves may never come, whether he beats Ward or not.
The Super Six cannot be trumpeted as a resounding success - although neither should it be written off as an unmitigated failure. Indeed, anyone involved in the make-up of the venture could be forgiven for responding to any criticism with an impassioned: "We tried, didn't we? Goddamnit, at least we did that..."