Andre Dirrell says he had a “sense of déjà vu” as he left his dressing room to fight Carl Froch in Group Stage 1 of Showtime’s Super Six Boxing Classic last October.
The fight, which Dirrell lost by a close split decision, took place in Froch’s hometown of Nottingham, England, and the local crowd lustily booed the fleet-footed Flint, Mich., native before and during the bout.
Dirrell, an amateur standout who won a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics, was used to boxing in front of hostile crowds.
“Any time the American team traveled to other countries we were booed by the fans, especially during the Olympics; man, those crowds hated us,” said Dirrell, who fights Arthur Abraham this Saturday in Group Stage 2 of Showtime’s unique 168-pound tournament. “Fighting Froch in his hometown was like a flashback to the Olympics.”
However, nothing from Dirrell’s amateur career prepared him for the roughhouse tactics that the rugged titleholder employed during their often ugly 12-round affair. Froch literally mugged Dirrell, who believes that his defensive boxing and accurate counter punching were often ignored by judges who gave the belt holder too much credit for ineffective aggression.
“I thought I won the fight,” Dirrell said. “I felt fantastic the whole time. I did what I wanted to do, and Froch couldn’t touch me. He had to fight dirty just to compete.”
But Dirrell’s first pro loss was a learning experience that the 26-year-old southpaw believes will prevent him from feeling a déjà vu sensation when the scorecards are read for his 12-round bout against Abraham, should the fight go the distance.
“Now I know what it’s like to try and take the belt from a champion,” said Dirrell (18-1, 13 knockouts). “I learned against Froch that you can’t have close fights in this day and age. I’ve learned that pro boxing is about finishing strong. It’s not about getting by on just skill. It’s about showing your opponent and showing the judges that you are there, that you‘re for real.”
After an intense nine-week camp in Las Vegas, Dirrell is confident that he’ll show Abraham (31-0, 25 KOs) that he’s for real. But he also acknowledges that the powerful Germany-based Armenian is probably a tougher assignment than Froch.
“They’re both pressure fighters but they’re different,” Dirrell said. “Abraham is more controlled. He’s not wild or sloppy like Froch, who just jumps in on you from a mile away. Abraham is also more explosive. He’s quick and sneaky and strong with both hands, so you have to be careful with him.”
Of course, Dirrell has learned that if he’s too careful, he can give up close rounds, as he did in the Froch fight. That’s something he has vowed not to do against Abraham.
“At times during the fight Abraham will lay back behind that high guard of his and watch what I do,” Dirrell said of THE RING’s No. 6-rated super middleweight and the current points leader in the Super Six. “He tries to lull you to sleep and then jump on you. I can‘t drop my activity when he does that, and once he’s aggressive, that’s when I have to jump on him.
“It won’t be one sided as far as aggression goes. I know I have to show that I want it just as bad he does. He’s undefeated. He’s a former middleweight champ. I have to see him as a champ because people, including the judges, probably see him as a champ, and sometimes that effects how a fight is scored.”
If Dirrell loses on points, at least it won’t be a hometown decision. Saturday’s fight takes place at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. It’s only the second time Dirrell has fought in his home state as a pro, and he says it will be a welcome change of scenery.
“The fight being in Michigan brings more confidence and motivation for me,” he said. “I’m proud to bring an event like this to Detroit, which hasn’t had any big fights in a long time. Bringing it here is something monumental.
“Abraham is a big shot from Europe. He’s undefeated. He’s the favorite. He’s a knockout artist. There’s a lot of anticipation about this fight. I’m anticipating this fight more than anyone because it‘s my opportunity to show the world that I learn from my mistakes and that I‘m all about perfecting my craft.”