When unbeaten super middleweight Anthony Dirrell enters the ring to fight Kevin Engel tonight in Cabazon, Calif., on ESPN2, the 26-year-old resident of Flint, Mich., will be after his eighth consecutive knockout.
In addition, Dirrell (22-0, 19 knockouts) will be in his second fight in just 20 days and his fifth in the past 10 months. Dirrell is coming off of a fifth-round knockout of Dante Craig on July 2.
"I just want to stay active,” Dirrell said. “Back in the day, the throw-back fighters used to do it all of the time. So this is just a really important pace for me to be fighting at to sort of get my flow back. But it's definitely requiring a lot of hard work and dedication, man, and it requires really paying attention to what my coaches and my team says. But I'm definitely ready for this fight."
Engel (18-4, 15 KOs), a 31-year-old from St. Louis, has lost two of his past three bouts, the last being a third-round knockout against once-beaten Marcus Johnson in November.
"This next guy is a little bit higher of opposition than the last guy," Dirrell said. "But given the fact that I really want to get my name back out there, this is the kind of pace that it's going to take for me to get there."
Anthony Dirrell is the younger brother of super middleweight contender Andre Dirrell, an Olympic bronze medalist who is more widely known than he is.
The last time Andre Dirrell was in the ring was against Arthur Abraham in March of 2010. That bout ended in controversy when Abraham punches Dirrell while he was down in the 11th round and was disqualified.
According to their uncle and co-trainer, Leon Lawson Jr., doctors say Andre Dirrell has fully recovered from head trauma his camp says he suffered against Abraham. He is slated for a late August comeback bout opposite Sebastian Demers in Oakland, Calif.
Demers, a Canadian, has been stopped in the second and third rounds of his past two fights against Renan St. Juste and Brian Vera. Demers was also stopped in the third round by Abraham in 2007.
While Andre Dirrell plans to continue campaigning at super middleweight, Anthony plans to drop into the middleweight ranks in order to pursue a title there.
"Me and my brother were talking the other day, and he said that I should just move down to 160. I have to do some more thinking about it, but that sounds like a good plan to me," Anthony Dirrell said.
"That way, he can get all of the super middleweight belts, and I can get all of the belts at middleweight. Then, you know, maybe he can move up to light heavyweight, and I'll move up to super middleweight."
Although Anthony Dirrell never has entered the ring for a fight at a weight lower than 164½ pounds, he said that he does not think it will be too difficult to make the 160-pound middleweight limit.
The brothers have discussed the move during their mutual workouts together with Lawson Jr., who trains the siblings along with their grandfather, Leon Lawson Sr.
"I know how my brother feels about it, but we'll sit down as a team and we'll talk about it and go from there,” Anthony Dirrell said. “But I really don't walk around naturally weighing that much that I can't get down to middleweight fairly easily.
"I'd say that my highest is around 175 pounds, one 178 pounds. I always stay in decent enough shape to where stay at decent level to get my weight down so that it doesn't have to happen all at once during camp."
A boxer-puncher, Dirrell returned to the ring in October of 2008 from a 26-month ring absence that resulted from a 2007 diagnosis of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He was diagnosed shortly after he stopped James Hopkins in December 2006 and didn’t return to the ring until October 2008, when he decisioned Andy Mavros over four rounds.
Dirrell went on a roll from there, his third-round knockout of Daryl Salmon last October coming on the day after his 26th birthday. Salmon also marked Dirrell's fifth straight stoppage in eight consecutive wins since returning against Mavros from the cancer scare.
"I thank God every day for getting me through all of those trials and tribulations in life and for allowing me to get back to what I want to do,” said Dirrell, who is in remission. “I really thank my family and close friends for sticking by me and supporting me through all of that.
"This is what I love to do. I am here to do what I love for the people that I love. I was really the first person in my family to have cancer, and to experience that at such a young age, you know, you just realize that you have to enjoy every day that you're alive and take life as it comes. Overall, it just made me a stronger and better person."