Unbeaten super middleweight Anthony Dirrell is recovering at Hurley Medical Center in his native Flint, Mich., from an estimated four-hour surgery to repair a broken bone in the “shin-area” of one of his legs following a Friday evening motorcycle accident, according to his uncle and co-trainer, Leon Lawson Jr.
“The surgery was completed at about 10 p.m. It took about four hours,” said Leon Lawson Jr. “It’s a little too early to talk about coming back, because it’s going to be a while.”
“Our whole family was there. About 15 of us. Brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, grandfather, grandmother,” said Leon Lawson Jr. “We’ve got a strong family of praying people around us. It’s a blessing that we still have him.”
Dirrell was injured when the motorcycle he was riding slammed into the side of a car, said Lawson Jr., adding that his nephew also suffered “a small fracture” in one of his hands.
“It happened here in Flint. Somebody pulled out in front of Anthony and he hit them and there was a motorcycle accident,” said Lawson Jr.
“His leg was broken and there was a fracture in his arm. Initially, he was in a lot of pain. They just passed a no-helmet law here, but fortunately, he had his helmet on.”
News of Anthony Dirrell’s injury first surfaced online following a tweet from Andre Ward, THE RING’s No. 5-rated pound-for-pound and super middleweight and WBA champ. A longtime friend of the Dirrell brothers, Ward’s tweet requested for the boxing community to pray for Anthony Dirrell in the wake of his accident.
“Andre and Anthony and Andre Ward, they came up together. Like [Ward's trainer,] Virgil Hunter, has said, they went to tournaments together in the amateurs,” said Leon Lawson Jr.
“That emotionally attaches you to your guys. So there’s a respect on all sides. There’s a mutual respect there between both camps.”
“Feeling very sick about the news I’ve received today. My little brother, Anthony Dirrell, has got into a motorcycle accident. I just got news that surgery went smoothly, but he’ll be out for six months,” wrote Andre Dirrell (20-1, 14 knockouts).
“I ask that you pray for him in this time of need. It’ll be a very hard time for him and I would love if his fans can keep him lifted! Though the WBC shot is off, I pray he can get through it mentally!”
The accident marks the second career setback for Anthony Dirrell, who 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.
Anthony Dirrell (24-0, 21 KOs) 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 said he was motivated to win a title after having survived cancer.
“I’ll be the first cancer survivor to become a champion. I’ve already done the research and looked it up. Definitely,” said Dirrell, in an earlier interview with RingTV.com
“There has never been a boxer who has come back from cancer and won a championship. So, you know, I just want to be the first boxer to do that.”
The latest development comes at a time when Dirrell had been named to face Nikola Sjekloca (24-0, 7 KOs), of Budva, Montenegro, for the WBC’s vacant belt.
The previous owner, Ward, had been declared the WBC’s “champion in recess,” stripping him of the belt he won by defeating England’s Carl Froch in December’s finals of Showtime’s Super Six Super Middleweight Classic.
Ward had apparently failed to make a mandatory defense of his crown against Anthony Dirrell.
“This comes when there was so much on the line for Anthony, so this was critical. It’s going to be a big disappointment for him. But he’ll get through it,” said Leon Lawson Jr.
“It’s just another setback. But when he does finally get his chance to get fight for the title and to win it, I think he’ll appreciate it a lot more after all that he’s been through.”
Dirrell is coming off a fourth-round stoppage of Canadian southpaw Renan St. Juste (23-3-1, 15 KOs) in a WBC elminator bout in December that made him that organization’s No. 1 contender to face Ward.
The 39-year-old St. Juste never had been stopped, had won two straight bouts, and was coming off an eight-round unanimous decision over Jaudiel Zepeda in July.
Dirrell-St. Juste ended in a knockout win midway through the fourth round, after St. Juste threw a wide right hand that hit Dirrell’s arm, causing his shoulder to visibly pop out.
St. Juste was forced to submit since he could no longer move his left arm, resulting in the stoppage win for Dirrell, who had been in full control throughout the bout.
A boxer-puncher, Anthony Dirrell entered the fight with St. Juste after having scored a second-round stoppage of Kevin Engel in July which represented his eighth straight knockout win.
Engel represented Dirrell’s second fight within a 20-day period and his fifth ring appearance within a 10-month stretch. Dirrell had stopped Dante Craig in the fifth round on July 2.
“We’re looking forward to his recovery, but we’re just happy that he has his life, and that’s all. That’s the main thing. It’s a blessing that we still have him,” said Leon Lawson Jr.
“There were actually two people who were in a motorcycle accident tonight…the other person didn’t make it…We would just like for everybody to keep us in their prayers.”
Photo courtesy of Anthony Dirrell
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org