By Hans Olson
This Saturday March 27th, Showtime’s Super Six World Boxing Classic resumes with an excellent fight to kick off group stage 2, a fight that very well could be the most important of all the group stage fights. Not only is the fight important in relation to how it shapes up the tournament, but it is a vital crossroads fight for the career of Andre Dirrell. It sounds foolish to put a talented fighter’s incredibly young career in that context, but perception in boxing is everything. No longer do the press clippings boast a shiny 0 on the right side of Dirrell’s record. No longer is the perception of Dirrell that of a defensive mastermind, but of a running non-fighter. This can change. A definitive performance against unbeaten knockout artist Arthur Abraham will go a long way in a short amount of time to do that.
In the Froch fight, Dirrell clearly had a game plan, and he stuck by it. The problem was his execution of said game plan. Often times fighters aren’t given the proper credit they deserve when it relates to an effective strategy. The best way to evaluate that performance is by viewing the intent plus execution. Dirrell’s intention was to stay away from the dangerous punching Froch, frustrate him with movement and holds, find his spots, and try to break him down. It backfired. Every time Dirrell ran, judges and observers saw this instead as Froch scoring for effective aggression. It was tough for Froch to get to Dirrell cleanly, but Froch showed brilliant ring generalship turning an ugly fight into what it was and would become: an even uglier fight. One understated analysis is Froch’s amazing mental capacity to channel the flow of the fight however it is going into his favor. He did this in both the Pascal and Taylor fights, and continued this against Dirrell. Consequently, when Dirrell was beating the slower Froch to the punch early on, he had the opportunity to turn it into his fight and he didn’t capitalize. Though many felt Froch got a hometown decision, I’m not one of those people. Froch deservedly won the decision and moves on with 2 points.
This brings us to an interesting problem for Andre Dirrell. He has now had the luxury of time to view his performance against Froch to take away the positives and work on the negatives. The problem is he’ll have to take what he did with Froch and refine it against a guy that nobody has seemed to figure out. Abraham’s peek-a-boo defense is only offset by his brutal shots he gives out. The German by way of Armenia can also take a punch, as he has one of the best chins around. A loss for Dirrell is simply not an option, and his game plan should employ that. A win by decision would seem very attainable and change the entire direction of the tournament, one which Abraham already has a sizeable lead with 3 points to his favor. A knockout by either fighter would send a message not only to the tournament, but to the division and boxing in general.
The fight hasn’t been without boxing’s typical unpredictability. Originally set to air on March 6th in California, Dirrell pulled out due to an injury during training camp. Despite these and other setbakcs, Abraham has been a consummate professional, not complaining, not making excuses. He had already set up camp in California for weeks before having to pack up and head back to Germany due to the delay. It was roughly a week ago that he touched down in Detroit to acclimate himself to the surroundings leading up to the fight. Just this week came more drama due to the judges and referee all allegedly calling the state of Michigan home. With all signs pointing to trouble, the statement from Abraham’s camp was of sharp clarity: he needs a knockout. If Abraham shows his will to simplify, business as usual. Dirrell just needs a win. Either can happen…which is why we love boxing.
— On Thu, 1/21/10, Justin Basch
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