Andre Dirrell faces the toughest test of his stalled career when he swaps leather with super middleweight titleholder Carl Froch at the Trent FM Arena in Nottingham, England, in the first round of the Super Six World Boxing Championship.
There is a general feeling that Dirrell, Bronze medalist at the 2004 Olympics, does not belong in the ring with Froch and may not belong in the Super Six Tournament at all. Against a limited assortment of odds and ends, Dirrell, 18-0 (13), has looked anywhere from mediocre to promising. He has an abundance of natural talent and the kind of athleticism that can make ordinary pugs look like Tough Man contestants. Unfortunately, Dirrell has fought nothing but ordinary pugs since turning pro in 2005.
Froch, 25-0 (20), made a name for himself in America by stopping Jermain Taylor in the waning seconds of a nifty slugfest, but his style is one that Dirrell, in theory, should be able to exploit. He is slow, clumsy, and easy to hit, particularly with overhand rights. Every now and then Froch looks so artless in the ring that one has to remind himself that this is an undefeated prizefighter ranked near the top of his weight class. Dave Oakes, who covers the U.K. scene for The Boxing Bulletin sums Froch up in a nutshell: “He holds his hands too low for my liking, is one paced and doesn’t use his jab often enough. His strengths are his punch power, solid chin and great stamina. It’s also worth noting that his punch power is equally impressive late on in fights as it is early on, he seems to be able to retain his punch power for the full twelve rounds.” His unorthodox style is meant, perhaps, to be flashy, but Froch lacks the speed and reflexes
to carry it off and often looks like a dropout from the Brendan Ingle School of Tomfoolery. Compared to Dirrell, who practically soars around the ring, Froch resembles a crippled auk.
Brash, confident, and witty, Dirrell views Froch as the perfect foil. He will most likely look to keep Froch off-balance with movement and by alternating between southpaw and orthodox stances. With his fast hands and footloose style, Dirrell, 27, can probably frustrate Froch early in the fight and, like Jermain Taylor, land plenty of shots along the way. Dirrell is not nearly as big a puncher as Taylor is, however, and it is difficult to see him stopping Froch, a sturdy fighter who took flush shots from Brian Magee, Jean Pascal, and Taylor without crumbling.
For his part, Froch, whose demeanor often resembles a character from an Angry Young Man play, believes that Dirrell is in over his head. He may be right. In addition to facing his toughest opponent to date, Dirrell will be fighting in only his second scheduled 12-rounder and will be doing so on the road. Intangibles may be the key to this fight. In that case, Froch is a cut or two above Dirrell. He has proven his endurance, heart, chin, and determination several times over the last few years and has faced a good mix of styles and opponents. In contrast, as recently as 2008 Dirrell, Flint, Michigan, was facing the likes of Shannon Miller, 23-38-8. Less determined fighters than Froch have rattled Dirrell, most notably Anthony Hanshaw and Alfonso Rocha, and Dirrell has looked uncomfortable in several bouts when pressured against the ropes. At times his habit of leaning away from punches leaves him vulnerable, and too often his herky-jerky movement
seems to lack purpose. Not nearly as strong or as experienced as Froch, Dirrell will have to use his ring smarts to keep the fight at a distance.
In the end, only two scenarios seem likely. Either Froch, 32, will grind Dirrell down over the course of nine or ten rounds or Dirrell will win a monotonous footrace and cop a close decision. Oakes leans toward the former. “I don’t think the fight is a mismatch,” he said, “but I’m in agreement with the majority of British writers in thinking Froch will get the job done inside the distance. I believe Dirrell’s movement will cause Froch a few problems in the first three or four rounds but Froch will eventually start to close the distance down quicker and will take over from the midway point. I’ve also got doubts as to how well Dirrell takes a shot; we’ve seen him hurt before by a lot lighter punchers than Froch, that’s got to be a worry for Dirrell and his team.”
But Dirrell may not open up enough to have his chin seriously tested more than once or twice over twelve rounds. With at least two more big paychecks guaranteed by the tournament structure, Dirrell has a safety net in case he decides to stink out the joint in Nottingham. There is a good chance that he will try and that Froch will be a step or two behind early in the fight as Dirrell jabs and potshots from the outside. Then Dirrell will try to hold off a surging Froch, a superfit boxer, to hear the final bell. On paper, at least, it looks like a bad style matchup for the Englishman. Whether Dirrell has the chin, stamina, and heart to win is another matter. It will be up to Froch to find out. Dirrell, without confidence, in a close decision.