By Hans Olson
“100%. I’m ready to get in there and start fighting now.”
Andre Dirrell is ready to go.
It’s been a long time since “The Matrix” has been inside the squared circle.
“I haven’t fought in 18, 19 months man, so I’m really pumped up about it,” said Dirrell to Boxing Insider on Monday. “I’m really focused in on what I gotta do. And I’m more focused on my showing more than anything…my performance more than anything man.”
When we last saw Andre Dirrell, he was giving a boxing clinic to “King” Arthur Abraham at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit in March of 2010. After a cheap shot from Abraham disqualified the German, Dirrell got the W. Unfortunately, the punch that earned him the DQ win, was also one that has sidelined him for the better part of two years. Friday night on Showtime, Dirrell returns to the ring, taking on fellow Michigan native Darryl Cunningham in a scheduled 10-rounder. After so much time off, can Dirrell retain the same form that saw him compete so competitively with the division’s best?
“I know that you can rust when you sit out longer than usual, so I’m kinda expecting that,” continued Andre. “But above all, I put in the hard work. Man…I’ve trained to perfection. I believe I will fight to the best of my abilities but, you know I’m just hoping it’s good enough to move on to that next…back up to that elite level, that championship level. I’ve been training at an elite level and I’ve been working hard. My mind’s been there the whole time, so I’m really expecting big things from myself as well, you know, a great performance from myself as well. So I’m hoping to give you guys one—just an all out A+ performance.”
Darryl Cunningham is a southpaw, and one had been handpicked by Kelly Pavlik and team for a tune-up fight to a potential clash with the division’s best—southpaw Lucian Bute.
This was just a few months back. Everyone knows the story from there. Pavlik pulled out of the fight, killing the Bute payday; one that would be earned by Glen Johnson—albeit one ultimately in defeat.
I asked Andre if choosing Cunningham as an opponent was intended for him too, as a tune-up for IBF champ Lucian Bute.
“That wasn’t my shooting…I wasn’t shooting for that off top, but he’s there, so yes, I want him as well man,” said Dirrell. “He’s a protected fighter. He’s a champion, no doubt. He has great hand-speed, he has great foot-speed—he’s a good boxer. But we all know he’s in there with B and C+ fighters. You know, he has not been in that ring with tough competition.”
Andre Dirrell feels he is the tough competition that Bute, and the rest of the division will need to be wary of in the coming year.
“Just explode in 2012,” said Dirrell when asked about his upcoming goals. “I want my name to ring out like it’s never rung out before. You know, this is a warm-up fight. This is going to push me to the beginning of the year with my name being back out there, so I’m going for the big dogs man, whoever that may be. I’m just working hard hoping to get my shot. So whoever that may be, I’m not backing down from no one.”
The only questions for Dirrell are that of the lingering injuries reported from his bout with Abraham. Ironically, Arthur Abraham had knocked out Friday’s headliner, Jermain Taylor, in Showtime’s first bout of the Super Six’s group stage. Acknowledging the recent struggles of many pro football and hockey players, I asked Andre about his thoughts on his injury, the recovery, and how he feels going into Friday’s bout.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s gone and done with, you know,” stated Dirrell. “I don’t pay attention anymore. I’ve been cleared, so it’s time to fight man. I’m not worried about any problems. I’m not worried about anything happening. You know, I’m just worried about my performance above all. I’ve been sparring, I’ve been pretty sharp sparring, and I’m working hard like I’ve said. That’s pretty much behind me. I’m not even worried about that anymore.”
With a clear bill of health, Andre Dirrell is ready, and without worry.
With a dynamic showing this week—worrying, is what many in the loaded Super Middleweight division may start to do.