Bad juju followed the World Boxing Classic to the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit last night when Arthur Abraham was disqualified in the 11th round for clobbering Andre Dirrell while Dirrell was on his knees in the opening bout of Group Stage 2 of the Super Six.
Dirrell earned two points in the tournament standings with the unsatisfying win. Abraham, with three points, remains at the top of the Super Six heap, but his position as tournament leader will be in jeopardy when Carl Froch and Andre Ward see action over the next few months.
It was a fine performance by Dirrell, 167.5, who abandoned his spoiling tactics in favor of handing out an efficient boxing lesson. Gone, for the most part, was the clutching, slapping, skittish fighter who appeared to be his own worst enemy against Carl Froch last October; in his place appeared a fluid stylist in command at almost every step. For the first six or seven rounds, in fact, the fight was merely QED for a boxer who entered the ring as a 2 to 1 shortender.
Abraham, 168, appeared out of sorts as soon as Dirrell began the fight with rapid fire combinations punctuated by thumping shots to the body. From the opening bell, Abraham resembled a somnambulist, plodding forward in a straight line behind his high guard, allowing Dirrell, 26, to do as he pleased. It is the rare prizefighter who declines an open invitation to go to town, and not even the often reluctant Dirrell nixed this opportunity. Jabs, quick one-twos, hooks, and hard body shots tattooed Abraham from both southpaw and orthodox stances. Abraham blocked many of the punches on his arms, but offered little firepower in return. While Dirrell racked up points – -and dug several hard shots into the ribs – Abraham merely plodded after “The Matrix” ineffectually.
Dirrell, now 19-1 (13), outboxed a mechanical Abraham nearly every step of the way, scoring a flash knockdown in round four with a snapping left hand after first setting Abraham up with his right forearm. From time to time Abraham would connect with a straight right, but his workrate, even for a fighter known for patience, was pitiful, and Dirrell was comfortable enough to don a smoking jacket and light up a pipe before a cozy fireplace over the first half of the fight. To add injury to insult, Abraham, 30, suffered a cut over the right eye in the 7th round that streamed rivulets for the rest of the night.
In the 10th round, Abraham appeared to be getting to Dirrell a little more and he even scored what appeared to be a knockdown with a straight right that dropped Dirrell on the seat of his pants. Laurence Cole, who will probably never win any “Employee of the Month” awards, ruled it a slip. Still, it showed that Abraham, despite his low punch output, might be honing in on the target. He continued to press and Dirrell began to scamper and hold more often.
A minute into the 11th, Dirrell, who has a proclivity for pratfalls in the ring, slipped in his own corner, and Abraham took the opportunity to land a hard, arcing right while Dirrell was on his knees, blissfully unaware of the warhead hurtling his way. The force of the blow sent Dirrell keeling over onto the edge of the ring apron in a bad way.
It was a deliberate foul and Cole disqualified Abraham, now 30-1 (25), immediately.
Ringside doctors rushed into the ring to attend to Dirrell, by now clearly orbiting another planet. He would be disoriented for several minutes to come; indeed, his postfight interview with Jim Gray revealed a man yet to regain his senses. It appeared that Dirrell, distraught, was under the mistaken impression that he had been knocked out. He was right, of course, but it was a KO of the dirty pool variety, and its force not only left him nearly delirious but also deprived him of the opportunity to celebrate what would most likely have been a virtuoso performance from wire to wire.