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Catching up with the Dirrell brothers: Part 1 - Andre Dirrell

H1_Andre_Dirrell_German.jpg
H1_Andre_Dirrell_German.jpg

By Allan Cerf


Two things immediately strike you when talking to Andre and Anthony  Dirrell, the fighting pride of Flint, Michigan. Well, three things – first off, how pleasant and friendly the brothers are.  Second, despite some crazy ups and downs that have sent lesser fighters into despair, self-pity or early retirement, the Dirrell’s remain calm and upbeat. Third – they are extremely determined that they will both become champions.

 

A wisp of regret?  Maybe, faintly. Anthony makes it clear that hyper-athletes, as this fighting duo unquestionably are, are an undoubted threat and yes, that’s played a role in other elite boxers not beating down their door.  Andre, on the other hand and with a sigh, says he obviously can’t reverse the highly questionable decision that went against him in his fight with England’s Carl Froch, a fight he – and others - are certain he won.  Displaying a lot of class, he praises Froch, and says his only regret is failing to get his hand raised on the night. 

 

But – just as Flint is “The Auto City,” Andre and Anthony are motoring on to the final chapter of their career and the certainty in their voices (as opposed to vulgar bragging) makes me think that, if the stars and the right fights align, they’re even money to do just that.

 

Like his younger brother Anthony, Andre Dirrell has been boxing since elementary school days in Flint, Michigan. He won 231 amateur bouts including a defeat of Gennady Golovkin which Golovkin avenged in a close fight in the 2004 Olympics which in turn, propelled the Kazakh to an eventual Gold Medal while Andre claimed bronze.  

 

Leaping ahead to his pro days - after the very tough loss to Froch, Andre roared back and was handily beating (then) undefeated Arthur Abraham, when Abraham hit him in the head following a slip, putting Dirrell’s career and for a time – his very well-being in doubt. Headaches and dizziness followed and Andre did not return to a boxing ring for well over a year and a half. Besides his loss to DeGale, which stalled his momentum, Andre’s profile hasn’t been quite as high post the Abraham fight.  However, he counts on Al Haymon getting him the right shots and then – no mistake, capitalizing on each and every fight still to come, to finally- make it to the top of the pile. 

 


Allan Cerf: Why have two of the most talented slickest, quickest, most mobile boxers in the sport had so few shots against big names?

 

Andre: I would love for that to be the case, but it’s definitely not...I can’t really give you an answer why we’re moving so slow...me and my wife just had this conversation actually. We know Al (Haymon) is a very busy man, but he has things in the works for us, but he has a whole stable of fighters and I just figure he’ll get to us when he can.  As far as these big fights yeah; I’ve only been in 2, 3, 4 and that definitely needs to start changing. It’s really a complex question because there’ so much involved.  I really do believe that will be a big change in the near future.

 

Allan: Andre, I’ve watched your fight against Froch a few times – watched it again, recently.  It’s hard for me to find enough rounds to give to Carl.  Do YOU think you did enough to deserve the decision?

 

Andre: He knows (Froch) I did enough to defeat him all those years ago.  That’s a fight he definitely regrets- I have none.  If anything I could have fought a little better picked my shots a little more, stood my ground a little more...but nevertheless that was a win for me and an easy one at that. He tried to make it rough with his tactics.  I know I did what I needed to get the victory, unfortunately it just didn’t go my way.

 

Allan: What do you think of Froch as a fighter?

 

Andre: He’s everything a fighter should be.  He has the attitude, he carries himself as a tough warrior - and that’s what he is, man!  I have nothing against Froch, I really don’t, he’s a hell of a fighter...he was always so hungry. I actually envy that because that was something I did want to carry...but unfortunately I’m just a nice guy. He (Froch) has that attitude and I do like that about Carl Froch.  The only thing I have regrets about, is the fact that the judge didn’t raise my hand that night - that’s all.

 

Allan: Is it the ‘politricks’ of boxing that’s keeping you and Anthony from big fights?

 (Long pause as Andre considers his answer)

 

Andre: It could be that, but it’s really positioning, man. I had my opportunity against James DeGale to reign supreme in the weight class; unfortunately he put me on my ass. I take nothing from that fight other than I let him drop me. I stood up entirely too tall and he just threw the perfect shot.  It really wasn’t even something he saw, he just threw the perfect shot.  I rallied back and I believe I could have got that victory or it could have been a draw.  Unfortunately, it turned out the way it did.  He went on and fought Badou Jack...you know he fought the big names after that - he did big things...that would have been me...most definitely and it will be me soon enough, but I think it was on my side… it wasn’t really too much politics ...it was pretty much being held up by mistakes. I let down Al Haymon and 50 Cent.  There are things along the way I wish I could change in my career but I cannot so I’m just moving forward as fast as possible and I believe I’ll be a huge success.

 

Allan: Both of you guys use a lot of side-to-side movement. Andre vs. Froch, you looked like an elite Olympic athlete or NFL wide receiver with incredible athleticism.  However, Froch felt that movement was beyond “hit and not get hit.”  Your response?

 

Andre: That’s an excuse.  (Froch complaining of excessive side-to-side movement.)  He (Froch) regrets everything about that fight. That was his toughest fight; the toughest fight of his career. He went in with high expectations for himself and he got nothing in return.  I literally out-classed him; to where he had to use dirty tactics, to make the fight controversial.  There’s no controversy with that fight, I won that fight fair and square.  He (Froch) can watch that fight, if you sat down with him, if the judges sat down with him, if we all sat together ...If I sat down with him...there’s no way he can go through that fight and tell me the rounds that he won.  There’s no way. I definitely outclassed him and as we go on you saw I hurt him in the 10th...it was a home-cooked meal.  It’s something he really regrets - he hates even thinking about that fight.

 

Allan: I thought you had him clearly hurt on a couple of occasions.

 

Andre: Most definitely I did. It’s something he really wants to put in the past.  I wonder if people bring that fight up to as much to him as they do to me. They bring it up to me all the time and it’s really something I want to let go.  I don’t think about that fight too much but if you want to take it back there.I definitely won that fight man, but there’s nothing I can do about it, so I just go on forward with my career.

 

Allan: Okay, we’ve talked about match-making.  What about crazy judge’s score cards?

 

Andre: Well honestly, that’s what makes a lot of these fights exciting.  The suspense is there, you can see a clear-cut decision and I can see something totally different.  A crazy score card for this opponent and then the opposite scorecard over there for this opponent and it comes down to the last judge the suspense is still going, so when that hand is raised you get a lot of excitement.  I’m not going to say that’s the only reason but that’s sport and that’s not just boxing- it goes on everywhere.   I can blame a lot of these judges but it would do me no good that’s just how the system is run, I hate it...but that’s how the system goes, comes with the territory, comes with the sport and I accept it as it is.  If we can do something about I’d love it, but if not - hey - that’s just the way it is!

 

Allan: Now what about poor refereeing, elbows, head-butts, etc?

 

Andre: It all depends how they’re used.  If anyone...I’d say Andre Ward used his elbows and at times a little holding...very wisely and nothing too extreme.  A few fighters do complain about it and that all comes with they’re grappling and pulling and holding and him just trying to find his range.  Nothing too threatening there.  One person and one person only that had an extreme use of the elbow and that was Mike Tyson.  When he threw it –that elbow would follow.  And yes, Floyd Mayweather used it successfully as well but that was all part of their tactics and I really couldn’t call if the judges should have taken points from them or not.  But as the sport goes as a whole - that could become a problem.  The judges definitely watch carefully how the elbows are used...and if it’s necessary then yes!  Most definitely...If it’s a blatant foul- just pay attention to that.

 

Allan: Michael Jordan said the 37-year-old version of him had a vertical which was 5 inches or so worse than his 29-year-old self.But he said the older version of himself would beat the younger Jordan one-on-one. You guy aren’t 37 but boxing is different than basketball. Do you think you’ve lost half a step or are you still at your physical prime?  If you’ve lost half a step, do you have so much experience you could still become undisputed champ if you only got the shots?

 

Andre:  I’m in my physical prime- in my mind!  I’m definitely where I need to be in my mind.  If I was 25 again, there’s no question about it I would reign supreme.  I’m not the 25-year-old that I was; I’m 34, now, that was 9 years ago.  But as far as my mind and my ability then I definitely think I could outclass the 25-year-old me. So I have to put that to use. I definitely will be the undisputed champion at 68 (168 pounds) moving on to 175 and I plan on doing this for a few more years, man.  I’m working on a great game plan right now. I have Jose Uzecategui next and I cannot wait to step in the ring with that guy. I believe the best is yet to come, whether I’m in my physical prime or not.

 

Allan: Thanks a million for the interview, I appreciate it!

 

Andre: You got it my man.  Appreciate you.

 

 



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