Arthur Abraham returns to the ring Saturday against Andre Dirrell. (Photo by Howard Schatz / Showtime Boxing)
Before we get to the Abraham-Dirrell preview, I thought it'd be fun to analyze the last five fights of both men, who meet Saturday in Detroit, kicking off Stage Two of the Super Six World Boxing Classic. We'll start with Arthur Abraham.
Fight 1: Edison Miranda (W-TKO-4 / June 21, 2008)
Abraham and Miranda had met before, a very controversial fight from 2006 in Germany, where Abraham famously suffered a broken jaw, but fought through it to win a decision. What was controversial was the referee's performance, which seemed to many to be very heavily in favor of Abraham. To this day, that broken jaw fight has been the central reason that Miranda is considered a contender.
Though there are two sides to the story, Showtime needed an opponent for Miranda in June 2008, after Mikkel Kessler (then promoted by Mogens Palle) suddenly pulled out of a fight with the Colombian. So Abraham stepped in for a rematch, which a lot of folks wanted.
Abraham, as usual, started slow, feeling out the slugger, and then he unleashed hell on him and stopped him in four. When Arthur turned on the power, it was obvious that Miranda could not stand up to him. Do keep in mind this is a post-Pavlik Miranda, though, and that it's been obvious that Miranda has been a changed fighter since Kelly put that hellacious whooping on him. Still, Arthur sparked him bad the second time around.
Fight 2: Raul Marquez (W-RTD-6 / November 8, 2008)
Veteran Marquez didn't really deserve the title shot probably, but he earned it by outfoxing Giovanni Lorenzo in an IBF middleweight eliminator. The Mexican came to win, but Abraham's power discouraged him pretty quickly, and after six rounds, Marquez quit, and never returned to the ring. He's still working in boxing as an analyst.
Fight 3: Lajuan Simon (W-UD-12 / March 14, 2009)
Speaking of not deserving title shots...
For whatever reason, maybe because he knocks guys out and has proven to be really tough, Abraham never took the hardcore fan abuse that Felix Sturm did, though they were both holding middleweight titles and defending in Germany at the same time. When you really break it down, is Lajuan Simon much better a contender than the "bums" that Sturm was fighting? Abraham fought a lot of guys like this. Some had unbeaten fluff records, which Simon had, and which Sebastian Demers had, and Miranda wasn't much better than either of them the first time around, and he was undefeated too. Then there were guys like Elvin Ayala and Wayne Elcock. Shannan Taylor was coming off of a knockout loss to Raymond Joval.
In all candor, the best win of Abraham's career is Jermain Taylor, and if he beats Dirrell Saturday, it might be Dirrell.
Simon and Ayala both did some decent things against Abraham, things that Dirrell and his team might want to look at, but they were just overmatched at the end of the day. Neither are near as talented as Dirrell, either.
Fight 4: Mahir Oral (W-TKO-10 / June 27, 2009)
Here's another one. Showtime picked up this fight, which seemed both odd and surprising. Oral, like a lot of others, was game enough, but was way out of his league. Abraham beat him from pillar to post until it was mercifully stopped.
Fight 5: Jermain Taylor (W-KO-12 / October 17, 2009)
I think this KO is still fresh in the minds of most. Some people had Taylor closer on the cards than I did -- I thought it was a pretty easy Arthur win all things considered. Taylor looked to be in terrific shape and had an OK enough gameplan, but he can't take much of a shot anymore, so when the big right came in, it was over. But even before that, Jermain wasn't able to sufficiently bust down the wall that Arthur presents, which a few years ago, he might have been able to do. Like Miranda, Taylor undeniably became different after Kelly Pavlik knocked him out. He still fought well at times -- the Pavlik rematch, where he gassed but didn't fall, and most of the Froch fight until the determined Froch caught up with an again-exhausted JT, his rout of Jeff Lacy.
Overall: These five fights are a pretty nice representation of Abraham's entire career. He's at least a very good fighter, of that I have no doubt, but I think his resume sometimes gets a lot more credit, and hopefully with Oral and Simon here, plus a weathered Miranda, a loopy Taylor and an old Marquez, you can see he hasn't been tearing through his division.
But that is, obviously, unfair, and I know that. There wasn't much to fight at 160 -- neither he nor Pavlik were exactly clamoring to fight each other, no matter what either of them says. There was little incentive for either of them to travel for that fight. Pavlik would have been damn right to worry about fairness in Germany, and Abraham would have been damn right to worry about taking a lesser payday for a much harder fight in America. Abraham, at the least, rarely disappointed with his performances. Really, that's why he never took the hits Sturm did. He was more enjoyable to watch than Sturm, though they were doing essentially the same things at the same time.
There's not a ton here to prepare him for Dirrell's style, but I get the feeling the Abraham team is not worried about Dirrell's style. Taylor and Simon may have given Abraham the most similar looks to what Dirrell might have up his sleeve, but neither are all that similar.
Now, we move on to Andre Dirrell.
(Photo by John Gichigi / Getty Images)
Fight 1: Anthony Hanshaw (W-TKO-5 / May 2, 2008)
Hanshaw had just turned 30 at the time of this fight, and was one of those guys who was sort of a prospect at one point, got a brief moment near the sun, and then sort of lost it, and you could just kind of tell that was pretty much it. A lot of people forget that this isn't Showtime's first super middleweight tournament. There was that big, drawn-out Don King debacle that ended with a fight for the vacant IBO title. Hanshaw made it to the finals of that thing, and then drew with Jean Paul Mendy. More or less, neither ever really got any higher up the food chain. Hanshaw was picked as one of Roy Jones' gimme "look, I'm back!" opponents in July 2007, then took almost a year off before fighting Dirrell, who picked him apart.
Hanshaw was Dirrell's first credible opponent since the HBO Boxing After Dark debacle against Curtis Stevens, a fight Dirrell won handily but in the meantime, turned off every boxing fan watching him with his run-and-poke style. This was not the "running" that people accuse Floyd Mayweather Jr. of doing. This was real deal running. Dirrell had no intention of letting Stevens touch him.
Anyway, this fight and the next couple were kind of make-ups for that wretched performance. Dirrell needed to prove to TV people that he could be exciting, or at least not that bad. So he ripped Hanshaw, as he should have.
Fight 2: Mike Paschall (W-TKO-4 / August 2, 2008)
Paschall is nothing more than a journeyman club fighter sort, but he's got a lot of heart, and he showed it here. He was way out of his depth against Dirrell, but he tried damn hard to win the fight. Paschall gave Dirrell some real trouble early with aggression, but then Andre dropped him with a hard shot in the fourth, which also opened a nasty gash on Paschall's head. The fight was stopped due to the bad cut.
Fight 3: Victor Oganov (W-TKO-6 / November 1, 2008)
Oganov is slower than molasses and never had a chance. Dirrell slapped him around with authority and made easy work of him.
Fight 4: Derrick Findley (W-RTD-6 / March 28, 2009)
Mismatch, and a stay-busy fight more than anything. I doubt they were intending to stay out of the ring another seven months after this fight, but that's what happened.
Fight 5: Carl Froch (L-SD-12 / October 17, 2009)
I hate this fight. I really do. I hate talking about it, I hate watching it, I hate remembering it. Every time I talk about this fight, I say that I think Dirrell deserved the W and was robbed. And I do think that. But it also feels like I'm defending the right to free speech when it's hate speech being protected. All that, "I don't agree with it, but we have freedom of speech" stuff. We all know what this fight was like. It reminded me of Dirrell against Stevens, except he was dirtier, because Froch, unlike Stevens, was willing to rough Dirrell up when he got the chance, and Dirrell struck back with the tactics. It was just an awful, awful fight, and if you really think about it clearly, who do you "blame" for that? It's gotta be Dirrell. Froch is willing to get rough in there for sure, but he had been on a run with some really good fights. Dirrell was on a run of mismatches where he could do as he pleased. I "blame" Dirrell for how bad this was without question.
Overall: There's no Arthur Abraham here. Carl Froch is a good fighter, and a strong puncher, but Abraham is stronger, I'd say, and also far better defensively. The only advantage Froch might have is recklessness, which isn't generally an advantage, but against a guy like Dirrell can be. Froch's willingness to be hit and get wild may have been in Dirrell's head. Abraham has the reputation of being a double-tough guy, but really he doesn't "like" being hit any more than Dirrell does. He just defends it differently. Froch isn't near Abraham's level defensively, or as a thinking fighter. Froch is a bit of a kamikaze sort of guy, while Abraham is a sniper.