Last night, the Super Six World Boxing Classic again provided plenty of news, though again probably not exactly the sort of news that anyone involved really wanted.
So far almost every tournament fight has had a cloud hanging over it, though none consistent with the last. In the first fight on October 17, Arthur Abraham knocked out Jermain Taylor. It was clean and a big win for Abraham, but most of the focus was on Taylor, who was in bad shape and eventually dropped out of the tournament. No one really knows what Taylor's future in boxing is at this moment.
That same night, Carl Froch and Andre Dirrell engaged in one of the dirtiest fights of recent memory, with neither side putting on the "positive" performance that Froch was credited for by his supporters. And at the end of it, a large number of the people watching felt Dirrell was robbed of a decision win, even if they didn't particularly enjoy watching him fight that night.
Even the Ward-Kessler fight was, arguably, marred by Ward putting on an Evander Holyfield-level show with his tactics, though that fight doesn't quite qualify for the cloud factor because the focus was definitely on Ward's coming out as an elite pro boxer.
And last night, Dirrell put on a clinic against Abraham for most of the night, and in the 11th round, Abraham launched a vicious right hand while Dirrell was obviously on the mat, knocking him out and losing by disqualification.
Add all of this to the delayed fights of Stage Two (every fight has been moved at least one week, and one fight has been bumped back two months), and sadly I think you can say the Super Six has garnered as much iffy press as positive press. In three of four fights, the fight hasn't exactly been the focal point when all was said and done.
So let's look at the fight last night, or at least try to.
Dirrell's performance was in some ways reminiscent of Ward's against Kessler, at least in that he rather thoroughly dominated a world class European fighter on American soil, and in both cases, you'd have a decent enough point to note that the American referees may have played a part in that.
Not particularly in a negative manner, either, though Ward certainly got away with plenty of fouls and Laurence Cole was as bad as ever last night. In Kessler's case, he was faced with a referee who just wasn't giving him any help against Ward, which maybe he should have. But it's also the fighter's responsibility at that point to adjust to what's happening. Referees are human, the same as umpires with different strike zones and the referees in the Heat-Mavericks NBA Finals ... OK, bad example.
Still, Kessler didn't adjust, and never got himself into the fight. Last night, Abraham did his usual complaining about every borderline shot -- two actual low blows, and about seven straight-up body shots. Not that anyone does, but Arthur Abraham really doesn't like being hit to the body, and in Germany he's usually had referees who will stop the action and make sure he's OK to continue. Cole wasn't totally ignoring him all the time, but there was one clear point where Abraham went into his routine, stopped fighting, and Dirrell -- after hesitating for a moment -- went at him when it was clear that Cole wasn't going to rush over and tend to Arthur.
For those that might think I'm being a bit harsh on King Arthur here, I just see no other way to describe it. The man whines about body shots. He did it against Taylor and has done it against others. He did it last night. Either Arthur Abraham inexplicably is hit with more low blows than anyone I've ever seen, or his reproductive organs are exceptionally high on his body.
Otherwise, Dirrell did exactly what he was supposed to do. Those calling for the upset (and there were a lot of people who felt it was going to happen) pretty much mapped it out as it came, except it wasn't a DQ on paper. He boxed beautifully, used good lateral movement most of the time, and busted Arthur up. He also got away with some fouls -- his head played a part in Abraham's cut, for one thing, and that can't just be ignored as if it made no difference.
Dirrell also seemed to be tiring out toward the end of the fight, explained probably by how much energy he had to exert to build that big lead on Abraham. Would he have survived another five minutes? Maybe, maybe not. That's the thing that stinks second-most about the DQ: we looked like we could be in for a REALLY dramatic finish. Instead, we got a despicable DQ.
It has been pointed out that in the past, guys like Lajuan Simon and Elvin Ayala and even Jermain Taylor had some success with Abraham doing the things Dirrell did last night. The differences:
- Simon and Ayala aren't near Dirrell's level, meaning they could do the same things but not quite as well
- Taylor wasn't exactly the 100% prime Jermain Taylor when Abraham fought him, which is not to say Abraham's win wasn't legit or good (it was both), but that Taylor was also not on last night's Dirrell's level
Dirrell, at 6'2", towered over Abraham, who is generously listed most places at 5'10" and by Showtime at 5'9". He peppered him, moved around him, and sliced and diced him pretty damn effectively. Simply put, Arthur Abraham found himself in a fight that physically, he almost could not win if the other guy did his job right, and Dirrell was doing his job right for the vast majority of the fight. The height, the speed, the southpaw stance and the movement of Dirrell made Abraham fight all night like he usually fights the first three rounds, which is to say very tentatively.
Of course, those first three rounds for Arthur are historically him feeling out his opponent and looking for opportunities. It seems as though he stores them in his mind for later in the fight, waiting for those chances to arrive again, and generally, he takes advantage of them. Dirrell really didn't let him get into any kind of rhythm last night.
That's not to say Abraham never troubled Andre. He deserved a knockdown, in my estimation, because the punch that landed was sending Dirrell down with or without Abraham's foot being there, but that's a tough call to make, too. He also had Dirrell on the ropes and was firing away recklessly with monster shots. What happens there if Cole doesn't break the action? It was no doubt stupid of Dirrell to stay on the ropes, and I bet even he knew that. (I also think Dirrell was trying to prove his heart some last night, and I think he did in a lot of ways.) But Dirrell was avoiding shots pretty well, too. Would Abraham have done more to tire himself out than to hurt Dirrell there? No way to know now, of course.
This is not a case where I suddenly feel like Arthur Abraham is a bad fighter or that Andre Dirrell is the second coming. Styles make fights, and they sure as hell made this one. Abraham couldn't uncork the big shots much with Dirrell, and Andre used every single physical advantage he had, and used them all well. It was without question, by far the best performance of Andre Dirrell's pro career. It was probably Abraham's worst, but Dirrell made it that way. Both have their flaws as men inside the ring. Every fighter does.
When you break down the fight, it was very interesting, and I think taught us a lot more about Abraham than it did Dirrell. Anyone that had seen Dirrell fight a few times before this knew he had this sort of talent in him. It was always a question of his mental game, and of whether or not he'd have the guts to take some risks. He showed the guts last night, and Abraham found himself in a new position against a fighter a class above (at least) the other guys he's been fighting.
I hate the way this fight ended as much as anyone, and yes, the ugly DQ combined with Abraham's smug post-fight interview does make me think a bit less of King Arthur. But there was plenty to take from this besides the DQ. I think you can say that for both guys, the "styles make fights" thing rings true in almost every matchup. After this, I would never pick Abraham to beat Andre Ward (though he could beat him, sure), and I think we're starting to get a real grip on Dirrell as a pro fighter. Some guys he's going look spectacular against, some guys he's not going to look good at all. That's just the nature of his style and his fighting demeanor, I would say.
We move on now to ... Hopkins-Jones II. Oh, hell, can we keep talking about the DQ and Laurence Cole?