Anthony and Andre Dirrell will both be back in action tomorrow night in a PBC on Spike (9 pm EDT) tripleheader from Atlantic City's Trump Taj Mahal, facing a pair of opponents meant to be tune-ups as the super middleweight brothers look to stay sharp ahead of possible bigger fights this summer or fall.
Here's a look at the two matchups and the risks -- or lack thereof -- for both Dirrells. Oh, and we'll talk about the third fight on the show, a super bantamweight eliminator. That's also happening!
Andre Dirrell vs Blake Caparello
The way the card was originally announced, it seemed as though Anthony's fight would be in the de facto main event slot, but now it appears as though Andre's fight with former light heavyweight title challenger Caparello will go on last, at least judging by the web graphics over at the official Premier Boxing Champions web site, which lists Dirrell-Caparello over Dirrell-Truax. It doesn't really matter -- if there's ever been a situation where two fights are sharing the top billing, it's this show.
Record: 24-2 (16 KO) ... Streak: L1 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 8-2 ... Stance: Southpaw ... Height/Reach: 6'1" / 75" ... Age: 32
Thoughts: When you really examine Andre Dirrell's record, it's a little strange that he's been a fairly respected name in the sport as long as he has, because he's pretty short on true quality wins. His best official victory came against Arthur Abraham, a DQ back in 2010, after which Dirrell claimed a "brain injury" and missed the remainder of the Super Six World Boxing Classic (avoiding fighting friend Andre Ward) and then was out until December 2011.
That said, if you go back to 2009, you'll recall his awful fight with Carl Froch in the United Kingdom, which many felt Dirrell deserved to win -- well, as much as anyone really deserved to win. I scored it for Dirrell, and I know a lot of other people did, too. I thought he was fairly well robbed, actually. And it's weird to look back to that fight and see where their careers went after. Froch became one of the top and most respected fighters of his generation, and Dirrell's been sort of half-in since then.
Last time out, Andre lost a competitive fight to James DeGale in May 2015, where the vacant IBF belt was on the line. I've liked what I've seen of Andre Dirrell in the last couple of years, actually -- he really, truly seems like a different person than he did back in 2009-11, when I always thought he was a little skittish, a little nervy in the ring, and just had some mental things that seemed like they were blocking him from being as good as he could have been.
Sure, wins over Michael Gbenga, Vladine Biosse, Nick Brinson, and Derek Edwards don't exactly qualify one as a top fighter, but he has looked and even sounded more genuinely confident since 2013, at least to me. And he showed a lot of heart and determination against DeGale, coming off the canvas twice in the second round and taking DeGale to the distance, fighting him very tough all the way.
Record: 22-1-1 (6 KO) ... Streak: W3 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 9-1 ... Stance: Southpaw ... Height/Reach: 6'1½" / 74" ... Age: 29
Thoughts: Caparello's only loss came against Sergey Kovalev in 2014. Of course he lost that. He was always going to lose that fight. He was stopped in the second round, after he did, to be fair, score a legitimate flash knockdown in the opening round. That just seemed to wake Kovalev up, though, and the Aussie was down three times in round two.
Since then, he's won three straight, against limited opposition, all three fights back home in Australia. It's hard to pick out what Caparello's best win has been -- you could argue Allan Green in 2013, or Elvir Muriqi in 2014, but both guys were past their primes, and had never been serious world level contenders in the first place, though they had some nice nights. You could even argue for Caparello's 2012 win over Robert Berridge, who was undefeated at the time and at that moment, probably every bit as good as those latter days versions of Green and Muriqi.
But no matter what you'd pick for Blake's best win, it's not on the level of Andre Dirrell, and a Caparello victory here would be a true upset. Caparello is a capable enough fighter, but not a top-level fighter. Dirrell has top-level skills if not much by way of elite wins on his résumé. The expectation here is that Caparello will be overmatched.
Matchup Grade: C. It's understandable to want to get Andre into a winnable fight as he looks to shake off the rust and his last loss, plus he's been out of action for 11 months now. And they certainly could've picked someone worse than Caparello, so there's your glass half full take.
Anthony Dirrell vs Caleb Truax
Record: 28-1-1 (22 KO) ... Streak: W1 ... Last 5: 3-1-1 ... Last 10: 8-1-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 6'2½" / 73" ... Age: 31
Thoughts: Anthony, the younger Dirrell, won the WBC super middleweight title on his second try in August 2014 against Sakio Bika, after the two had fought to a draw in December 2013. It was his biggest win, easily. If you went back in time to 2007 or 2008 or so, you probably could've made a few bucks if you'd placed a bet that Anthony would beat Andre to a world title. (Andre still has not won one.) Andre was seen as the clear better prospect.
But for as much as I think mental stuff may have hampered Andre earlier in his career, at least at times, Anthony's never had that. He has cold eyes, like a shark. In fighting style, he's always been the more reckless of the two, Andre the technician. All in all, they're probably about equal, though to this day it seems like Andre has more skills. "Skills" don't get you everywhere.
Following his title loss to Badou Jack last April, Anthony returned in September to beat veteran Marco Antonio Rubio over 10 rounds, winning a shutout decision on all three cards. It was a solid bounce-back; Anthony didn't spend time licking his wounds or worrying that he lost. He got back out there, fought again, and got back in the win column.
Record: 26-2-2 (16 KO) ... Streak: W1 ... Last 5: 3-1-1 ... Last 10: 8-1-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 6'2½" / 73" ... Age: 32
Thoughts: Truax, like Caparello, is seen as the clear underdog here. And it makes sense. It's not being disrespectful, it's just that the Dirrells have long been pushed as contenders. Caparello and Truax, not so much.
But also like Caparello, Truax is a capable fighter, and if you put them head to head, I'd pick Truax, assuming he keeps the same form at 168 as he's shown over the years at 160. Truax's best wins have come over familiar club fighter types: Andy Kolle (which made Truax King of Minnesota Boxing in 2011), Michael Walker, Matt Vanda, Don George, Derek Ennis, etc.
His losses were, well, fights where he was supposed to lose. Getting stopped in the 12th round last April by Daniel Jacobs was no surprise. And his decision loss in 2012 against a returning Jermain Taylor was also no surprise, though Truax had Taylor down and hurt late in the fight, too.
At his best, Truax can be a little bit tricky, and a little tough to combat. But when Taylor was going good in their fight, he was a level above Truax. And Jacobs was, too. Plus, as mentioned, Truax is coming up in weight here, although he did fight at 168 earlier in his career and has the frame to do so. Of the two fights, I'd be less surprised with an upset here, because an off night from Anthony Dirrell could give Truax the sort of openings to win rounds and frustrate the favorite. But I don't expect an upset in either bout.
Matchup Grade: C. I like Truax as a fighter more than some might, so I'm not too down on this matchup. Of course, I'm also not remotely excited about it, either, so there's that. Again, pick glass half full or glass half empty. Half-full is that Truax is solid and that there could easily have been a worse opponent instead. Half-empty is that Dirrell is the obvious favorite and this is meant to be a showcase.
Jonathan Guzman vs Daniel Rosas
This is slated as the opener, an IBF eliminator at 122 pounds for the No. 2 slot in their rankings, and considering that belt will soon enough be vacant, most likely, that's important. Shingo Wake is currently the mandatory challenger and No. 1 ranked challenger. The winner of this fight could thus face Wake this summer or fall for the vacant belt.
Record: 20-0 (20 KO) ... Streak: W20 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'5½" / 66" ... Age: 26
Thoughts: Guzman, from the Dominican Republic, is the latest of Sampson Lewkowicz's international finds. He's the guy who "discovered" both Manny Pacquiao and Sergio Martinez, plus more recently Javier Fortuna, so, yeah, I mean, the guy has an eye for talent.
Guzman is a big puncher, as his record clearly indicates, and when we saw him last October against Danny Aquino, that was on display. Aquino almost went the full 10, getting stopped in the ninth round, and coming off the canvas twice in round two just to get there. Aquino is no world-beater, but he had "exposed" an undefeated prospect (Ryan Kielczewski) in his previous bout, and had never been stopped before. He also showed that, yes, he is very tough, and yes, Guzman hits very hard.
Guzman's record is otherwise pretty empty. He beat Christian Esquivel last May (RTD-5), so he's proven at least at that level, he's as good as he was when wiping out guys with 2-29 and 2-18 and 0-4-1 records before.
Record: 20-2-1 (12 KO) ... Streak: W3 ... Last 5: 3-2 ... Last 10: 8-2 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: NA / NA ... Age: 26
Thoughts: Nicknamed "Bad Boy," Rosas has been inserted into an eliminator because ... um. Hm. Well, he's won three straight. I mean, his opponents had records of 6-2, 12-4-1, and 9-6-1, but he has won three straight. Those came after losing back-to-back fights to Rodrigo Guerrero and Alejandro Hernandez, but, you know, he has won three straight.
It's almost like someone wants Guzman in that No. 2 spot. I don't know! I say crazy things.
Rosas did go on a solid little run between 2012 and 2013, though, following a draw at super flyweight against Jose Cabrera in 2011. He beat Fernando Vargas (the one that just lost to Jamie McDonnell), Enrique Bernache, Eduardo Garcia, Roberto Castaneda, and "Topo" Rosas over a five-fight streak. Not the greatest stuff in the world, but enough to think he was a guy worth paying some attention to, at least.
Guerrero, a volume puncher with decent but not exceptional power, stopped Rosas in the seventh round of their fight in 2014, so Rosas has been stopped before. Guzman's power and confidence should give him the upper hand here, and it's debatable whether or not Rosas is a new level of challenge for the Dominican, or if he's right on that same plane with Esquivel and Aquino.
Matchup Grade: C+. I'll give Rosas the slight benefit of the doubt here, and give this just over the average grade. But again, there's a clear favorite, and Rosas being in position for an eliminator is highly questionable in the first place.