No more games: Flint’s Andre Dirrell is ready to make his return to boxing

February 14, 2011

Super Middeweight Arthur Abraham, left, received a standing eight count after this knock down by Andre Dirrell in the seventh round of the Super Six World Boxing Classic at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday, March 27, 2010 in Detroit.

By Eric Woodyard | The Flint Journal

FLINT, Michigan — Andre Dirrell was putting on a picture-perfect boxing performance.

For 11 rounds, the Flint native’s speed and elusiveness were brilliantly displayed against Arthur Abraham in front of his hometown fans at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit last spring.

He was less than six minutes away from giving Abraham his first professional loss while also redeeming himself from a controversial split decision he took overseas at the expense of Carl Froch.

Abraham had other plans.

Brewing with frustration, Abraham clocked Dirrell with a solid right-hand hook with 1:13 remaining in the round. The problem was, Dirrell had clearly slipped and fell to his knee. The punched caught him off guard and knocked him completely out. Dirrell was awarded the win because of Abraham’s illegal punch, but it would have long-lasting effects.

“(Abraham) knew what he was doing when he hit me. He knew I totally dominated,” Dirrell said. “He knew I exposed him and I caught him for the fraud that he is. He’s a paper champion and I proved it when I put my hands on him.”

That fight took place on March 27, 2010 and Dirrell (19-1) hasn’t entered the ring since. All negotiations to fight his close friend and 2004 Olympic teammate, Andre Ward, crashed in October when Dirrell was diagnosed with neurological problems that were caused from Abraham’s illegal shot. He also dropped out of Showtime’s Super Six World Boxing Classic with his career in jeopardy.

“It was quite a setback, but it just wasn’t a big setback because I’m just looking out for my career,” Dirrell said.

He first noticed the neurological symptoms while preparing to take on Ward. Dirrell often felt light-headed, dizzy, and complained of not being able to sleep at times. His grandfather and longtime trainer, Leon “Bumper” Lawson, who never cuts him any slack, recognized a difference, as well. Lawson observed Dirrell’s slower foot speed in workouts before deciding to direct his grandson to a neurologist.

Dirrell, 27, was ruled out of action for three months. He wouldn’t be cleared to box again unless there was no evidence of the injury throughout that time frame.

“If the doctor hadn’t said that he wasn’t able to continue boxing I wouldn’t have let him anyway,” Lawson said. “Because I would like to know where he’s at after being knocked out, and I would have him fight less competitive fighters.”

The good news is that Dirrell was cleared to return to the sport last Tuesday. The bad news is that most fans believe he ducked Ward for a bigger payday in the future. Whatever the case may be, Dirrell doesn’t let it get to him too much.

“People crack jokes about it, people say that I’m faking. Haters are gonna be haters but I’m loving it because honestly I have three to four to five times as many fans as I do haters,” Dirrell laughed. “You got to take the good with the bad, but it just really motivates me, so when I hear it, it doesn’t bother me.”

Dirrell plans to make his much-anticipated return within the next three to four months. He’s currently training in Deerfield Beach, Fla., while searching for a tune-up opponent to help shake off his ring rust. In Flint, it was hard for him to consistently find the ambition necessary to reach his peak. The cold weather and snow weren’t the preferable conditions to help him hone his craft.

He hopes to take Lucian Bute’s International Boxing Federation super middleweight title before the end of the year. Bute hails from Romania and has a perfect record in 27 bouts with 22 wins coming off of knockouts.

Dirrell’s camp feels like there shouldn’t be a controversy about whether or not he wants to battle Ward. The two have been pitted against each other since their careers first began. Their only concerns is that the conditions are ideal for both parties.

“I don’t want to add skepticism, because if this wouldn’t have happened with Abraham then I would be fighting Andre Ward. People want to see the fight, but they just won’t see it when they want to see it. But it will come,” Dirrell declared. “I cant wait, I know he can’t wait and that’s definitely going to put a stamp on who’s the best, and I’m ready to get in there and show the people what’s up.

“But they’ll just have to wait.”

Last year’s layoff has been Dirrell’s longest since he first picked up a pair of gloves nearly 17 years ago. During that break, however, he married his high school sweetheart, Alaia, and the two are expecting their third child, a boy, in June.

It’s just too bad that Alaia had to compete for her husband’s attention with his favorite pastime besides boxing: Video games.

“That’s his mistress at night time,” Alaia joked. “He’ll do his training and he’s very oriented when it comes to the kids, but on top of that he (loves) that game.”

It’s true that he may have been spending over 20 hours of his week enjoying “Call of Duty: Black Ops,” but Dirrell still insists he will be better this time around.

“You definitely can look for a more determined, more focused Andre Dirrell,” he said. “My family has been great but I just want to get back in that ring.

“I don’t like sitting out this long.”


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