Photos by Sumio Yamada
CARL FROCH vs ANDRE DIRRELL
There are fight analysts who wait until the last minute before making up their minds as to who will win. ... They compare styles and pore over records. ... They weigh tangibles and intangibles. They reach an opinion after being gnawed by doubts and nagged by uncertainties.
Those words were written by a New York Times sports columnist named Arthur Daley in 1954, and they reached out to me across the years because I have been weighed down by doubts and uncertainties while trying to formulate an opinion on Saturdays Super Six fight between Carl Froch and Andre Dirrell, which will be televised live on Showtime from Nottingham in the English midlands (starting time is around 2 a.m. on Sunday in the U.K.).
This intriguing fight, which will be for Frochs WBC super middleweight title, pits two undefeated fighters against each other.
Froch will have the backing of a packed, roaring hometown crowd. He is seen as the stronger, tougher, heavier handed and more battle-tested of the two men.
Dirrell, a U.S. Olympic bronze medallist, is a southpaw with a switch-hitting method, and he is fast, flashy, athletic, naturally gifted and quite a good hitter himself.
Froch showed he has the stuff to come through in tough fights against boxers of world-championship calibre in his wins over Jean Pascal and Jermain Taylor. With Dirrell, we just dont know to what heights he can rise because he has never been involved in what some might call a gut-check type of fight. Maybe he will wilt under the sort of pressure that Froch will be exerting, or perhaps he will scale the heights with a performance of breathtaking excellence. No one can be sure about Dirrell, one way or the other I know Im not.
There seems to be a bit of bad feeling between the boxers, with Froch apparently taking offence at the stream of derogatory comments supposedly emanating from the challenger. I suspect that many of these provocative quotes were, shall we say, suggested by the Dirrell camps ace publicist, Fred Sternberg, who has as usual done his job in helping to keep the pot boiling in the weeks leading up to the fight.
Froch says he is going to teach Dirrell a lesson by hunting him down and destroying him, but the challenger from Flint, MI, seems not one whit unnerved and told the British fighter: Its over! when they exchanged heated words at a media gathering this week.
Dirrell's confidence seems genuine, but unbeaten American fighters have not always held up well under pressure on meeting a more experienced British champion on their opponents home turf.
British colleagues tell me that Jeff Lacy was looking edgy and unsure in the last few days before his bout with Joe Calzaghe as he sensed the British fighters tremendous confidence. Glyn Leach, editor of Boxing Monthly , told me he saw a noticeable change in Gerald McClellans originally arrogant attitude when the ill-fated big hitter had his first face-to-face meeting with a ready-to-fight Nigel Benn, while a big, fiercely partisan crowd outdoors in Glasgow and Jim Watts solid professionalism were too much of a one-two punch for Olympic gold medallist Howard Davis Jr. to handle.
I have not sensed any faltering of resolve on Dirrells part. He seems, to me, to be a young man who feels his moment of destiny has arrived.
Dirrell demonstrated character and a fighters instinct when, dropped by a heavy right hand from a boxer named Alfonso Rocha in the third round of his seventh bout, he rallied to inflict damage in the next round, bringing blood gushing from Rochas nose, before going on to pound out a unanimous decision win.
There was a shaky moment for Dirrell, too, in the opening round of his bout with Anthony Hanshaw, a former top-calibre amateur. Dirrell seemed to have been dropped although the referee ruled a slip but he rallied to demolish his man in five rounds. I consider this to be Dirrells most impressive performance because in his last bout Hanshaw had given Roy Jones Jr. a much more competitive bout than suggested by a couple of wide scorecards from the Mississippi judges.
So, we know Dirrell can go down, but we also know that he can fight back brilliantly after visiting the canvas.
Froch showed he, too, can get up to win when he came back from the first knockdown of his career to outlast and overpower Jermain Taylor in the 12th round last April.
There is an almost frightening intensity about Froch, who is dangerous from first bell to last he is a fighter who will never give up trying to hurt his opponent no matter how badly the fight might seem to be going.
Froch can be hit somewhat easily, though, with his hands down, at times recklessly aggressive style. Dirrell isnt considered a huge hitter but he carries respectable power in his left hand. I consider Froch to be the puncher in the fight, but Dirrell can make the British boxer pay a price for marching straight ahead.
The fight with Taylor showed Frochs strength, power, toughness, tenacity and will to win. It also showed that a fast, sharp boxer can hit him and get away before Froch can reply. I think we can all agree that Dirrell is fast and sharp. He will be looking to hit Froch and not wait for the receipt. If Dirrell can keep doing this, without running into a big punch, he can put himself into a position of ascendancy.
Dirrells technique can be faulted, a certain lack of smoothness, maybe, a tendency to paw with the right hand, but his speed and athleticism lets him get away with it.
I keep thinking back to Frochs fight with Taylor and how the American boxer seemed able to land punches whenever he wanted. I do accept that Froch went into that fight less than 100 per cent physically after suffering an ankle injury that disrupted his training and then struggling to get over jet lag, and he has admitted that he felt some anxiety in his first big-time U.S. TV fight. I believe that Froch is a better fighter than he seemed to be against Taylor. However, the way Froch was getting hit has to be troubling to his supporters. On Saturday night (early Sunday in Britain) he will be in the ring with a big, super-quick, unorthodox and, I believe, dangerous opponent. Dirrell is just the type of fighter, I feel, who can give Froch a desperately difficult evening.
Froch was helped enormously in the fight with Taylor by the American boxers late-rounds weariness. Dirrell trained for this fight at high altitude at Big Bear Mountain in California, he is probably in the finest condition he has ever been in, and I dont see him as the type who will run out of gas the way that Taylor did. I do think that Dirrell will have moments of crisis in this fight, but I think he can come through them. I can see Dirrell frustrating Froch, hitting and not getting hit, and freewheeling his way to an upset win on points.