An upset could be on the cards when Showtime TV´s Super Six World Boxing Classic resumes on Saturday night in the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan.
The tournament´s joint favorite, German based Armenian Arthur Abraham meets Michigan´s own Andre Dirrell in the opening fight in the second stage of round-robin bouts. Abraham won his first fight with a devastating twelfth round knockout of Jermain Taylor last October in Berlin. Taylor has subsequently withdrawn for the World Boxing Classic, replaced by American Allan Green.
Dirrell lost his first fight on a controversial split decision against Britain’s WBC super-middleweight champion Carl Froch, in Froch´s hometown of Nottingham.
In the series´other first round contest, Andre Ward claimed Mikkel Kessler´s WBA crown on an 11th round technical decision.
The Abraham – Dirrell fight was originally scheduled for January but Abraham was forced to pull out with a viral infection.
Abraham (31-0, 25 ko´s) was dominant throughout his bout with former world middleweight champion Taylor. The Armenian, a former undefeated IBF middleweight champion, is now a very powerful 168 pounder at just 5´10´´, and marches forward relentlessly behind his high, peek-a-boo style guard. Abraham has supreme confidence in his abilities in the ring, and that was never more evident than in the way he ate up Taylor, keeping the pressure constantly on the American. Just when it seemed Taylor was headed for a one sided points loss, a straight right from Abraham in the dying seconds poleaxed him, sending him to a Berlin hospital for two days of observation, suffering from severe concussion.
By contrast, the fight between Froch and Dirrell was something of a disappointment. The clash of two unbeaten fighters for the WBC crown had been hyped by bad blood and trash talk from both men in the week prior to the bout. But instead of a classic give and take brawl, the fans in Nottingham got an ugly, foul filled maul.
For two thirds of the fight Dirrell utilized negative, defensive, counter-punching tactics, and Froch simply lacked the skills to catch the fleet footed American. To his credit, when Dirrell stood and fought, he made Froch look mechanical and pedestrian, but instead of capitalizing on his success, Dirrell would jump back on his bicycle. In retaliation, Froch tried in vain to land the big knockout blow, and when this failed he reverted to a repertoire of roughhouse tactics that would make Bernard Hopkins blush.
After being controversially deducted a point in the tenth for holding, Dirrell went on the offensive in the final two rounds, and had success, tagging Froch time and again with right hands and left hooks. But it was a case of too little too late from the American who cried ”hometown decision” after Froch had retained his crown.
The truth is, it was desperately close, and had the fight been anywhere but England, Dirrell might well have become champion.
Dirrell (18-1, 13 ko´s) will surely have learned a lot form his first title shot. He is only 26, and is a huge super-middleweight at 6´2´´. Froch hits hard, yet Dirrell took the Englishman’s shots and never looked in trouble. Arguably, Abraham hits harder, and is certainly a better boxer than Froch. But Dirrell is himself an excellent boxer, and took a bronze medal in the middleweight class at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Prior to meeting Froch, Dirrell´s record read more like a ‘who´s he?’ than a ‘who´s who’ of boxing. Fighters like Anthony Hanshaw, Victor Oganov and Curtis Stevens, despite their impressive records, are fringe contenders at best. Froch was by far and away the best fighter Dirrell had ever fought, so if one takes this into account, he was virtually learning on the job during his title challenge. He will have learned from his mistakes, and in front of a Michigan crowd in the Joe Louis Arena, Dirrell will surely put on the performance of his life.
What can one say about Arthur Abraham that hasn´t already been said? The Armenian Iron Man must surely rank in the top ten pound-for-pound fighters in the world today.
Tired of battling the scales and chasing Kelly Pavlik for a unification fight, Abraham vacated his IBF middleweight crown after ten successful defenses and began his quest to dominate the super-middleweights. Already he looks like the man to beat in the tournament. Outside of the Super Six, Canadian based Romanian Lucian Bute holds the IBF super-middleweight title, and Germany´s Robert Stieglitz the WBO belt. Would anyone bet against Abraham versus either of these two?
The Armenian was his usual confident but respectful self at this weeks press conference;
“I need two more victories to secure my place in the semifinals and I will start with Dirrell.” said Abraham.
”He is a very skilled, yet very awkward fighter. It will be a difficult challenge but together with my coach, Ulli Wegner, we have developed an idea how to beat him. It is my goal to become a star in America. That’s where boxing legends are made and I want to become a boxing legend. That’s what the tournament is all about for me. The victory over Taylor was a good start but I’m not finished yet.”
In response, Dirrell quipped;
“The end of Camelot is near. It’s off with ‘King Arthur’s’ head.”
At 30 years old, one gets the feeling that Abraham´s best years are still in front of him. If Andre Dirrell gives it his all, as I feel he will, this should be the best bout so far in the Super Six series, and it could be Abraham´s hardest career fight.
Look for Abraham to win by a close decision, or via a dramatic late KO.
Big Fight Odds; Arthur Abraham 1/2, Andre Dirrell 13/8 bet365