I’d picked Andre Dirrell to beat Carl Froch in the first round of the super middleweight tournament that begins on Showtime Saturday night, but I’m changing my mind. I didn’t pick Dirrell with much confidence, and now his failure to make weight on his first try has me feeling even less confident. It was only four ounces — not the four pounds reported in the local Nottingham press (although to be fair they ALSO reported it was four ounces) — and he made weight on his second try, but any struggles to make weight quite specifically exacerbate the difficulties Dirrell was going to have with Froch already.
Dirrell’s stamina was a question mark. He will probably be more drained because of his weight struggles, which were evident to the Froch team already; this isn’t some blip, this is an issue. Dirrell’s mindset coming into a much bigger moment than he ever had in his career was a question mark. Now you have to wonder if he gathered the import of this moment, if he couldn’t make weight. Dirrell’s chin was a question mark. Weight-drained fighters don’t tend to have the best chins. I’m now predicting Froch to win by knockout.
My original preview and prediction piece is attached below, for entertainment purposes. (Plus it was unreadable anyway because of the ongoing technical woes at MVN.)
Slickness, Meet Toughness: Carl Froch – Andre Dirrell Preview And Prediction
One man in the second fight of Showtime’s Saturday Super Six tournament doubleheader, Andre Dirrell, has supernatural physical gifts but has proven nothing about what kind of heart beats in his chest. The other man, Carl Froch, is viewed as lacking in talent, but he’s battle-tested after winning his last two fights as the underdog with a hefty does of sheer willpower.
You’ll find people who consider both men sleepers to win the whole tournament. Dirrell’s my sleeper, actually, because there’s nobody who even touches his level of speed, and he’s a good, versatile technician, too – he is raw ability incarnate. Kevin Iole at Yahoo! likes Froch as his sleeper, because he is raw determination incarnate.
Whereas I expect Arthur Abraham-Jermain Taylor earlier in the evening to be a good and dramatic battle, I’m not so sure which way Froch-Dirrell goes. Could it be a replica of Dirrell’s stinker win over Curtis Stevens, probably the least enjoyable fight I’ve ever watched? Or could it be a replica of Froch’s last fight, an epic battle where he overcame the more athletic Taylor to score a last-minute knockout?
The unknown quantity here is Dirrell. As his best wins are over Stevens, fellow prospect Anthony Hanshaw and prematurely-hyped power-puncher Victor Oganov, he is making a warp speed leap forward in competition by going up against a gritty guy like Froch, the third-ranked super middleweight in the world according to Ring magazine. Dirrell doesn’t even crack the top 10. He’s a 2004 Olympian who’s moved slowly like Andre Ward, but Ward, criticized as he’s been for his glacial career progress, is actually well ahead of Dirrell by virtue of fighting and beating Edison Miranda. Dirrell’s the least favorite of gamblers to win the tournament, so unproven is he. And there are signs that he might be swallowed up by the moment. He’s fighting in Froch’s native Nottingham, and toward the end of this video he looks to me like he’s feeling nervous.
But man, is he fast. I’m not saying he’s as fast as Roy Jones, Jr. or Floyd Mayweather, Jr. but his hand speed is in that kind of ballpark. He doesn’t have word-class power, but with that kind of speed, he knocks people out with the quickness alone. And he cuts people up bad with that speed, so he may not knock you clean out but your head might split open for no reason other than his hands connected on your face stupid-fast, as happened to Mike Paschall. Offensively, he’s got technical acumen to make his speed even more devastating, capable as he is of switching back and forth between orthodox and southpaw, and with every punch in his arsenal, body and head. He has fast feet to match his fast hands, and he evades punches with razor-sharp reflexes, although his hands-down style leaves him vulnerable (he has a weakness for left hands, especially). And he’s shown signs of toughness. His chin has held up well to the competition he’s faced so far, only getting decked once and not really being bothered by clean shots from Oganov. The most weakness he’s shown is in the stamina department; he tends to start fast then slow down on offense and become more open to being hit back on defense. And, there’s that tiny matter of him being so green. Still, he’s come a long way since his Stevens debacle, proving he can be exciting and talented, and drawing strength from his family, which was cursed early by an abusive father and late by a battle with cancer for his boxing brother, anchored now by his grandfather-trainer.
Froch draws from a reservoir of outrageous self-confidence and a simultaneous persecution complex. He’s got reason to feel persecuted. He’s got to be the top active fighter in the U.K. right now, but none of the traditional television outlets are going to carry this fight, nor did they carry his victory over Taylor. It’s idiotic beyond belief to me. Froch is proven good TV. Down early against Taylor, literally after hitting the deck for the first time in his career and on the scorecards going into the 12th round, he mounted a stirring last-minute rally to score a KO win. Before his Taylor win, he waged a Fight of the Year candidate in 2008 with Jean Pascal. The storyline is that the guy isn’t all that fast, doesn’t hit all that hard, isn’t even that good a boxer, but he overcomes all that.
There’s a grain of truth there, but I don’t buy it. He doesn’t look like a mega-talent, nor was he the faster man against Taylor, and him walking around with his hands down and getting punches so much isn’t the kind of thing that conveys excessive skill. But he’s better than you think. He hits plenty hard, with 20 knockouts in 25 wins. He’s accurate as a puncher – if he was so unskilled, he’d just be swinging wildly and missing. No, he’s no defensive wiz, but because he takes a punch so well he gets by without said wizardry. And while much of the focus of his defeat of Taylor has been on Taylor’s poor conditioning, don’t forget who was putting all that pressure on Taylor. Froch was losing early, but he was in the fight early, too. It set the table for his later win. Self-belief in the ring is a huge asset, and Froch has so much of it he comes off as cocky. But he’s a likable chap, funny and engaging, who’s won me over with his in-ring performances. He used to just jabber at Joe Calzaghe, the more revered super middleweight from the U.K., but he hadn’t proven his jabber was worth a damn. Now we know he can back up his big words.
Although I’m of the mind Froch is underrated all-around, it’s clear he wasn’t the more athletic or technically skilled fighter against Taylor, a fight he barely won, and Taylor isn’t as athletic or technically skilled as Dirrell. But then, Taylor was a far more established quantity than Dirrell is. Despite a fear I have of picking against Froch ever again, underrating him in the past as I have, I was entirely prepared to underrate him again and pick Dirrell by wide decision.
But then I saw this video (h/t Andrew Harrison). Toward the end of the clip, he strikes me as having a lot of nervous energy. This forum is not the only where this strain has been picked up – The Daily Mail notices some fear in Dirrell’s demeanor, too.
As such, I’m very torn about this pick in a way I wasn’t before, not that I ever thought a Froch win was unenvisionable, particularly by knockout. I could always see Froch exploiting Dirrell’s questionable stamina, wearing him down on the inside and connecting on big punches as Dirrell pulls straight back by incrementally sloppier degrees while dodging punches as the fight drags on.
But I’m going to go against Froch. I can see Dirrell getting in trouble at some point in the fight and going into running mode. It may be hard to win a fight on foreign soil that way, but I don’t think Froch has the foot speed to catch up with Dirrell if Dirrell really wants to play keep-away, and meanwhile Dirrell can land his jab or any other punch at will. I think Dirrell will find that strategy necessary, eventually. He’s not stronger than Froch and he’s probably not going to hurt Froch, so if he wants to avoid getting his block knocked off, he’ll have little choice. My prediction is for a Dirrell decision win via slickness, albeit closer than it probably ought to be.