The Failure To Protect Andre Dirrell From Himself

Andre Dirrell’s withdrawal from Showtime’s Super Six Tournament has left some boxing fans questioning the legitimacy of his reason for leaving the tournament. A neurologist has said he can’t fight due to lingering dizziness and headaches that originated over six months ago, following his DQ win over Arthur Abraham. I’m willing to give Dirrell the benefit of the doubt. I don’t believe he was “faking it” when he was knocked unconscious by the illegal blow delivered by Abraham on March 27. I’m not prepared to say he’s “faking it’ now.

There are a lot of things that can go wrong during a boxing match, even if they don’t go wrong very often. Maybe the biggest danger any time a boxer steps into the ring is their courage and fighting spirit when something goes wrong. A boxer is his own worst enemy. Doctors, referees, and trainers are there, at least in part, to protect the fighter from himself. While many fans are questioning Dirrell’s motives and his heart, I’m questioning the ability of the people around him to provide that protection.

If Andre Dirrell has some kind of neurological problem, then he is surrounded by idiots. Please refer to the 1913 definition – one I would never use to describe the mentally challenged – here: Hopelessly feeble-minded.

Call it hyperbole, but the actions of Dirrell’s corner after he won the fight against Abraham in March, and their inaction over the last six months, point to outright incompetence. I can’t recall seeing a more clueless corner after such a debilitating punch to the head. The things Dirrell’s uncle has said regarding his need to leave the tournament demonstrate irresponsibility beyond cluelessness.

Exhibit A: The aftermath of Dirrell’s DQ win against Arthur Abraham.

Here are two videos of Dirrell and his corner after Dirrell regained consciousness on March 27. The German video is more detailed. The Showtime video shows their failed attempt to interview Dirrell after the fight.

German version: To see Team Dirrell’s behavior in the ring, start at about 2:20. The result is announced at about 4:15. Dirrell leaves the ring at about 6:10. You can stop watching at 7:40. Even when the cameras are on Abraham, you can hear Dirrell’s corner in the background pretty clearly.

Showtime version: This one starts right Dirrell’s win is officially announced. You can stop watching at about 2:10 when Dirrell is making his way to his dressing room.

Could Team Dirrell possibly act more myopic? They were so happy that Dirrell won, they were completely oblivious to his condition. Get out of the moment and pay attention, people! How many times does Dirrell have to express that he doesn’t know what’s going on for them to figure out that talking over each other and screaming that he won the fight isn’t helping? And while they’re at it, they rattle his head around a little when the victory is officially announced. Really? How about saving some of that celebration for after the brain scan? Trainers Leon Lawson, Sr. and Leon Lawson, Jr. – who are also Dirrell’s grandfather and uncle – have a responsibility to protect their fighter. He didn’t look very protected to me.

Exhibit B: A timeline of sorts.

I’m a little bit confused about the chain of events, but there’s absolutely no way Dirrell’s grandfather and uncle come out of this looking good. The more serious Dirrell’s problem proves to be, the more these two didn’t do their job as his trainers to protect him, and shame on them.

March 27 – Andre Dirrell is knocked unconscious by an illegal blow from Arthur Abraham, a guy with the power to knock a guy unconscious with a legal blow.

March 28 –Gary Shaw says “Andre was just released from the hospital. He tested negative in the brain scans. We did the urine tests. The commission was there.”

Dirrell begins experiencing headaches and dizziness. He doesn’t tell anyone. Dan Rafael reports that Direll’s uncle and co-trainer, Leon Lawson, Jr., says Dirrell “wasn’t the same after that fight,” and, “there were changes in his normal being.” Dirrell’s uncle and grandfather discuss these symptoms and their concerns, but they don’t talk to Dirrell about it.

How is that okay? They must know at least a little bit about the threat posed by injuries involving the brain and the damage an accumulation of punches – or even just one punch – can do to a boxer. But they sit back and watch, verify their concerns with each other, and wake up and do it again the next day. Lather, rinse, repeat for at least four months.

Mid to Late August – According to Yahoo’s Kevin Iole, Lawson, Jr. said that Dirrell did a little sparring with his brother six to eight weeks ago. I’ll use that as a placeholder in the timeline for lack of anything else. It was also reportedly the only boxing Dirrell has done since the March fight. Boxing Scene has a slightly different story, as reported by Lem Satterfield. In this version of events, Lawson, Jr. said that Dirrell hadn’t sparred or been in the gym at all since the Abraham fight and that he’s walking around almost 20 pounds heavier than what he normally does. Dirrell’s uncle said, “But we hoped and thought that it was something that would get better with time, you know? But it hasn’t. So, really, there is nothing for us to do but sit back on it and wait for his condition to be back at 100 percent.”

Dirrell is an athlete. Is it normal for him to not be in the gym for 4-6 months? Lawson, Jr. acknowledges that Dirrell was well above his usual walking around weight. These two things by themselves are red flags affixed with flashing neon signs, but his boxing trainers/family ignored them for months. Why would anyone take that approach, much less anyone familiar with the sport of boxing, especially when the boxer in question took a pretty severe blow to the head prior to the onset of symptoms? It boggles the mind.

Dirrell should have been in the gym in mid-August preparing for a fight with Andre Ward that was scheduled for Sept. 25. Dirrell’s uncle says that Dirrell’s health had nothing to do with the fight not happening at that time. Dirrell told his family about the dizziness and headaches he’d been experiencing after he sparred with his brother in August. And they were alarmed because they were expecting it because they’d already figured it out.

So, they continue to keep an eye on things for a couple months because, you know, brain trauma that’s four months old usually clears itself up in a day or two. Or something like that. Remember, they’ve witnessed small changes and have been concerned for four months; Dirrell’s confession isn’t “news” to them.

Back to the timeline:

Sept. 5 – There are reports that Showtime has issued legal notices to Andre Dirrell and Andre Ward as well as to their promoters, Gary Shaw and Dan Goosen, because they are under contract to fight on Sept. 25, but a location hasn’t been secured, the fight hasn’t been promoted, and neither fighter is in serious training.

If Dirrell came clean to his uncle/grandfather in mid to late August, this might be a good time for the rest of Team Dirrell to come clean, but they continue their wait and see approach. They don’t even bother to let Dirrell’s promoter, Gary Shaw, know about their concerns. WHY NOT? Why reschedule the fight? They were hoping he’d be OK. Newsflash: You can’t wish away neurological problems!

September 24 – The Ward-Dirrell fight has been rescheduled for Nov. 27. More hoping and wishing? Dirrell’s trainers have been concerned for a full SIX MONTHS, but they allow the fight to be rescheduled. Dirrell is supposed to fight in two months, which means he’ll need to be back in the gym in about two weeks. Please review the 1913 definition. If this doesn’t qualify as “hopelessly feeble-minded,” I don’t want to know what does.

October 6 – Team Dirrell calls Gary Shaw and Showtime, in some order. Gary Shaw says he had no idea any of this was happening. I’m taking everyone else at their word, so I’ll take him at his.

October 7 – Dirrell officially withdraws from the Super Six.

Following Dirrell’s exit from the tournament, Iole reports that Dirrell was taken to the hospital on a stretcher following the Abraham fight and was diagnosed with a concussion. According to Rafael, Dirrell’s uncle says that Dirrell suffered a concussion after the Abraham fight. This contradicts Gary Shaw’s official statement following the fight. The neurologist Dirrell saw recently – seemingly very recently – did a bunch of tests. The doctor was alarmed. For Dirrell’s sake, I hope the doctor doesn’t sit back and wish and hope for two months. That may be how long it took Dirrell to get to a doctor after he shared his symptoms with his family.

Gary Shaw said. “The injury, and I wouldn’t call it an injury, but a neurological problem. We have had him examined by a neurologist, who advised Andre not to train or to fight until further notice. Another advanced battery of tests will be done in a little while.” Shaw found out about this the day before Showtime’s official announcement. It doesn’t sound like the doctor had conclusive results or that he’d had time to run all of the necessary tests. Did Dirrell’s family really wait until the first week of October to take him to see a doctor for a problem they’ve suspected – with good reason – for six months and have been formally aware of for six to eight weeks?

WHAT WERE THEY WAITING FOR? They couldn’t have seriously expected Dirrell to say, “I’ve been having these headaches and I need to see a doctor who will probably tell me I can’t fight.” Even if Dirrell had said that, it would be the job of his trainers to publicly state, “WE had concerns. WE insisted he see a doctor. The doctor says he can’t fight.”

That’s what they’re saying now, so I guess they finally got something right.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.