Andre Dirrell: The Star That Never Was

Jose Uzcategui finished Andre Dirrell, an eighth-round TKO this time. The Venezuelan became the first fighter to stop Dirrell in scoring the TKO over the southpaw in their rematch at the Barclays in Brooklyn. Uzcategui captured the IBF Interim Super Middleweight title. A title Dirrell won when Uzcategui was DQ’d for hitting Dirrell after the bell to end the eighth round in their first meeting.

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He also likely finished the realistic world title hopes for Andre Dirrell. The ultra-talented 168-pound American burst onto the boxing scene back in 2004 at the Olympic Games in Athens. He easily defeated his first two opponents and avenged his loss to Yordanis Despaigne. Dirrell lost to Despaigne by one point in the 2003 Pan Am games. Dirrell Then lost a tremendous battle to Gennady Golovkin. Dirrell looked very impressive in capturing the bronze and his pro career was on the fast track to world titles and superstardom.

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The Flint native’s career got off to the expected hot start compiling a record of 10-0 against increasingly difficult opposition before facing off against fellow prospect Curtis Stevens in 2007 on HBO’s boxing after dark. Dirrell dominated Stevens for all 10 rounds and took a lopsided decision. It appeared that the 23-year- old Dirrell was right on track for world titles and superstardom. Over the next two years Dirrell compiled more quality victories over decent opposition. He put wins together over names like Anthony Hanshaw, Mike Paschall, and Derrick Findley. Setting up his entrance into the Super 6 tournament. A round-robin style tournament that featured the six best super middleweights in the world. Dirrell’s first world title shot came in his first bout of the Super 6 against Carl Froch, in Nottingham Arena, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom. Dirrell boxed beautifully and looked to have clearly won about eight of the 12 rounds. The decision and the WBC belt was stolen from him and stayed with Froch. This decision ranks in at number 5 on 3DBoxings list of 20 worst decisions over the last 20 years released last year 20 worst decision from 1997-2017. The loss did very little to take away from Dirrell’s luster as Froch was heavily favored and almost everyone except for two judges thought Dirrell dominated the fight.

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Dirrel’s second fight in the tournament was in his backyard this time against Arthur Abraham. Dirrell boxed and kept the pit bull that is Arthur Abraham off of him and was winning the fight with athleticism and precise combination punching. In the 11th round of a one-sided contest, Dirrell slipped and Abraham hit Dirrell while on the canvas. Bringing an end to the fight. It was officially a DQ win for Dirrell but he was on his way to a dominating one-sided decision victory. In what was the biggest win of his career. It looked like Dirrell was on his way to getting a championship before 2010 was over.

The most prolific win of Dirrell’s career somehow proved to be the beginning of the end. He dropped out of the Super 6 tournament and skipped a scheduled fight with Andre Ward. Over the next four and a half years Dirrell would fight just twice against lower level opponents. Dirrell basically sat out his prime years from age 26-30 he fought just twice against irrelevant opposition. He did nothing to get himself closer to a world title or improve his stock in his absolute prime. Dirrell started fighting regularly again late in 2014. He picked up three more wins setting up his second shot at a world title, more than 5 years after his controversial loss to Froch. Dirrell dropped another close and controversial decision to James Degale for the vacant IBF strap. Not a robbery but a really tight fight that went in favor of Degale. Dirrell Picked up the pieces and came back 11 months later and put together an excellent performance against Caparello who dropped Dirrell with a left hook in the second round. However, Dirrell appeared to dominate all of the other rounds in the ten round affair, outboxing Caparello technically by landing his southpaw jabs and outworking him.

The victory put Dirrell in position for an interim IBF title fight against mostly unknown Jose Uzcategui. At this point, Dirrell was no stranger to controversial endings and this was certainly one of them. Uzcategui slightly ahead on points on two of the cards caught Dirrell with a shot just after the bell. The punch clearly did come after the bell. However, it didn’t seem like all that big of a punch that sent Dirrell down and out as if he was hit by a bus. The fight was waived off and Dirrell given the “W” via DQ. Although, Dirrell was not out of the fight, and a hypothetical 2 point deduction would have evened the fight. Not to question Dirrell or to say he was acting, it doesn’t seem reasonable to suggest that the punch could have caused Dirrell to be completely knocked out and unable to continue. The IBF ordered the rematch and the winner would be the mandatory for Caleb Truax. Traux had already been KO’d be Dirrell’s little bro Anthony and seemed like he would be a favorable matchup for whoever won. That proved to be Uzcategui in stopping Dirrell in a competitive fight and he will now go on to face Traux.

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Dirrell’s speed athleticism and solid and underrated punching power was unique and is what fast-tracked his pro career. That natural ability would have also led many to pick him in an all-American, all-Andre super fight that was scheduled to take place late in 2010 but never came off. Obviously, Ward’s career and Dirrell’s went in starkly different directions, it wasn’t however because of talent or skills. Prior to the Uzcategui fight, commentator Paulie Malignaggi noted the extreme talent and athleticism of Dirrell saying he is “So good” and “the best fighter to never win a world title” and winning a world title doesn’t seem to be on the table anytime soon. Dirrell is inline for no title shot and will have to rebuild with his new trainer Virgil Hunter. At the age of 34 he will have to come up with an entirely new game plan. 168 is one of the most stacked divisions in boxing. The only beatable champion at 168 appears to be Traux but Dirrell lost the opportunity to fight him. The other strap holders are David Benevides, Gilberto Ramirez, and George Groves. They all seem like uphill battles for Dirrell at this point. If anyone were to say to you back in 2009 -2011 that Andre Dirrell would never win a world title, it would have seemed incomprehensible and probably met with laughter. However at the age of 34, seems like the most likely outcome.

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