Head to head: Abraham-Dirrell
ARTHUR ABRAHAM vs. ANDRE DIRRELL
When: Saturday, March 27
Where: Joe Louis Arena, Detroit
TV: Showtime, 10:30 pm. ET / PT (delayed PT)
Weight: Super middleweight (168-pound limit)
Title(s) at stake: None.
Height / Reach: 5-10 (178 cm) / 72 (183 cm)
Hometown: Berlin, Germany (from Yerevan, Armenia)
Nickname: King Arthur
Turned pro: 2003
Record: 31-0 (25 knockouts)
Trainer: Ulli Wegner
The Ring rating: No. 6 super middleweight.
Titles: middleweight (2005-09; 10 successful defenses; vacated and moved up to super middleweight).
Biggest victories: Kingsley Ikeke, Dec. 10, 2005, KO 5 (wins middleweight title); Edison Miranda, Sept. 23, 2006, UD 12 (retains title in spite of broken jaw); Miranda, June 21, 2008, TKO 4 (in Hollywood, Fla.; only fight outside Europe); Jermain Taylor, Oct. 17, 2009, TKO 12.
Height / reach: 6-2 (188cm) / 75 (191cm)
Hometown: Flint, Mich.
Nickname: The Matrix
Turned pro: 2005
Record: 18-1 (13 knockouts)
Trainer: Leon Lawson
The Ring rating: None.
Biggest victories: Anthony Hanshaw, May 2, 2008, TKO 5; Victor Oganov, Nov. 1, 2008, TKO 6.
Loss: Carl Froch, Oct. 17, 2009, SD 12 (for Froch’s title).
Skills: Both fighters are boxers by nature. Abraham uses solid technique and excellent timing to deliver his powerful punches as he applies careful pressure to his opponents. Dirrell, a stick-and-move specialist, uses his tremendous speed and hand-eye coordination to get in and out of his opponents’ range and land flashy combinations.
Power: The former middleweight titleholder possesses brutish strength that translates to formidable power when complimented by his quick hands and accuracy. Abraham, who carries his power into the late rounds, has knocked out many opponents who had never previously been stopped, including Kingsley Ikeke (KO 5), Elvin Ayala (KO 12) and Mahir Oral (TKO 10). Abraham’s KO of Edison Miranda was a spectacular display of his considerable power. Dirrell’s awesome hand speed makes for above-average power as his stoppages of Anthony Hanshaw (TKO 5) and Victor Oganov (TKO 6) prove. He was able to wobble Carl Froch a few times late in their 12-round bout. However, Dirrell has never knocked out world class fighters with the finality that Abraham has.
Speed and athletic ability: Abraham had quick hands for a middleweight and they may be even faster at 168 pounds, however, he will probably appear to have average speed in comparison to Dirrell, who may be the fastest super middleweight on the planet. Dirrell’s feet are just as fast as his hands and his reflexes are reminiscent of a young Roy Jones Jr.’s.
Defense: There’s nothing special about Abraham’s defense. He deflects his opponents incoming punches in the same manner that Winky Wright and Joshua Clottey — with a high guard. His immense physical strength enables him to absorb most of the punch impact on his gloves and forearms and it’s not uncommon to see him smile or laugh while his opponents let their hands go. Dirrell, who is comfortable with his hands down by his waist, relies on his legs, upper-body movement and reflexes to avoid punches. He’s almost impossible to hit clean from the outside but he can be timed with counter punches as he comes forward and he can be nailed when exchanging in close.
Experience: Abraham has 12 more pro fights than Dirrell and has faced the better and more-experienced opposition, including Taylor, Miranda, Marquez, Ikeke, and Europe-rated veterans Khoren Gevor, Howard Eastman, and Nadar Hamden. Dirrell’s top opponents include then-fellow prospect Curtis Steven in 2007, fringe contender Anthony Hanshaw in 2008, and titleholder Carl Froch last year.
Chin: Abraham has never been down as a professional. He even stayed on his feet when Miranda broke his jaw in the fourth round of their first bout, which he won by 12-round decision. Dirrell has been rocked in a few of his fights and was dropped by unheralded Alfonso Rocha.
Conditioning: Both fighters train for the 12-round distance and have the proven ability to box and fight effectively into the late rounds.
Wear and tear: Neither fighter has ever absorbed a career-shortening beating in the ring and both are in their athletic/physical primes.
Corner: Dirrell’s grandfather, Leon Lawson, has done an admirable job training his grandson through a decorated amateur career that culminated in a bronze medal in the 2004 Olympics. However, apart from Dirrell’s brother Anthony, an undefeated super middleweight prospect, Lawson hasn’t trained any other notable fighters. Abraham’s trainer, Uli Wegner, guided Thomas Ulrich and Oktay Urkal to 1996 Olympic medals and he trained Abraham, Urkal, and Markus Beyer to professional world titles.
Outcome: Inspired by a home-state crowd, Dirrell will start fast and sharp, taking advantage of Abraham’s typically slow start. The Flint, Mich., native will score with his jab from both southpaw and orthodox stances even though most will be blocked by Abraham, who will patiently stalk his sticking-and-moving opponent. By the middle rounds, however, Abraham will begin to time and counter Dirrell’s jab with lead hooks and crosses. Dirrell’s excellent reflexes will enable him to slip and lean away from these lunging power shots but Abraham’s aggression will put the sometimes skittish boxer on the defensive. The Germany-based Armenian will enjoy his best success in the late rounds when he is able to back the retreating Dirrell to the ropes and zero in with body shots and clean right hands that snap the hometown hero’s head back with violent force. Dirrell will tie Abraham up in an attempt to survive and run out the clock but he’ll absorb more punishment in the form of roughhouse tactics (including punches to the back of the head and a few vicious elbows) that will draw stern warnings from the referee. A drained Dirrell will make it to the final bell, perhaps with the referee’s help, but he’ll fall just short on the scorecards.
Prediction: Abraham by close but unanimous decision.
Michael Rosenthal contributed to this report