Q&A: Anthony Dirrell
Last December Anthony Dirrell took on WBC super middleweight champion Sakio Bika, dropping the rugged veteran in the fifth round en route to a 12-round draw verdict.
Dirrell (26-0-1, 22 knockouts), who is currently ranked by the WBC (No. 6) and WBO (No. 6), thought he did enough to win the fight, but many observers thought the talented 29-year-old switch-hitter fought too conservatively to complain about the decision.
Dirrell will get a chance to improve on his first performance when he meets Bika in a rematch on Saturday in Carson, Calif.
Anson Wainwright – What are your thoughts on the rematch with Bika?
Anthony Dirrell – It’s gonna be worse than what the first fight was. I’m preparing, just adding a few more tweaks to my workout. I’m going to punish him; I’m going to knock him out.
AW – You shared a ring with him last December and the two of you fought to a draw. Tell us about that fight.
AD – I thought I won the fight, the judges didn’t, that’s how the game goes. It wasn’t the first time and it ain’t gonna be the last time that it happens. I thought I pulled out more rounds. I just outboxed him. I maybe gave a couple of rounds away but I didn’t give him a lot of rounds to where I didn’t get the decision. I dropped him, he got a point taken and I won multiple rounds. I’m just happy I’ve got the rematch.
AW – What did you learn about Bika from that fight?
AD – It’s not nothing I didn’t learn, everyone knows Sakio Bika is a rough fighter, that’s how he fights. I’m going to go in there and fight him the same, just prepare myself a little bit different.
AW – Some people would say that you fought conservatively in the first Bika bout and didn’t take the title.
AD – I really can’t say that because I fought him the same mostly every round, so I really can’t say that. I was outboxing him, I was giving him a boxing lesson. I really can’t say I fought conservatively after I knocked him down. That’s when I pressured him a little bit more. People are going to say what they say, the rematch is set, it is what it is, we’ll see on the 16th.
AW – Would you go after Bika if you hurt him in the rematch?
AD – When I hurt him the first time I think I went for him, I just didn’t have enough time and he recovered the next round. I’m gonna go for it no matter what, I’m going for the knockout. I don’t want to leave it up to the judges. I don’t care about no decision I want a knockout.
AW – You’re from Flint, Michigan. What was your youth like and how did you get into boxing?
AD – Flint is a rough place, it’s been rough all my life but that’s what made us, being rough, rugged and keeping our head out of the dirt.
People don’t understand what good came out of Flint. We had “the Flintstones” from Michigan State (three Flint natives who helped the Michigan State Spartans win the 2000 NCAA college basketball national championship). We’ve got professional football players, Olympic gold, silver and bronze medalists, a Heisman trophy winner. There’s a lot of good to come out of Flint but it’s hard.
I saw my family members, my brother (Andre), my uncle and everybody doing it (boxing) and travelling and I thought it was interesting and I wanted to do it and I told my grandfather and he got me into it and I couldn’t stop.
AW – There is a link between Muhammad Ali and your grandfather?
AD – Yes. We went to Ali’s house, me and my brother were the guest of honor at his house in Berrien Springs, Michigan, after my brother won a bronze at the (2004) Olympics. They knew each other from when they were 15, 16. They grew up and boxed together and remained friends.
AW – Though you didn’t fight at the Olympics like your brother you were a very good amateur boxer.
AD – I was on the U.S. team. I won the PAL. I was third place in the Olympic trials. I won the eastern trials. I won a nice chunk of tournaments when I was amateur. I (competed in the) 178-pound (division), I moved up in weight because my brother was at 165 pounds, so I just moved up in weight. I really had to eat to make weight.
My first tournament at 178 I stopped the first three people and the last two I blew them out the water on points. Either way I was pretty good because I knew how to box, I knew how to bang, I knew how to do it all.
I broke my hand in the eastern trials. Going into the Olympic trials and every day at the Olympic trails the doctor really had to wrap my hand and kind of baby it. I got third place in the Olympic trials with one hand.
I (had a) 192-20 (amateur record). We travelled the world to fight amateur. It got me ready for the professionals and now I’m here trying to win the world title.
AW – Several years ago you were diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, and thankfully after chemotherapy you have recovered. That was obviously a traumatic time in your life. Tell us about that.
AD – I had Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. I was out for two years fighting it. Family and God were definitely the number one supporters in my life. I just got through it, and now I’m back to doing what I have to do. It was a tough process. I made it through, I’m better, stronger, mentally and physically and now I’ve got to win the championship, one of the first people with cancer to do it. My good friend Danny Jacobs had cancer also, and he’s up for a world title now. We could be the first people with cancer to comeback and box and win a title. That’s my plan. I have a foundation, it’s up and running it’s to help find a cure for cancer and to help children with their education.
AW – If we look at THE RING magazine’s ratings at super middleweight, what are your thoughts on each guy?
C – Andre Ward – He’s a helluva fighter, smart fighter, technical, a worthy world champion. He deserves what he has.
1 – Carl Froch – He’s a good fighter, crafty but arrogant. I think he can be beat easy. Hopefully we can fight done the line.
2 – Mikkel Kessler – He’s a helluva fighter, you can put your money on him.
3 – Arthur Abraham – He’s a good power puncher.
4 – Robert Stieglitz – I don’t really know anything about him. I can’t really put my finger on him so I can’t really say.
5 – George Groves – He’s a good fighter, hungry fighter, he should be world champion sometime in his career.
6 – Sakio Bika – Awkward fighter, everyone knows he makes it rough.
7 – James DeGale – He’s a good fighter, nice southpaw, good boxer.
8 – Thomas Oosthuizen – I don’t know him.
9 – Maxim Vlasov – I don’t know him.
10 – J’Leon Love – He’s a Money Team fighter. I thought he was beat twice but he’s with The Money Team what can I say.
AW – Who do you look up to as a role model?
AD – Mike Tyson, Pernell Whitaker, Roy Jones, Floyd (Mayweather), of course, Lennox Lewis. I just enjoy watching boxing. I could go on for days.
AW – Away from boxing, what do you enjoy doing with your time?
AD – My son of course is number one. I like golf, I like to play softball, I like to do everything. I’m outgoing, I’m adventurous. I’ll try anything. I like to travel, meet new people, do normal stuff. I’m a normal guy, fame or money can’t change me, I’m still a little boy who came out of little old Flint, Michigan and I’m gonna win a world title.
AW – Do you have a message for Bika?
AD – He knows he better prepare for a war. Prepare for a war.
The Bika-Dirrell matchup is part of a three-fight Showtime broadcast from StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. The show is headlined by IBF welterweight champion Shawn Porter vs. mandatory challenger Kell Brook, and supported by WBC 135-pound titleholder Omar Figueroa Jr.’s defense against Daniel Estrada. The broadcast starts at 9:00 p.m. ET/6:00 p.m. PT.