Sunday, May 28, 2023  |



Anthony “Dog” Dirrell says he’ll back his bark with bite

Fighters Network
Photo by Naoki Fukuda

Photo by Naoki Fukuda

CHICAGO – As Anthony Dirrell stood up to speak at the final press conference for his first title defense on Friday, the sounds of barking drowned out the WBC super middleweight titleholder. When he began to talk, the dog-like sounds turned to two hype men.

“It’s over Jack! It’s over,” the men shouted, mixing in “woooos” for good measure.

Dirrell (27-0-1, 22 knockouts) flashed a grin, enjoying the moment days before he makes his first defense of his alphabet title. Dirrell faces Badou Jack (18-1-1, 12 KOs) Friday in the main event of “Premier Boxing Champions on Spike” at the UIC Pavilion

With Dirrell was his older brother Willie and his cousin, Earl Thompson. The two, who go as far as recording each interview he participates in, only add to the excitement that Dirrell is dealing with.

“They’re my family,” Dirrell said. “A dog has its family and this is it. They started [calling me dog] in the amateurs and it stuck.”

Yet, there’s also a confidence with Dirrell, who has faced a long road to this point. At the press conference, he wore a navy blue suit that Warriors promoter Leon Margules correctly pointed out made him look like a banker.

Through a battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and later breaking his leg in a motorcycle accident, Dirrell is just ready to fight.

And heading into Friday’s showdown, he wants to make sure Jack knows it.

“I just don’t want him to run like he’s been doing,” Dirrell said at the press conference, with Thompson yelling a surprisingly nice “please don’t.”

“Stay in there. Face me for real.”

There was some animosity between Dirrell and Jack at Wednesday’s presser. Outside of telling of him to stay still, Dirrell took issue with Jack not thanking him, noting the fight between the two is considered a voluntary defense.

But the trash talk nor the crowd supporting Dirrell bothered him, Jack said.

“I don’t do the social media trash talking, I save it for the ring and on Friday I’m going to show the world why I deserve to be world champion,” Jack said. “His team likes to bark and talk a lot of trash, but they can’t fight for him.

“I don’t bark, I don’t talk trash, I let my fists do the talking.”

For Dirrell, he admitted that the war of words was in part to sell the fight, but also added that his mindset changes once training camp begins.

“I don’t dislike like him as a guy, but when he’s in the ring, he’s trying to kill me,” Dirrell said. “When he knew he was fighting me ÔÇö I don’t like him.”

In his last fight in August, Dirrell captured the WBC title with a unanimous decision over the rugged Sakio Bika. It was revenge for the 30-year-old native of Flint, Michigan, who had a draw with Bika in December 2013.

To even get to that point, however, Dirrell had to battle back from a nearly two-year bout with cancer and then a 17-month layoff from a broken leg. At 21, Dirrell discovered he had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in December 2006. He finally returned in October 2008, winning a four-round unanimous decision in a fight where he had to overcome a round one knockdown.

But it’s now where he feels 100 percent and in his prime. Part of his perseverance is another reason Dirrell said he is so confident that he’s a class above Jack.

“I have a better style ÔÇö it’s going to be a knockout,” Dirrell said. “I think he’s a good fighter. He wouldn’t have got it if he wasn’t. But he hasn’t fought a fighter of my caliber.”

Friday is also a unique opportunity for Dirrell since he’ll be headlining the second boxing event Spike has aired. It’s, of course, part of the large push by advisor Al Haymon to establish the “PBC” brand and establish fighters to a mainstream.

Dirrell is hoping he’s part of that brand.

“It’s great because people who couldn’t afford Showtime or HBO can see it on free TV,” he said. “I can’t wait to showcase my talent, and let other people see me.”

However, part of the PBC’s branding means a change in the status quo. When his entourage ÔÇö including Thompson, would usually surround him his older brother Willie and even his twin brother and fellow contender Andre ÔÇö would hype him on the way to the ring, the PBC has fighters walk to the ring alone.

But Dirrell said it doesn’t bother him and that he normally is honed in by the time the ring walk begins.

After all, there’s still the notion in boxing that it’s just him and his opponent. Dirrell’s grateful for his family, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“You know when you’re sharp and when you’re ready,” Dirrell said. “I’m so ready, man. I’m ready. I can’t express that enough.”