The contrast in the nicknames between the medieval “King Arthur” to the modern “The Matrix” cannot be any more pronounced than the boxing styles the boxers will bring into this bout. Abraham has a very relaxed elbows tucked high guard he employs as his base of ring operations that has seen him to an unblemished championship quality record of 31-0, 25 KO, compared to the high energy frentic footwork flash of Dirrell, currently sporting an 18-1, 13 KO record.
Abraham is the proven fighter having made 10 defenses of his IBF middleweight title before moving up a division to knock out Jermain Taylor in one of the most dramatic and concussive knockouts in fistic history. At age 30 with few demonstrated weaknesses in the ring, he seems in the big middle of his prime years. Jermain Taylor also turned out to be excellent preparation for this Dirrell bout with both having fast footwork, fast hands, and sharp jabs.
Dirrell is largely untested coming off a loss in his biggest fight to date against Carl Froch, part of the opening series of the Super Six tourney. He is an athletically gifted boxer, but it remains to be seen if he can actually win at the top level he now finds himself at. His last 5 fights have been his greatest challenge to date, and while he showed flashes of greatness, he also showed flashes of anxiety which robbed him of his balance and tangled his footwork. He reminded me of the late great Floyd Patterson’s tendency to go down in the barest of breezes.
Abraham is the shorter, stockier, man, probably the strongest and most powerful fighter in the tourney. Dirrell is the younger fighter, taller and quicker by a significant margin over Abraham, so the physical differences are yet another of many contrasts in this fight.
So, the $64,000 question those interested are asking is how is this fight going to play out?
Two years ago, Anthony Hanshaw really brought it early to Dirrell, scoring two knock downs Hanshaw was quite unfortunate not to get the call on. Dirrell regrouped enough to trade with Hanshaw and force the stoppage in the 5th round. In his next bout, Dirrell scored a dramatic one punch stoppage of undefeated Mike Paschall, knocking him down and splitting his forehead open. Then came the overmatched Organov and Findley where he simply outclassed and then overwhelmed aspiring prospects.
Abraham has been a Ring ranked fighter since 2005 when he outclassed the #1 Howard Eastman with a decision. By the end of the year, he’d knocked out the 6-4 freakishly tall Kingsley Ikeke for the IBF title that he defended like a Lion against a variety of challengers. Abraham has only had two fights at supermiddle, both non-title bouts that he blasted out ranked contenders Edison Miranda and Jermaine Taylor with dramatic, highlight quality knockouts.
So King Arthur will enter this match as the favorite because he’s much better than any fighter Dirrell has met and he’s also beaten a host of fighters as good or better than Dirrell that possess some overlapping natural attributes.
There is one fight that saw Abraham almost in a life and death struggle, the first Miranda fight. Abraham reportedly lost 2-3 pints of blood after his jaw was broken and seemed to have been given some unsporting extra penalty points and time to recover by the ref. Regardless, recover he did. He was knocking Miranda back at will by the fight’s end to win a controversial decision that he later settled in the rematch.
The switch hitting southpaw Dirrell will be looking to box and move, peppering Abraham with sharp jabs and quick combinations before he has a chance to set to punch. Though winning on the cards against Taylor, Abraham did look ponderous against the quick waterbug defense of Taylor at times. Dirrell also has 13 knockouts in his 19 fights and often marks up his opponents, so he is a live dog in this dustup as long as he comes to fight with some fire and purpose. He cannot rely on spoiling his way to a decision as he tried against Froch against such a quality champion as Abraham is.
Abraham is a devastating puncher who is a solid boxer in his own right, an excellent tactician who intuitively knows when to duck and cover or when to open up. I’d think his team have already spotted Dirrell’s shaky balance in the ring and will be looking to pick their big shots early to build a lead with knockdowns.
Even when not taking punches Dirrell operates on surprisingly stiff legs that belie his fast footwork and quick reflexes. Abraham will put those stiff legs to the test with more pressure than Dirrell is used to which makes me think this will be another Abraham stoppage.
To win, Dirrell would have to bust up Abraham’s face for a TKO stoppage at the discretion of the ref or ring doctor. I don’t see Dirrell’s stamina holding enough to win a decision if he lasts. Dirrell would have to perform well above his previous efforts to beat Abraham. Sure, it’s possible, after all, the Hall of Fame is packed with great fighters who beat bigger odds to establish great legacies.
Dirrell has something of a home advantage in Detroit in spite of never having boxed professionally there and he certainly has the talent, but does he have the fight and the smarts to pull it off?
Stay tuned and we will find out. If the stars all line up just so, they might even duke out a classic for the ages.