By Bobby Mac
March 30, 2010
In my preview of this fight, I threw out the possibility that this fight had the potential to be a classic for the ages.
The fighters did their parts, training to their maximum to utilize their styles to the best of their abilities in the difficult circumstances that each style caused for the other. The expected frontrunner ran to a dynamic lead with the late finisher closing strongly in what looked to be a compelling, dramatic fight to the finish.
The finish was sudden and dramatic alright, but it turned on an ugly foul that left Arthur Abraham disqualified as Andre Dirrell fell into unconscious convulsions on the canvas.
The good news is that Dirrell was given a thumbs up release from the hospital where he had been taken as a precaution. The bad news is that boxing was given yet another thumbs down black eye for yet another poorly cobbled together bout that left health assistance to Dirrell dangerously delayed and left Abraham and his team puzzled and dissatisfied over his disqualification.
The contrast drawn between the fighters was stark with the fight playing out much like many had suggested. Dirrell melded quick elusive footwork to a busy attack that kept Abraham covered up for much of the first half of the fight. Abraham started to make adjustments and was closing powerfully as tension built for the championship rounds.
Would Dirrell be elusive enough to survive for the certain decision, or would Abraham close the show with another crunching blow to a young contender’s aspirations? Everyone with a pulse filling Joe Louis Arena was in hog heaven dreaming of their fighter proving his mettle down the stretch and cheering him on.
All would be decided with the controversial disqualification of Abraham by referee Laurence Cole at 1:13 of the 11th round. In spite of ample video evidence, boxing aficionados have their own eyes, so the events are disputed, but the results are certain to stand. Dirrell wins and Abraham loses by DQ.
Dirrell played hard to get in the 11th round as Abraham chased him down. The End turned on a few precious seconds of action as Dirrell moved to the corner as Abraham closed hard, jabbing his way in. A jab lands to Dirrell’s head as his right foot slipped out just before Dirrell launched a left hook that landed on the point of Abraham’s jaw and throat just before that glove hit the canvas. Is that enough busy action for you?
Cole shouts “STOP” after the glove touches, just before Abraham launches a right hook. As the “P” tails off Cole’s “STOP” command, Abraham’s hook jolts the jaw of Dirrell, freezing him in place before he falls on his back to the ring apron.
These are the split second events that I pieced together from many slow motion replays after the fact. It is important to remember this careful reconstruction is obviously unavailable in that terrible flash moment of real time when ring action screeches to a stop as chaos breaks out in the ring.
Technically it could be said that Dirrell went down from the Abraham jab that bounced off his noggin, another knockdown that was not called in the fight of another controversy separate from the ending, but regardless, down is down by whatever the means when Abraham’s glove crossed over to Dirrell’s chin.
Viewing things at a distance on video in slow motion after the fact is an odd thing. It gives us superiority over ring officials stuck in the moment in real time. The danger is that we lose perspective of what real ring time means to those making those split second calls. Otherwise, hereto blind men can suddenly see under such advantageous circumstance.
When the slip occurred, Laurence Cole was some distance behind the fighters, not in position to physically intervene. It is unclear how much he was able to see, but Abraham’s back surely blocked much of his view. He may not have seen Dirrell’s left hook bouncing off of Abraham’s jaw, but he seems to have seen the glove fell silent to the canvas a fractional moment before Abraham launches his right hook. It doesn’t seem likely he saw Dirrell’s head a give a little twist upon impact, but perhaps he understood as Abraham has turned to go to neutral corner with gloves up.
Cole advanced as Dirrell goes into convulsions at the most disturbing point of the fight for me. Make that extremely disturbing for me.
Cole seems to wave off the timekeeper’s count at 3 to stand over the convulsing Dirrell. At 10 seconds from impact, Cole yells “FOUL” to someone. A few seconds later he dips down to examine the shaking Dirrell and nearly 20 sec after impact he calls for doctors who enter seconds later.
Cole then walks away and some 30 seconds after impact Cole shouts that Abraham is disqualified and then argues with Abraham about the incident. As far as I could see and hear, the decision was made by Cole without consultation some 10 seconds after impact with his “foul” pronouncement and subsequent “disqualified” pronouncement. That’s the assumption.
So the onus of the disqualification falls upon the actions of Abraham and Cole in those final moments, unless one accepts the premise floated that Dirrell acted out the KO. That seems too implausible for me, a bridge too far, but it’s out there.
So, what of Cole and Abraham is there to assign blame for this travesty? I am but an outsider from distance with no particular insight into the character of either man, but I think it’s a fair and reasonable assessment that both reacted perfectly naturally in the heat of the battle in those final moments. How could they not with the arena screaming their lungs out as Abraham tore into Dirrell for the finish?
It’s mano a mano moments like those that make boxing the King of all sports with the richest, most storied history of all sports, yet this time it all turned bad in a twisted split second that I have no doubt all parties wish they had back to do over again.
King Arthur filed a protest over the unkingly disqualification, but the likely result is that he will just have to live with the loss and learn from it like so many thousands of fighters before him. He is still the tournament leader in good position, but his reputation for good sportsmanship took a hit when he charged Dirrell with acting.
I’ve heard some call for Abraham’s banishment from this tourney, indeed, from boxing itself. I don’t see it. A fighter relies on his fighting reflexes, and I for one cannot fault him for those split second reflexes after coming in with heavy artillery and taking return fire. Ban, boxing if you must, not Rocky Marciano, Marco Antonio Barrera, and too many other storied warriors caught in the heat of battle.
Anthony Dirrell is the winner on paper, gaining his first points and improved rankings. He will have to live with the frightening specter of a shaky threshold of punch resistance in spite of otherwise proving to be a durable fighter in his career.
Laurence Cole has come under scrutiny after previous bouts favoring hometown fighters in Texas and even a suspension. He missed at least two knockdowns and appallingly broke up the action a couple of times for no good reasons when Abraham appeared to have the upper hand.
Why he was chosen for such a high profile bout, and why an out of the mainstream venue like Detroit was chosen after a delay because of an alleged injury are unanswered questions for a poor promotion that delayed getting what could have been critical medical assistance to Dirrell.
I don’t have the answer on how to make a call like that, but it seems a good deal more discussion was needed to make the call AFTER Dirrell was secured and removed to an ambulance to go to the hospital. I saw a rush to judgment based on fractional technical merit that bore no resemblance to the spirit of the regulations that the letter of the regulations is supposed to represent.
Not even Dirrell’s own team and Showtime can escape scrutiny. His team were cuffing and roughing him about, trying to man him up for a moment he was understandably clueless about and further delayed his transport to the hospital while Jim Gray flitted about trying to gain an interview.
The Super Six Tourney started with a grand gesture by Showtime to bring together fight teams and promoters from America, United Kingdom, Denmark, and Germany in an international diplomatic statement of goodwill. Boxing fans were excited, the excitement spread through the boxing press into the mainstream press. Folks stood up and took notice.
There have been 4 fights with all 4 fights won by the hometown fighter. Three of the fights had controversies revolving around the hometown favoritism. The results have been odd to say the least with a split decision, a technical decision, a disqualification, and a dramatic last second KO.
Let us hope the rest of the tourney is stocked with the best officiating and promotional venues available that these fighters deserve. There will always be disputes, grievances, and complaints, but surely boxing can do better.