Friday, October 16, 2009

Andre Dirrell Ready To Show He Belongs With The Heavy Hitters

Michael Nelson takes a look at Andre Dirrell's chances of pulling the upset in tomorrow night's Showtime Super Six Opener.

Along with Jermain Taylor vs Arthur Abraham, the Froch vs Dirrelll bout will be shown in the UK live on PPV. Click here for more info.

Having been fed largely overmatched opposition thus far in his career, Andre 'The Matrix' Dirrell is taking the largest leap of the six combatants in Showtime's groundbreaking tournament. The 27 year old from Flint, Michigan will be immediately thrown into the lion's den, travelling to Nottingham to take on rugged WBC champion Carl Froch.

Is he ready for the big cats?

His skeptics present a legitimate case. The 6'2 switch hitter has relied on his athleticism and speed to handle guys he generally towers over. He makes several mistakes - pulling straight back, leaving his hands low, and leaping in with single shots - that could cost him dearly against a skilled opponent his size. Such technical deficiencies mixed with a chin that seems less than granite means he has a smaller margin of error than Froch, and can be a recipe for disaster tomorrow night.

In fact, Froch backers need only to look at Andre's 7th fight, a tough scrap against tall journeyman Alfonso Rocha, for evidence of what their man might do. After telegraphing a left hand out of the southpaw stance, Dirrell got caught with a well-timed counter right that immediately lifted him off his feet. He was fortunate that it happened at the very end of the third round because he was in pretty bad shape.

To his credit, he shook off the cobwebs in between rounds and resumed controlling the fight to win a lopsided decision.

Then there was his infamous bout against fellow prospect Curtis Stevens in June 2007. In his sole HBO appearance, Dirrell used his superior foot speed to get in an occasional potshot against a plodding Stevens and gain the favor of the judges. It was one of the worst fights of the decade - perhaps the worst shown on HBO. Pundits and fans dubbed the name Andre Gazelle and wrote him off as more suspect than prospect.

So why does he have a good chance of going to Nottingham and upsetting the more experienced hometown fighter?

To put it simply, he learned from his awful 2007 performance and developed into a dangerous puncher. He found redemption last year by crushing Anthony Hanshaw - who went the distance with Roy Jones - on ShoBox inside of five rounds, taking him apart with powerful counters off the ropes. He split Mike Paschall's forehead wide open with a single punch in his following fight, before turning Victor Oganov's face into a bloody mask with a violent series of uppercuts last November.

Froch's vast defensive liabilities were exposed in his winning efforts against Jean Pascal and Jermain Taylor, and it says here that Dirrell punches harder than both. Most will agree Carl should have some trouble catching up with Andre's speed, at least in the early going. But perhaps more importantly, he'll be catching damaging blows from The Matrix while chasing him down. It's a mistake to assume the tough Englishman can easily walk through the firepower coming back at him and Dirrell's heavy hands tend to draw blood from his opponents. Moreover, you can expect the former Olympian to be far more aggressive than Taylor was if he shakes Froch up with one of his counters.

Another question mark is how well Froch will handle a talented southpaw. Although the left hook from the orthodox stance is Dirrell's most effective punch, if the switch hitter finds success as a lefty, he may stick with it and potshot his way to victory.

I see this as the most intriguing fight out of the first stage of the tournament. Both men have ability to hurt each other. Both men have enough flaws to make it fun. And both men have O's on their record they want to preserve.

Whatever happens, it should be the third consecutive drama in the saga of Carl Froch, and the first peer into the character and heart of young Andre Dirrell.

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