For all the excitement the Super Six World Boxing Classic stirred up among the boxing public, there was bound to be a letdown along the way. That disappointment came earlier than expected in the form of a controversial decision when Andre Dirrell appeared to clearly out box WBC Super Middleweight Champion Carl Froch, only to be denied on the scorecards.
Going into Group Stage One, Dirrell was the biggest question mark of the six fighters involved. All that most people knew was that he was a slick boxer with good power and that he could switch stances fluidly. But he had never faced strong opposition, and everyone was anxious to see how he would perform in his toughest test to date.
Dirrell had everything working against him coming into Froch’s hometown of Nottingham. He had shown up on only seven days’ notice, hardly enough time to acclimatize to the new time zone, and he had struggled to make weight, needing extra time to make the 168-pound limit after failing in his first effort. Dirrell, who had engaged in some bitter trash talk with Froch in the press conferences leading up to the fight, assured that the weight mishap was the result of his personal scale giving him a different reading and that he was in terrific shape.
Round one was one of the least eventful first rounds on a big stage in boxing in years. In fact, Froch only landed two real punches the entire round – both to the body. Meanwhile, Dirrell scored well with his jab from a distance and even found the time to talk to Froch while doing so.
The second round began as a contest of jabs. Dirrell, clearly the better boxer and now fighting from a southpaw stance, easily won that battle by beating Froch’s output. When Froch tried to make it a fight, he swung wildly and walked into two counter left hands from the speedier Dirrell. It was another easy round for Dirrell, who was doing just enough to win clearly without tiring himself out.
After eating a left hand to begin round three, Froch hit Dirrell the only time he was able to – a rabbit punch during a clinch. Referee Hector Afu called a halt as Dirrell complained, and Froch decided to whack Dirrell on the break as well. A disgusted Dirrell walked away and let Afu issue a warning to Froch about fighting dirty.
Dirrell scored with two straight lefts to the body, a right jab and another left to the head. He then slid along the ropes with his gloves raised, sticking his tongue out and admiring his work. That allowed Froch to get in a rare clean shot to the body, but he ate a hard left to the head in return. He then chased Dirrell along the ropes and finally landed when he snapped Dirrell’s head back with a right hand. But he failed to follow up with anything that would help him win the round.
Dirrell went back to outworking Froch in the fourth, starting with a straight left to the body and one to the head. He dodged a jab and made Froch pay by hammering a hard left-right combination off the Englishman’s cranium. Strangely enough, Dirrell began bleeding from the upper lip, despite not being hit with anything save the occasional jab. The crowd booed as Dirrell glided gracefully around the ring, landing his shots and avoiding Froch’s to take a four-round lead.
Round five began with Dirrell avoiding a jab and creaming Froch with a big counter right across the chin. Fighting in the conventional stance, Dirrell caught Froch with a left hook as well and grinned big. Switching back to southpaw, Dirrell tagged Froch with a right jab. Realizing his only hope was to unsettle Dirrell, Froch grabbed the challenger, turned and threw him hard onto his back on the canvas.
If Froch had looked amateurish through five rounds, now he looked almost pathetic, resulting to dirty tactics to change the pace of the fight. Yet Afu, who had never officiated a memorable fight, didn’t take a point from Froch, probably for fear of putting him out of contention even before the fight was halfway through.
Back on his feet, Froch continued tried to put pressure on Dirrell, who grabbed hold of him. Afu was breaking the fighters, but Froch, realizing he might not get many more opportunities, went ahead and added a body shot on the break. Dirrell complained and shouted at Froch, and Afu again reminded Froch to keep it clean. Dirrell still won the round going away, but Froch was getting closer.
After slipping early in round six, Dirrell blasted Froch with a straight left square on the chin, but the sturdy champion took it well. Dirrell issued a little payback during a clinch as he worked in some body shots to Froch, who wanted a break. Froch missed a three-punch rally and proceeded to lock Dirrell around the head. Dirrell quickly sank to a knee and complained. As bad as Froch was about roughhousing and breaking the rules, Dirrell’s act of over complaining was weary equally thin.
Froch landed what seemed like his first good shot in several rounds when he caught Dirrell ducking with a right hand. He pushed the attack, but Dirrell pulled back into the ropes and countered with a left to the head that knocked Froch sideways into the ropes. Froch cleverly grabbed the ropes to steady himself and hit Dirrell with a straight right to the chin in return.
Dirrell then pinned Froch on the ropes and hit him twice in the face. Afu tried to separate them, allowing Froch to clock Dirrell on the break again. Afu had already lost control of the fight by not being sterner with Froch and lectured both men. All the tense press conferences had boiled over into the ring.
Froch finished the sixth strong, landing a body shot and making Dirrell pay for clinching – something Dirrell first started doing in the round. Dirrell played defense the rest of the way, even dropping to a knee on one occasion without being hit. Froch’s bullying tactics appeared to be working as Dirrell was more focused on complaining than fighting what had been a near-perfect fight.
Halfway through, only the sixth round could have gone to Froch, but it was the second half of the fight he planned to control, and, he did, for several rounds at least.
Froch walked into a hard counter jab from Dirrell that turned his head early in round seven. Dirrell punched in a straight left to the body and one to Froch’s nose as well. But the more Froch came forward, the more Dirrell began to clinch – rather than move – to avoid being hit. Afu issued several warnings during the round, but Dirrell wasn’t taking his threats seriously since Froch had yet to lose a point.
After landing some good shots, he clinched again, and Froch beat him up inside. Dirrell complained about being hit with rabbit punches and forearms on these occasions, but he was putting himself in that position by holding. For whatever reason, Dirrell suddenly looked unable to fight back and didn’t until nearly taking Froch’s head off with a huge counter left hook. It was the best punch of the fight by far, but Dirrell may have given away the round by holding and complaining.
As round eight began, Dirrell appeared to have gotten back on track, keeping his distance and jabbing with both hands. Froch got in a body shot and a well-placed rabbit punch while pushing down on Dirrell’s head. Dirrell complained, but still no point deduction came. Another rabbit punch followed, and it was somehow Dirrell who got lectured by Afu for holding. The only explanation is that Afu feared how the crowd would respond if he finally took a long overdue point from Froch.
Back in the center of the ring, Dirrell unloaded a three-punch combination to the head of Froch, and, with thirty seconds to go, it was a Dirrell round. Then, Froch caught him on the ropes with a big left hook. Dirrell was shaken up and held on for the rest of the round, but whether one punch was enough to swing the round to Froch was debatable.
In round nine, Froch walked into a right-left combination to the head, but the English fans erupted in cheers as though he just drilled Dirrell. To his credit, Froch did start landing his jab more, but Dirrell quickly chased him off with a pair of straight lefts. Dirrell followed up with a hard left hook across Froch’s jaw and caught the champion with a hard right to the side of the head before they traded left hooks.
Froch missed five or six straight punches before pushing down on Dirrell’s head and giving him yet another clear rabbit punch. Dirrell looked to Afu, allowing Froch to do it again – in clear view of the referee. Dirrell continued complaining until Afu finally lectured Froch about the repeated infractions. Still, no point was taken away. Dirrell clinched Froch late in the round, and Froch gave him yet another rabbit punch. When Froch came in again, Dirrell finally hit him with a rabbit punch in return. It was a clear Dirrell round since he was the only one to land clean, legal punches.
Round ten marked only the second time Dirrell had ever been that many rounds, and he composed himself well, controlling the tempo at a point in the fight where Froch usually took over. But when Froch started getting in some rights, Dirrell again resorted to holding. After he twice pinned Froch in the corner, Afu called time and inexplicably took a point from Dirrell for excessive holding. It was an incompetent official’s way of appeasing a crowd frustrated with seeing their man losing.
Inspired by the injustice, Dirrell cracked Froch with two big counter lefts. Froch looked like he was trying to throw Dirrell to the canvas again, but Dirrell gripped the ropes with both gloves and held on until Afu got between them. Once free, Froch rushed Dirrell and got in a left hook but ate a bigger one in return. Dirrell followed with another huge left hand that snapped Froch’s head sideways. Froch’s knees buckled as he staggered, stunned. Dirrell got in another left but couldn’t do more damage before the bell ended the round, but he did save himself from losing a 10-8 round.
Fighting for the first time in the championship rounds, Dirrell was spectacular. He ducked half a dozen punches in the corner, stood up and landed two big left hooks. Dirrell added a left to the body, followed by one to the head while Froch could do little but absorb the blows. Dirrell walked into a left hook from Froch but kept pushing and landed three clean lefts to the head. Froch fought back but didn’t land often never landed clean.
In the corner, Dirrell’s grandfather Leon Lawson Sr., urged him to give it his all in the twelfth, claiming he wouldn’t get a decision in Nottingham. His uncle, on the other hand, suggested Dirrell avoid any lucky shots by Froch because that’s what the champion would need to retain his title.
With Froch either incapable or unwilling to try for the knockout he most certainly needed, Dirrell piled up points in the twelfth and final round. With a minute to go, Froch landed his first clean punch – a jab. Dirrell answered with a straight right to the body and a left hook upstairs. The champion put together a few minor rallies, but landed nothing clean, to end the round. A generous judge may have given Froch the round based on activity. Froch did get in one good left hook – after the bell.
When ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. announced a split decision, Dirrell dropped to a knee beside Froch and held the champion’s hand in a bizarre moment. The first judge, Alejandro Rochin, had it 114-113 Dirrell, which was a little closer than the fight that had taken place. But if Rochin’s score seemed a bit off the mark, the next two scores were just baffling.
Massimo Barrovecchio and Daniel Van de Wiele somehow scored the fight for Froch by scores of 115-112. They each saw him winning seven rounds in a fight he would have been lucky to be awarded five.
Froch, who had knelt beside Dirrell, stood and bit his lip as he nodded his head, surely knowing he had gotten away with one in his first Super Six encounter. Dirrell was a good sport given that he had been victimized by poor judging and congratulated Froch. In his heart, he had to know he had been jobbed.
Yes, Froch was the one making the fight – unfortunately, that fight was not a boxing fight but rather a wrestling match. Until he threw Dirrell to the canvas in the fifth, he hardly even hit Dirrell. And yes, Dirrell spent most of the fight keeping his distance and complained whenever things got too rough for him. But, according to the rules about how a boxing fight is scored – the ones about hitting and not being hit – Dirrell should have been declared the winner on this night.
With the controversial win, Froch earns two points in the Super Six tournament while Dirrell receives none for his performance. No one would blame if he had a hard time motivating himself in training knowing he can execute a near-perfect game plan and still go unappreciated by the judges. He faces another tough test in Arthur Abraham next time out, but, having shown he can go twelve hard rounds against Froch, Dirrell will be a live underdog in that one.
Froch will go on to face WBA Super Middleweight Champion Mikkel Kessler next in what should be more in line with the kind of fight Froch wants, though he will surely be an underdog.
Tags: Andre Dirrell, Boxing, Carl Froch, Super middleweight tournament, Super Six tournament