You can’t help but see the raw, potential star power in Andre Dirrell (23-1, 16 KOs). He’s a good-looking, charismatic fighter with stellar athleticism, seemingly tailor-made for the fight game.
And it’s been this potential that has kept Dirrell near the top of the sport, inspiring confidence in potential managers, promoters, and networks even when he somehow manages to needlessly complicate his own road to stardom.
With just eleven professional fights, HBO gambled on Dirrell in 2007 and put him in a boxer vs. slugger feature against fellow prospect, Curtis Stevens.
Instead of rising to the occasion, both Dirrell and Stevens showcased their fatal flaws as a timid, tepid Dirrell, who won via unanimous decision, ran for the full ten rounds against a cement-footed Stevens who could do nothing but flash angry grimaces at his foe. Even the usually benevolent Harold Lederman couldn’t contain his disgust, labeling Dirrell-Stevens the worst bout he had ever seen.
The HBO dud would have the 24-year-old Dirrell spending another year on the minor league club circuit before his next big bout, a shot at a WBO regional belt against heavy-handed Russian, Victor Oganov.
Dirrell would dazzle in his performance against Oganov, stopping the slugger in the sixth round. Four months later, he would dazzle similarly in another six-round stoppage victory, this time against durable journeyman Derrick Findley.
With this comeback, Dirrell was given a spot in Showtime’s World Boxing Classic super middleweight tournament as one of the “Super Six,” alongside Andre Ward, Carl Froch, Arthur Abraham, Jermain Taylor, and Mikkel Kessler.
Again, the potential was there for Dirrell to rise to the occasion and, again, his own character and ring flaws prevented him from reaching his full potential.
He boxed well against Carl Froch in his first bout in the tournament and there’s a case to be made that he may have actually won the bout, but he was nowhere near aggressive enough to take the contest in Froch’s hometown of Nottingham.
After his split decision loss to Froch, he managed to bounce back beautifully against Arthur Abraham, outclassing the former middleweight champ until being punched loopy by a massive shot after he had slipped and fallen on the wet canvas.
Unable to continue after the foul, Dirrell was given the eleventh round DQ victory as he wandered the ring, obviously dazed and confused from the fight-ending blow to the head.
Instead of moving on in the tourney, Dirrell would leave the “Super Six,” citing head injury and spend the next twenty-one months on the shelf before coming back to sign with 50 Cent’s upstart promotional company, SMS Promotions.
Dirrell would leave SMS Promotions less than two years later after only getting one fight under the guidance of “Fiddy.” For those keeping track, between the Abraham DQ in 2010 and deciding to leave SMS in July of 2014, Dirrell would only fight twice in well over four years.
Now, the fighter from Flint, Michigan is signed with Al Haymon, who Dirrell had left a few years ago, and seemingly focused on making a legitimate run at a major title. He has already fought twice in 2014 with a third bout– an IBF super middleweight eliminator (for the no. 2 ranking) against Derek Edwards– scheduled to take place on the Adonis Stevenson- Dmitry Sukhotskiy December 19 at the Pepsi Coliseum in Quebec City.
For the fighter who once drew comparisons to legendary figures like Roy Jones and Sugar Ray Leonard, every fight from this point forward takes on an exaggerated level of importance. In the ring, he will have to be more focused, more daring, and more willing to give the fans a show. Outside the ring, he has to find a way to take care of business while not letting it completely stall his career for large periods of time.
One look at Dirrell tells you that the talent is there and the charisma is still there as well. At 31 years of age, though, second chances will be harder and harder to find.