At the Froch-Dirrell post-fight press conference, Gary Shaw tried to put a positive face on the night.
“I know I had the youngest fighter in the fight and in the tournament,” Shaw said, “I still believe that he's the best, I still believe that he's the most athletic and he's certainly proved, today, that he's a champion. Although we're not walking out with two points or the WBC green belt, Andre proved that he can go ten, eleven, twelve championship rounds – and win them. The lesson, and I guess that it's Andre's lesson, is that when you come over on someone else's territory and they are the champion, you have to win convincingly or you are going to lose. And we didn't do that tonight – not in the eyes of two of the judges. I believe, personally, that we won a close fight.”
The fight was close – even, if only on, the scorecards. The majority of the media present at ringside had scores with margins of three to six points in favour of Froch. Many admitted during the fight and its aftermath that they had scored that way by dint of the visitor's unwillingness to stand and trade, an approach colloquialised as 'negativity'.
Froch, graciously, conceded his opponent's skills, physical attributes and agreement to travel while admitting that the first two of those caused a discordant match-up of styles that never truly went on fire.
“It was dissatisfying for someone like myself,” he said, “who's a warrior and likes to get involved in a bit of a fight and have a bit of a trade-off. I like an opponent to sit there, stand and fight, I think Mikkel Kessler will do that more – stand and give the fans and television viewers what they want.”
Certainly, Dirrell should quickly learn the rule for travelling into enemy territory: Fight, because you will get no favors.
In brief moments, Dirrell turned that switch on and, for those few seconds, looked marvellous: fast, powerful, skilled and punching at volume. At times, his left hand – particularly the hook – was beautiful. Yet the breaks in between, which often stretched to a round or two, were enough to turn the crowd and, most importantly, two thirds of those officially judging the contest against him.
A criticism of Dirrell, however, is not praise for Froch because, despite the win, the champion looked not only frustrated at the absence of the tear-ups that had defined the fights against Pascal and Taylor, but he also possessed seemingly little idea of how to negotiate the speed and movement, or inclination to dance around the ring of his challenger.
Despite the occasional occurrence when punches were thrown and caught, the pattern was set early on with Froch stalking his opponent and looking to land big shots while Dirrell either moved out of range (throwing little) or held on (throwing nothing at all). This led to the deduction of a point from Dirrell for excessive holding in a round that he seemed to be winning, a penalty that Gary Shaw, pointing to Froch's rabbit-punching and the absence of stern warnings from the referee, took issue with.
“I don't believe that the point taken away for holding was holding,” Shaw declared. “Andre wasn't holding – he was pushing and taking his opponent into the ropes which is defensive posture. He absolutely was not holding. There were no stern warnings or point deductions for numerous rabbit punches from Froch and I had a discussion with the referee in the locker room prior to us going out when he came and give us our instructions. I told him I was concerned about rough fighting from Froch – certainly, the rabbit punches.”
It was unfortunate that the negativity towards Dirrell should follow into the press conference. However, due to the lack of security after the event, one idiot slipped into the room and feeling brave enough to taunt an exhausted and demoralised man who had suffered his first loss after being engaged in combat for an hour, took the opportunity of a buffer of fifty people and the anonymity of the crows to launch an attack disguised as a question.
More positively, the night began establishing the front runner in the Super Six World Boxing Classic. There was talk, theoretical at the time, beforehand that retirement would be an option for Jermain Taylor should he be knocked out again. That he was, and it was a heavy one that caused hospitalisation. The blow Abraham took him out with was enough to raise questions about the Arkansas fighter's ability to further participate in the tournament.
Score-wise, Abraham is now highest placed with three points, followed by Froch with two. Should Kessler beat Ward – and he should do, most likely by points – the implication is that the tournament will take on a Euro-centric air. Which, considering the already-parlous state of the Americans in the competition, begs interesting questions as to how the US public will stay with the concept?
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV