The Real Deal In Detroit: Of Cole's Conduct, And Sour Krauts

BY George Kimball ON March 28, 2010
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DETROIT --- Has anybody else noticed how often the bravest guys in the aftermath of these skirmishes turn out to be the non-combatants?

Or, put another way, do you suppose Anthony Dirrell knows -- or cares -- how close he came to turning the result of Saturday night’s fight at Joe Louis Arena into a double-disqualification?

Andre Dirrell was still twitching on on the canvas in the blue corner when, amid a total breakdown of security, several members of the American boxer’s posse came bounding through the ropes and across the ring. On one hand, it might be understandable that Anthony would be so alarmed that he wanted to immediately ascertain his brother’s condition, even though in doing so he was issuing an open invitation to Laurence Cole to invoke a second disqualification.

The referee at that point had yet to officially affirm his intention to DQ Arthur Abraham, and, having summoned the ringside physicians to attend to Dirrell, had his hands full trying to herd Abraham back into a neutral corner, so he may well not have even noticed. But even when another cornerman dragged Anthony Dirrell back across the ring to the red corner he remained in the ring, and occupied himself directing threats and menacing gestures toward Abraham -- who at least a couple of times looked ready to take him up on the offer.

And of course by then the ring had become total chaos, with several dozen officials and members of both entourages milling around, presumably while they waited for Cole to make up his mind.

In fairness to the referee, although he once again did not have a good night in the ring (does he ever?), his handling of the DQ appears to have been adequate. He might not have rendered his decision with the decisive authority of a Mills Lane, but the interval between the act and his ruling was marked not, as some subsequently suggested, by indecision, but rather by what seemed to be a process of deliberate contemplation to make sure it was done right. (The tape reveals that even with Dirrell still down, Cole can be heard informing Abraham of the impending disqualification.)

And, moreover, you can take this much to the bank: Had Cole’s decision been anything other than what it was, he probably never would have gotten out of the Joe alive. And neither, for that matter, might any of the rest of us seated near ringside.
Abraham sounded even sillier attempting to justify the flagrant foul that cemented his first loss than he looked committing it in the first place. After the fight he tried to tell Showtime’s Jim Gray that he was watching Dirrell’s eyes and not his feet and, ergo, didn’t even realize the American was down when he almost took his head off with a right hand.

Drawn to his full height, Arthur Abraham is four inches shorter than Dirrell. Put Dirrell on the floor, with both legs tucked underneath his body, and Abraham was standing a good two feet above his target. And we’re supposed to believe he didn’t notice?

In watching the sorry -- sorry for everybody save Showtime, since between Dirrell’s performance and the controversial outcome the network will receive a huge boost from the events in Detroit -- scene unfold, one could not but recall the post-fight melee that attended Abraham’s only other previous fight in the United States.

After King Arthur knocked out Edison Miranda three years ago at the Seminole Hard Rock in Florida, one member of his posse celebrated Kristallnacht by chasing a Miranda supporter around the ring with a folding chair.  Abraham’s brother Alex took the more direct route, climbing into the ring to kick Miranda, who was still on the floor, being attended to by the ringside physician. The good doctor attempted to protect the boxer by grabbing the offending foot, which is just about the time the Seminole Tribal police arrived. What they saw, of course, was one guy in the ring grappling with another’s leg, so their first reaction was to slap the cuffs on Dr. Weiss.

To the best of our knowledge American authorities still have an outstanding warrant for Alex Abraham as a result of that little affray, which is probably the only reason there was no brother-against-brother battle in the ring at the Joe Saturday night.

Cole, as we have noted, didn’t exactly color himself with glory with his performance in the Dirrell-Abraham bout, but he didn’t even come close to committing the worst transgression of the evening by a ringside official. For that, Dr. Hisham Ahmed can stand up and take a bow.

By the ninth round the cut Abraham had sustained in the seventh was bleeding copiously enough that Cole called time and led the German over to be examined by the ringside physician -- and the operative word here is, or is supposed to be, examined.

Since the episode took place on the opposite side of the ring from our position we hadn’t paid much attention at the time, but the tape of the sequence shows that Dr. Ahmed pulled out a square of gauze and proceeded to apply pressure to Abraham’s wound for an unbroken period of 40 seconds, by which time it had been stanched to a trickle.

In this action, it should be plain enough that he overstepped the bounds of a ringside physician’s duties and was functioning as Abraham’s de facto cut man. Even when his colleague, Dr. Peter Samet, joined Ahmed on the apron he made no attempt to  discourage him from this process, which served to revive Abraham.

Cole? Well, there’s no rule against a referee greeting his introduction by Jimmy Lennon Jr. by striking a favored pose recalled from his youth. (In this case, it was Elvis, from an early scene in “King Creole.”) But when it comes to ruling on low blows, isn’t the  referee supposed to make those decisions himself? (Early in the sixth, Dirrell delivered a borderline, belt-high shot to the midsection, and Abraham reacted with a swoon. Although the referee, who was behind the fighters, couldn’t possibly have gauged whether it was low or not, and in fact did not seem to have considered it noteworthy when it happened, he opted to take Abraham’s word for it and, after the fact, called time.)

Add to that what was a blown knockdown call in the tenth. (Cole apparently claimed that the fighters got their feet tangled up as Abraham floored Dirrell. The replay seemed to show that there may have been slight contact between the shoes, but it had absolutely no bearing on Dirrell going down from what was plainly a punch.

Did Cole, as has been suggested, initially attempt to pick up a count after the flagrant foul that ended the fight? Having watched the replay over and over, we don’t think so. The referee did make one reflexive downward motion with his arm just after the impact, but in this case, he appears to have had his wits about him.

What could be interesting now will be the report on the proceedings the referee delivers to the Michigan Commission and to the WBC (who had sanctioned Dirrell-Abraham as a title eliminator). If Abraham’s actions are deemed sufficiently flagrant and premeditated, it remains possible that he could not only be fined but could wind up with a significant suspension as well. (And who is to say which would last longer -- an Abraham suspension, or the medically-mandated interval Dirrell is obliged to sit out in the wake of a devastating, if illegal, knockout?

(After promoter Wilfried Sauerland added his accusation that Direll was "trying to sneak out of a fight" to Abraham's contention that Dirrell is "an actor, not a boxer," Gary Shaw responded by calling Sauerland a "sourpuss."

Didn't he mean sauer Kraut?

One more question here: Is, or was, Abraham engaged in some sort of image makeover going into this fight? When he came into the ring against Miranda three years ago, there were dozens of German flags around the arena, and the bout was immediately preceded by a stirring rendition of the Hitler-era national anthem, “Deutschland Uber Alles.” In Detroit Saturday night there was no anthem, no German flags, but tricolored Armenian banners were visible in great profusion throughout the audience.  

Just wondering: Was that Abraham’s idea? Or Showtime’s?

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