DETROIT — Handily leading in their fight, Andre Dirrell handed Arthur Abraham his first defeat when referee Laurence Cole disqualified the German for an intentional foul at 1:13 of the 11th round last night at the Joe Louis Arena. The win in the opening act of Stage Two of Showtime’s World Boxing Classic came after Dirrell, off balance, slipped and fell with his knees tucked beneath him on the canvas, only to have Abraham knock him ass over teakettle with a right hand.
Dirrell remained on the canvas for several frightening and tension-filled moments before the official outcome was announced. Even as the ringside physicians, Drs. Higham Admed and Peter Samet, attended Dirrell, it was not immediately clear what might have been going through Cole's mind. Despite the flagrant nature of Abraham's foul, members of Dirrell's posse, including his brother Anthony, had by then spilled into the ring and joined a throng. With nearly fifty people in the ring and no decision rendered, a few bottles landed in the ringside seats. It wasn't clear whether they had been thrown by Abraham's disaffected German supporters or by partisans of Dirrell who feared that the Flint native was about to get shafted.
In the end, depite Abraham's protests (“He is not a boxer; he is an actor,” the former IBF champion complained of DIrrell), justice was served. The outcome was fitting not only because of the flagrant, and seemingly deliberate, nature of the foul, but because Dirrell, a 2-1 underdog, had fought the fight of his life before his home-state audience and had so dominated the previously unbeaten Abraham that only a knockout could at that stage have beaten him anyway.
Abraham's game plan, if he had one, seemed curious from the outset. For several rounds he allowed himself to be cuffed around by Dirrell's high-energy attack without offering much in return. Even when Abraham was taking many of the punches with the gloves with which he covered his face, he was plainly absorbing much of the shock from the blows, and on several occasions DIrrell was able to penetrate the shield to land straight down the middle.
For three rounds Abraham never put two punches together, and when he finally did it proved his first undoing. He charged at Dirrell and tried to throw a wild left, but the American simply shoved his arm out of harm's way and came over the top to deck him with a chopping left, scoring what proved to be the first knockdown of Abraham's career.
If Abraham was increasingly frustrated, he pulled out all the stops in his bag of gamesmanship in an effort to slow down the process. When Dirrell opened the sixth with a punch to the midsection, Abraham protested to Cole that he had been hit low, and even though the referee had made no acknowledgement when it happened, he cut Abraham some slack and allowed him time to recover.
By the seventh Abraham had been cut above the right eyelid, and attempted to pick up the action. At this point the real question was whether Dirrell could sustain the same high-energy pace over the final third of the bout, and whether Abraham could summon a reservoir of power with which to turn the tide.
In the ninth round Cole called time and brought the doctors in to check Abraham's cut, and in the tenth Abraham appeared to have scored a knockdown when Dirrell went down from a right hand to the face, but Cole ruled that the punch had come when the fighters had their feet entangled and disallowed the knockdown.
A wise man once said “Be careful what you wish for; you might just get it.” Abraham's German promoters had bellowed long and loud when they learned that the Michigan commission intended to use local officials in the Super Six fight, and appeared to have gotten their way when the WBC decided to sanction Dirrell-Abraham as a title eliminator, bringing neutral judges into play. (Only Frank Garza was from Michigan on the international trip that included Anek Hongtongkam of Thailand and Guido Cavelleri of Italy. Even more ominously, they got Cole. Just two weeks earlier, after the WBO had nominated Cole to work the Manny Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey bout, that choice was overruled by Cole's home state commission, owing to his erratic history in big fights.)
Earlier in the bout Dirrell had gone down in the Abraham corner following a shove. Cole had summoned a towel from the Germans and given a quick swipe at mopping up the sweat, but he must have missed some of it. As Dirrell ducked away from an Abraham punch in the 11th his feet slipped literally out from beneath him, leaving him in the exposed position in which he sat when Abraham uncorked the punch that ended the fight.
It was sweet redemption for Dirrell, once he revived. Having dropped a controversial split decision to Carl Froch in England during Super Six first round action, the American not only had his own back to the wall in the Showtime series, but Abraham with a win could have assumed a commanding position. Now it's a whole new ball game.
Dirrell, the 2004 Olympic bronze medalist, saw his record improve to 19-1 with the biggest win of his career. Abraham, 31-1, may have some good performances left in him before this thing is over, but having watched the way Dirrell undressed him at the Joe, it seems unlikely that his fellow Super Six participants will be intimidated in the future.
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Any lingering suspense over the outcome of Ronald Hearns’ co-featured bout pretty much evaporated the moment well-traveled journeyman Marteze Logan was substituted as the opponent. Once Logan (26-43-2) was cut above the left eye early in the sixth there appeared a sight chance that the crowd might be spared three more minutes of it, but the ringside physician bravely waved the opponent in, and both men finished on their feet. Fighting in the building his father once called home, Hearns fils improved to 24-1 as he swept the cards of judges Scott Dexter, John Parish, and Gerard White in a 60-54 rout.
Fighting outside Europe for the first time, Sauerland Events’ 22 year-old German middleweight Dominick Britsch made an impressive America debut at the JLA, stopping West Virginian Matt Berkshire in less than two rounds. Britsch hammered Berkshire to the canvas with a pair of hard lefts to the body. Berkshire struggled to his feet, but no sooner had referee Ansel Stewart administered his count than the opponent signaled his distress by bending over double, and Stewart stopped it at 1:52 of the second. Britsch is now 18-0, Berkshire 10-2-1.
Lateef Kayode, the undefeated (11-0) Nigerian cruiserweight trained by Freddie Roach, exploded to put Chris Thomas (17-10) down with two big right hands in the fourth. Thomas regained his feet, only to be taken into protective custody by referee Ron Cunningham at 1:43 of the round.
The Showtime audience was at least spared the disconcerting performance of ring announcer Kara Ro, who managed to go through her recitation of the first eight undercard bouts at the Joe without once supplying the scores or identifying the judges. The Michigan Boxing Commission claimed that Ms. Ro was stonewalling the information at the behest of promoter Gary Shaw, who had directed her not to reveal the scoring information.
“I don’t know anything about that,” was Shaw’s non-denial denial. “All I’m trying to do is move the show along.”
Dirrell’s 2004 Athens teammate, the troubled Ron Siler (1-1), also appeared on last night’s card. Fighting for just the second time as a pro (his debut was delayed on several occasions by run-ins with the authorities), Siler was floored by substitute opponent Vincente Alfaro (1-!) in the fourth round on route to dropping a unanimous decision: 39-36 twice (Parish and White) and 38-37 (Dexter).
Detroit super-middle Darryl Cunnningham advanced to 19-2 with a unanimous decision over Illinois veteran Pat Coleman (29-17), with all three judges scoring a 40-36 whitewash, while Detroit-based, Yemen-born middleweight Brian Mihtar (13-1), outpointed Ugandan veteran Robert Kamya (17-11) in another shutout. (60-54, three times).
In earlier action, Detroit middleweight Purnell Gates (18-1) pulled out a split decision in his four-rounder against Grand Rapids journeyman Chris Grays (9-19). Parish (40-36) and White (39-37) scored it for Gates, with Dexter (39-37) favoring Grays.
Keego Harbor (Mich.) heavyweight Rich Power remained unbeaten at 11-0, but he had to climb off the floor following a first-round knockdown by opponent Ray Lopez (1-1) to do it. Once he righted the ship, had trapped Lopez in a neutral corner and was pounding away without resistance when Stewart stopped the bout at 1:06 of the third.
Yet another six-rounder on the card saw undefeated Detroit welter Vernon Parks (20-0) outpoint Colombian Oscar Leon (28-12), 60-53 on all three cards.
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JOE LOUIS ARENA, DETROIT
March 27, 2010
SUPER MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Andre Dirrell, 167 1/2, Flint, Mich DQ over Arthur Abraham, 168, Berlin, Germany . (11)
Darryl Cunningham, 166, Detroit, Mich. dec. Pat Coleman, 165, Rockford, Ill. (4)
HEAVYWEIGHTS: Rich Power 229, Keego Harbor, Mich. TKO’d Ray Lopez, Holland, Mich. (3)
CRUISERWEIGHTS: Lateef Kayode, 198 1/2, Nigeria TKO’d Chris Thomas, 193, Chicago, Ill. (4)
MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Ronald Hearns, 158 1/4, Southfield, Mich. dec, Marteze Logan, 157 3/4m , Covington, Tenn.
Dominick Britsch, 158 1/2, Neckarsulm, Germany TKO’d Matt Berkshire, 158 1/2, Morgantown, W.Va. (2)
Purnell Gates, 156, Grandville, Mich. dec Chris Grays, 160, Grand Rapids, Mich. (4)
Brian Mihtar, 157, Sanaa, Yemen dec. Robert Kamya, 156, Kampala, Uganda (6)
WELTERWEIGHTS: Vernon Paris, 140, Detroit dec. Oscar Leon, 144 3/4, Cartagena, Colombia (6)
JUNIOR FEATHERWEIGHTS: Vincente Alfaro, 121, Minneapolis, Minn. dec, Ron Siler, 121, Cincinnati, Ohio (4)