By Chris Robinson
The Mayweather Boxing Club in Las Vegas, Nevada has been bustling as of late, with even Floyd Mayweather Jr. himself spotted the past few days putting in some work.
A noticeable duo that has been seen walking through the doors over the past few months is that of Andre Dirrell and his younger brother Anthony, both contenders in the super middleweight division.
Andre may be the more well-known commodity amongst the siblings because of his frequent appearances on Showtime’s airwaves, particularly his involvement in Showtime's well-documented Super Six tournament before his withdrawal, but Anthony has an interesting story all his own.
Born on October 14th, 1984 in Flint, Michigan, Anthony is younger than Andre by a little over a year and has always had a close bond with his brother, with both men making victorious professional debuts in January of 2005. Anthony would go on to string off twelve straight victories, eleven by way of stoppage, before seeing his career sidetracked after it was discovered in early 2007 that he had non-Hodgkin lymphona, a form of cancer.
So while Anthony’s career would come to a screeching halt, it was Andre who continued to flourish, racking up win after win, with a May 2008 5th round stoppage over Anthony Hanshaw particularly raising some eyebrows. Instead of sulking on the sidelines, Anthony seemed to take inspiration from Andre as he eyed his own ring return.
“Then it was hard because I was seeing my brother progress and I had to sit back and go through the chemo, go through radiation,” Dirrell stated. “But I was there 100% every fight and supporting him and waiting on my chance to shine.”
As far as dealing with the physical and emotional effects of the blood cancers, Dirrell admits that it was a trial all its own.
“That was the hardest thing I ever went through in my life,” he said adamantly. “It’s going to be the hardest thing I ever went through in my life. I don’t wish cancer upon nobody. I pray for everybody that got it and I just wish it upon nobody. That’s a dangerous disease.”
Through the help of family and friends, Dirrell would overcome his condition and returned to the ring in October of 2008 with a four-round decision over Andy Mavros at the nearby Palms Hotel and Casino. Next up for the 27-year old is a crucial December 2nd assignment against Canada’s Renan St Juste at the Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez, California.
I could tell instantly that Dirrell wasn’t completely familiar with his 39-year old foe and is instead focusing on what he can bring to the table in nine days’ time.
“I just get ready as I get ready for anybody,” said Dirrell of the St-Juste fight, which will serve as a WBC eliminator on Showtime. “I bring southpaws in, just trying to bring his style that he fights.”
Dirrell was then asked for his assessment of some luminaries in his weight class, first starting off with the December 17th Super Six finale between WBA champion Andre Ward and WBC champion and British trash-talker Carl Froch.
“It’s definitely going to be a war but I think Andre Ward will pull it out by split-decision,” Dirrell predicted.
IBF champion Lucian Bute meanwhile has endeared himself to some in the sport but Dirrell won’t be sold until the Romanian begins to fight outside of his adopted Canadian bases.
“Bute hasn’t even been anywhere,” said an unimpressed Dirrell. “He’s fought a couple people, I mean he fought [Librado] Andrade, he really should have lost. He's fought a lot of Canadians, but when he comes over here and proves himself, then I will believe him. But until then I will give it Andre Ward. He proved himself. He fought Mikkel Kessler, he fought Sakio Bika, Allan Green, Arthur Abraham, all the top opposition.”
Dirrell then agreed that former middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik dropped the ball a few months back by citing monetary reasons and pulling out of a scheduled fight with Detroit's Darryl Cunningham, a bout that would have led to a crack at Bute if he was successful.
“Definitely. I don’t know what’s going on over on his side, so I’m not going to really comment on that, but he had a shot and he missed it,” Dirrell added.
There’s definitely some interesting characters floating around at 168 pounds and while the high-profile matchups and lucrative incentives are always a plus, Dirrell has his sights set on a prize of a different kind.
“It’s a packed division. There are a lot of people who stand out. I’m going for the belts. I’m kind of an old-school fighter. I want the belts. People out here want to fight for the money, I’ve been fighting this whole time for a belt and that’s what I’m going to get. I got to get a belt for my grandfather.”