By Jake Donovan
Anthony Dirrell is now in line for a future title shot, on the strength of a solid performance in an inconclusive fourth-round stoppage of Renan St. Juste in their Showtime televised main event Friday evening in Santa Ynez, California.
The official time was 2:59 of the fourth round in their Shobox headliner.
An injured left shoulder did in St. Juste, though Dirrell was in control for however long the fight lasted. The bout was hardly competitive as Dirrell was constantly scoring with counter hooks and avoiding most of the incoming.
The fight was well on its way to being a virtual mismatch until a bizarre fourth round cut short what should have been a defining moment for the unbeaten Dirrell.
An attempted overhand left by St. Juste came just as Dirrell was caught with a headbutt and attempted to clinch while wincing in pain. St. Justes punch was thrown over Dirrells right arm, popping his left shoulder out of place as a result.
He tried to let on that he was injured, but referee Jack Reiss instead called time to draw attention to the accidental headbutt which left Dirrell squinting and holding his head while trying to regain his senses.
Dirrell came roaring back the moment action resumed, though unaware he was now up against a one-armed fighter. St. Juste no longer seemed interested in fighting back, for good reason in retrospect. A leaping right hook by Dirrell missed, allowing his wounded opponent to clinch in his best efforts to catch an unofficial time out.
The moment St. Juste got his wish, he dropped his shoulder and screamed to anyone who would listen that he was no longer able to continue. Everyone at ringside finally got the message loud and clear as the fight was stopped on the spot.
Dirrell improves to 24-0 (21KO) with the win, his sixth straight since returning to the ring last September following the second extended layoff in his young career.
The 2004 U.S. Olympic boxer serving on the team along with his brother Andre Dirrell was first forced out of the pro ranks in early 07 after a bout with Lymphoma. Dirrell received chemo treatment and was able to return to the ring in 2008. Six wins followed before being forced out again in Aug. 09, but has come on like gang busters since returning to the ring.
A once promising prospect in his own right, St. Justes career is now in a tailspin. The super middleweight heads home to Canada having now lost two of his last four as he falls to 23-3-1 (15KO).
While St. Juste recovers, Dirrell now waits out the Dec. 17 Super Six World Boxing Classic championship between Froch and Ward, to see who winds up with the tournament trophy and more germane to his career the alphabet title for which he is now the mandatory challenger.
Andre Dirrell was a former member of the tournament, but dropped out after complaining of severe head trauma following his March 10 disqualification win over then-unbeaten Arthur Abraham. Dirrell was next slated to face Ward a close friend and former Olympic teammate who captured a Gold medal but instead provided medical evidence of his inability to fight on.
The younger Dirrell is now in a position to avenge his brothers name. A fight with Ward would represent a showdown on which Andre was never able to follow through, while a title fight against Froch would be his chance to avenge the controversial split decision his older brother suffered in the opening round of the Super Six, serving as his only loss.
In the televised co-feature at the Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez, CA, Jhonatan Romero recovered from an opening round knockdown to rally back and top Chris Avalos via split decision.
Scores were 96-93 and 95-94 for Romero and 95-94 for Avalos in their 10-round bout.
Momentum was strictly a rumor in the all-action super bantamweight bout. Avalos appeared to be well on his way to an early night (the only way he knows how to win) after flooring Romero midway through the opening round, but failed to preserve his early lead.
Romero came roaring back in the second and third rounds, going punch for punch with the free-swinging Avalos and getting the best of every exchange. Neither fighter won more than two rounds in a row, as a rally seemed to surface every 30 seconds with the action swaying back and forth all evening.
Avalos came on strong in the middle rounds and was on his way to surging ahead, but Romero closed the fight strong, particularly in a power punching ninth round. The tenth and final round was befitting of a fight that was truly on the table, but not enough for Avalos to snatch the 0 from his visiting Colombian opponent.
Romero picks up by far the biggest win of his young career as he improves to 20-0 (12KO). Avalos snaps a three-fight win streak with the heartbreaking loss as he falls to 19-2 (15KO).
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter @JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to JakeNDaBox@gmail.com.