By Jake Donovan
For those who aren’t fans of the two-headed monster that currently rules the heavyweight roost, good news surely won’t follow once it’s revealed what Andre and Anthony Dirrell have in store for the future of the super middleweight division.
For the past few years, Wladimir Klitschko has served as the lineal heavyweight king while older brother Vitali remains a titlist and the top threat to the throne. The fact that the two will never face each other in the ring means that either retirement or a major upset are the only two ways the division receives a major shakeup.
The Dirrell brothers are nowhere near that level of dominance – yet. However, with Andre returning to the ring this Friday and younger brother Anthony in line for a mandatory title shot, there exists the possibility that the same “problems” can one day exist at super middleweight
For now, Andre Dirrell is concentrating on this weekend’s Showtime-televised showdown with Darryl Cunningham. The bout marks his first since March ’10, when he suffered head injuries in an 11th round disqualification win over Arthur Abraham. The lingering effects forced him to withdraw from a showdown with 2004 U.S. Olympic teammate and close friend Andre Ward and the Super Six tournament altogether.
While disappointed over not being afforded the chance to complete the tournament, he was appreciative of what he was able to accomplish in his bouts against a pair of unbeaten challengers.
“It let me know where I stood in the sport,” Dirrell said of the two biggest fights of his career to date. “A lot of people believed I wouldn’t make it as far as I did, even with Carl Froch. I showed my talent with Froch and I showed my world class with Arthur Abraham, and it led me to the pedestal I stood on in the sport of boxing.
“I’m really looking forward to continuing on that ride. I’m looking forward to get back on that ring so that the world will know it.”
If all goes as planned, then this weekend will serve as the first step towards global domination for the Dirrell family. While older brother Andre is eager to pick up where he left off, younger brother Anthony is now in prime position to contend for his first world title shot.
The unbeaten super middleweight overcame his own break from the ring after battling lymphoma to return in 2008 and has won 12 straight. His most recent victory secured a mandatory title shot against Ward after scoring a 4th round injury-induced stoppage of Renan St. Juste earlier this month on Showtime.
Andre Dirrell was once in the same position and hoped to eventually secure such a fight for himself. Given his brother’s recent success and rise, he believes there is more than one way to achieve their goals without getting in each other’s way.
“My brother is on his way up. He’s battled cancer and yet stayed with me every step of the way with me. The positive energy he gives me and I give him, we just feed off of it. If he wants to get them belts (from Ward), I’ll just get out of his way and chase another belt.”
One option is unbeaten titlist Lucian Bute. The wildly popular champ – born in Romania but now performing to sold out crowds in Canada – recently signed a three fight contract with Showtime, who had hoped that part of the deal would include a showdown with the Super Six winner. However, both he and Ward have talked around such a fight, already looking in directions other than each other.
The elder Dirrell hopes to emerge himself in the Bute business should his younger brother land a dream showdown with Ward. Even if that doesn’t happen, his handlers still believe there’s a way for Team Dirrell to have its cake and eat it too.
“Anthony Dirrell is in position to next challenge Andre Ward as mandatory challenger to his WBC title,” explained promoter Gary Shaw. “If Ward decides to take another fight, he will be forced to vacate the WBC belt. Anthony will fight for a title one way or another in his next fight. If it’s the vacant belt, then we’ll try to make Ward versus Andre Dirrell. If Anthony gets Ward, then we’ll get Andre Dirrell a shot at another belt, against Bute or whoever is available.”
It doesn’t matter to the super middleweight siblings which belts they pursue, as long as they are given the chance to contend for championships.
“We’re both looking to make a name for ourselves, and be another Klitschko set,” states the elder Dirrell. “More so, an American brother set doing it.”
Such a path to success would emulate the Ukranian brother act, right down to the division remaining splintered should it ever reach that point.
“You know that’s off the table,” Dirrell states when asked if he and his brother would ever square off in a sanctioned prize fight. “But if we ever get to that, it’d be a charity event. We’d wear 40 oz. gloves.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected].