By Jake Donovan
Earlier in the week, super middleweight contender Andre Dirrell took shots at undefeated titlist Lucian Bute, referring to the Canada-based Romanian as a “protected fighter.”
When asked to confirm, the 2004 Olympic bronze medalist didn’t shy away from his original claim, though he made sure to thoroughly explain his remarks.
“It’s an accurate accusation,” Dirrell (19-1, 13KO) confirmed when asked of the subject during a conference call to discuss his ring return versus Darryl Cunningham this Friday in Cabazon, California. “He’s been fighting in his hometown pretty much his whole career, facing the same type of fighters.
“I take nothing away from him, he’s an excellent fighter – he has a great uppercut, he has a great jab and is quick on his feet and his hands. But he’s beating B-minus fighters and in your hometown, the accusation is there. I’m not the first to say that; it’s just a great evaluation.”
The comments come on the heels of Dirrell lobbying for a future shot at Bute, who is rumored to be heading for a two-fight set in 2012 that will culminate in a showdown with Carl Froch. The lone loss of Dirrell’s career came on the road in Froch’s hometown of Nottingham, England, dropping a disputed split decision in Stage One of the Showtime Super Six World Boxing Classic.
Dirrell has fought just once since then, winning via 11th round disqualification against then-unbeaten Arthur Abraham. The win came at a heavy price, as the fight-ending blow Dirrell endured while defenseless on the canvas resulted in neurological damage that kept him out of the ring for the past 21 months.
Lost in the process was a second title shot, as he was slated to face close friend and 2004 U.S. Olympic teammate Andre Ward late last year. Dirrell was forced to pull out of the fight and the tournament as he was forced to sit on the sidelines until being medically cleared to resume his career this past April, watching Ward go on to win three more times, including a points win over Froch to take the Super Six trophy.
Bute was one of the few top super middleweights to not partake in the tournament, though offered up by Showtime as the proverbial pot of gold for its winner. However, he and Ward have both talked circles around such a fight and are already pursuing other fights.
The moment it was clear that such a fight already has no chance of happening next year, Dirrell didn’t hesitate to enter the mix. Not only is it a fight that further enhances his own credentials, but would also go a long way towards validating any claims of Bute threatening Ward’s stance as the world’s best super middleweight.
“Even his fans want to see him against the big dogs,” Dirrell insists, even if the continued sold out crowds in Canadian venues suggest otherwise. “He has to get in there with that speed… that spunk… that charisma. Bute has a lot to prove. He’s protected and nobody can deny it.”
Dirrell would also love nothing more than to revisit long ago plans to be paired up with Ward, a fight that would serve as a rare matchup between Olympic teammates.
“I know our day will come,” Dirrell insists. “That’s something the fans want to see and we will give it to him.”
The last such occurrence came in November 2008, when fellow Super Six dropout Jermain Taylor – who makes his own ring return on the undercard of Dirrell’s showdown with Cunningham – soundly outpointed 2000 U.S. Olympic teammate Jeff Lacy. The fight came with both fighters in desperate need of a big win, whereas Ward and Dirrell currently rate as among the best in their current field.
It makes no difference to Dirrell which one he faces in ’12, though he obviously prefers to face both Ward and Bute. He likes his chances against both, though views his countryman as stylistically the more difficult matchup.
“That’s pretty tough to say,” Dirrell states when considering who would pose the stiffer challenge. “Andre Ward being orthodox and I deal a lot with orthodox fighters - that would be a plus for me. But honestly, Andre has a lot better skill and a lot better technique.
“Lucian Bute is a southpaw and I envision the type of problems I could have in that fight, but only to figure out how to solve them. He’s at the top of his level and I could have a problem, but I can see myself handling those problems. I’d have a tougher time with Andre Ward for sure.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected].