Anthony Dirrell has reached a point in his career where it is essentially meaningful fights or bust.

It was the mentality carried immediately after his most recent performance, a fourth-round knockout of Marcos Hernandez who moved up in weight for their super middleweight clash last November 6 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The bout was the co-feature of a Showtime Pay-Per-View event headlined by Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez’s eleventh-round knockout of Caleb Plant to become undisputed super middleweight champion.

Dirrell insisted afterward that he would retire if he couldn’t next get a shot at Alvarez. His sense at age 37 at the time (now 38) was that “if I can’t fight for something, I’m fighting for nothing.” Such a fight never had a shot at being next, nor will he get a shot even with a win over Plant (21-1, 12KOs) in their WBC title eliminator this Saturday on Fox Sports Pay-Per-View from Barclays Center in Brooklyn. It’s a reality that Dirrell has been forced to accept while at a point where he’s not ready to call it a career.

“If I’m fighting for a title eliminator, then what did David Benavidez fight for,” Dirrell pointed out to and other reporters during a recent virtual press conference to promote the fight. “I’m just going into this fight just to fight. I wanted a big name. I’m not gonna say the biggest, but a big name for this fight.

“I expect to come out victorious. I expect to do what I need to do to win this fight.”

At the very least, the fight can settle a longstanding beef between the divisional rivals. Dirrell (34-2-2, 25KOs) and Plant had overlapping title reigns for roughly seven months in 2019. Plant claimed the IBF belt in a January 2019 points win over Jose Uzcategui, roughly six weeks before Dirrell became a two-time WBC titlist after beating Avni Yildirim via technical decision in their February 2019 vacant title fight.  

A title unification bout never surfaced, as Dirrell was mandated to next face David Benavidez (26-0, 23KOs) who stopped the Flint, Michigan native in the ninth round of their September 2019 title fight. Dirrell has fought just twice since then—a twelve-round draw with Kyrone Davis who moved up from middleweight for their February 2021 semifinal title eliminator, and the aforementioned win over Hernandez.

Plant sought a meaningful opponent for his first fight after the knockout loss to Alvarez to end his title reign. Dirrell was available and eventually swayed to come on board in a fight where the winner could at least challenge for Benavidez’s interim WBC super middleweight title, if not eventually challenge for the real thing.

For now, none of that means anything to Dirrell. Nor does any other fight not on his present schedule.

“It’s a fight I want to beat somebody ass in,” admitted Dirrell. “I’m focused right here on Caleb Plant. I can’t think on the future right now.”

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox