By Cliff Rold
MGM, Maryland - Almost thirteen years after winning bronze as a 2004 Olympic middleweight, 33-year old super middleweight Andre Dirrell (26-2, 16 KO), 166 ½, of Flint, Michigan, won an interim IBF crown and the right to a rematch with the last man to defeat him, outright IBF titlist James DeGale. It came in a fight where he was behind early to 26-year old Venezuelan Jose Uzcategui (26-2, 22 KO), 167 ½. Dirrell rebounded, and was boxing well, only to be hit hard after the bell to end round eight. Dirrell could not continue and the bout was ruled a disqualification win in his favor.
The real story though will be the aftermath as a member of Dirrell’s corner, identified as his uncle, came across the ring and landed two sucker punches, one flush, to the face of Uzcategui.
The early going favored the Venezuelan as he got to the body and head of Dirrell. A knockdown could have been called in the second, the call going in Dirrell’s favor. It didn’t stop him from absorbing some heavy shots, more of them mounting in the next two rounds.
Subtly, a shift developed as Dirrell started to figure out the range and land blistering counters. Uzcategui would trap him in corners and not let his hands go, unsure what the countering Dirrell might have waiting. More aggressive in the seventh, Uzcategui still couldn’t land much, Dirrell slipping and landing out of the corner in one testy exchange.
Then all hell broke loose.
Uzcategui threw a three-punch combination, the last shot drilling Dirrell into the floor. The problem was the final shot came at least a second after the bell. Dirrell appeared like he was going to try to shake it off and then went back to the floor, clearly dazed. The crowd grew restless, a fight breaking out in the front row.
Then a fresh fight broke out as a member of Dirrell’s camp walked across the ring and sucker punched Uzcategui. It was all quickly separated. It turned the crowd against Dirrell as they cascaded boos on the ring when referee Bill Clancy announced why he’d disqualified Uzcategui.
Uzcategui was ahead on two of the three judges scorecards at the end of eight (77-75, 77-74, and 76-76). The Venezuelan, who fights out of Mexico, felt Dirrell could have gone on.
“I was throwing a three-punch combination and I didn't hear the bell. I didn't mean to hit him. The third punch wasn't that hard of a punch. I was surprised he stayed down. He did the same thing against Abraham that he did against me tonight. He quit against me and he quit against him. I deserve to be the winner."
Dirrell saw it differently, from what he could recall. “
"All I remember was him throwing a shot at me at the same time the bell rang. After that everything was blurry. I remember a shot and then all went fuzzy. I forgive Uzcategui. I forgive his camp. I don’t want to win a championship like this. I wanted to win fair and square. But I forgive him.”
Dirrell also commented on the post-fight melee. “I’m sorry for what my coach has done. My coach is my family, my uncle, and he was worried. He cares for me. He loves me. Please forgive him. I’m going to stand up like a man. I didn’t win like I wanted to, but I’ll be back. I’m going to come back as soon as they let me.”
When he does, DeGale could be staring back at him.