Anthony Dirrell Climbs Back Into Title Contention

"The Dog" barks at current 168-pound world champions as he looks to get a belt back in 2018.

Dirrell vs Douglin Highlights: November 17, 2017.

After his six-round unanimous technical decision over Denis Douglin on November 17, 2017, former titleholder Anthony Dirrell is “open to fight any” of the current 168-pound champions—particularly David Benavides or Englishmen George Groves and James DeGale.

Dirrell (31-1-1, 24 KOs) rocked but couldn’t finish Douglin (20-6, 13 KOs) with a first-round left hook. The match ended after an accidental clash of heads caused a cut over Dirrell’s left eye and matters went to the judges’ scorecards. All three had Dirrell ahead.

Fighting in front of his hometown crowd in Flint, Michigan, Dirrell improved to 4-0 with two knockouts since losing his world title in a majority decision loss to Badou Jack in April 2015.

Douglin, 29, had been idle since August 2016. He was floored in the ninth round and stopped in the 10th in a TKO loss to 20-year-old David Benavidez.

Benavidez was slated for Dirrell and a vacant title fight in September, but Dirrell pulled out in August due to a back injury. Benavidez’s split-decision over replacement Ronald Gavril made him the youngest world champion in division history, the sport’s youngest current titleholder and a man Dirrell would like to face next, if possible.

“Me and (Benavidez) can rumble. That’s definite fireworks if it happens,” Dirrell said.

“It was tough to pull out of a world championship fight, but I had a back injury. Everybody thought I was faking and didn’t want to fight Benavidez, but my back was still hurting at the beginning of this camp. I’m better now, and since both of us did what we wanted to against Douglin, he can get it.”

Everybody thought I was faking and didn’t want to fight Benavidez, but my back was still hurting at the beginning of this camp. I’m better now, and since both of us did what we wanted to against Denis Douglin, he can get it. Former 168-pound World Champion Anthony Dirrell on fighting David Benavidez

Dirrell’s present streak includes a first-round stoppage of Caleb Truax in April 2016. Truax is slated to challenge DeGale on Dec. 9. DeGale won, a world title by majority decision over Andre Dirrell in 2015.

“I would want DeGale to fight my brother (Andre) first,” Anthony said. “I think my brother came back and won the fight, so I think I’d like to see him fight DeGale and resolve their situation.”

With the win over Douglin, Dirrell is on his way to another title shot of his own.

“Anthony got hit by Douglin, but would be a totally different fighter for Benavidez or anyone else—similar to the second Sakio Bika fight,” said Dirrell’s trainer, Javan Sugar Hill-Steward. “Anthony just boxed Bika when he wanted to and banged when he wanted to. It’s hard for anyone to beat Anthony any time he’s doing that.”

That includes Gilberto Ramirez (36-0, 24 KOs) of Mexico, who has a February defense against Habib Ahmed.

“We’ll take on any champion,” said Hill-Steward. “But, of course, we would have loved to have fought Benavidez.”

For a complete look at Dirrell vs Douglin, visit our fight page.

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