Former world champion Anthony Dirrell has created his own charitable foundation for children in his hometown of Flint, Michigan, in efforts to stop bullying, raise funds for cancer research, provide scholarships, help improve a troubled school system and provide mentoring programs.
The Dirrell Chance Foundation will hold its first major event, a golf fundraiser, in August along with former Michigan State and NBA player Morris Peterson.
“I’m excited to get my foundation up and running," Dirrell said, “to have all sorts of outings and sporting events for the kids and their benefit, and continuing to give back to Flint.”
Anthony Dirrell, 32, grew up in the rough-and-tumble Flint neighborhoods. To escape trouble, he and his older brother Andre started boxing at the Joe Byrd Boxing Academy.
Boxing replaced the streets for the Dirrell brothers as they were taught the sweet science by their grandfather, Leon “Bumper” Lawson, a lifelong friend and former sparring partner of Muhammad Ali.
It's the life sessions in and out of the ring that pushed Anthony Dirrell to give back to the community.
“I want to open a nonprofit to help the kids, maybe even with boxing," he said. “They need a place to go after school or in the summertime, and we don’t have that here.
“You’ve got little kids with their whole lives ahead of them who are victims of bullying. They're being picked on for what they wear or their ethnicity. People are killing themselves because they feel they're not worth anything. It’s not a joke. It’s real life.”
Dirrell's life story includes overcoming a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in December 2006. He underwent strength-sapping chemotherapy treatments while still hoping he could continue boxing.
After resuming his career in October 2008, "The Dog” survived a May 2012 motorcycle accident that left him with a broken arm and leg. Dirrell (30-1-1, 24 KOs) then bounced back once again, and went on to win his 168-pound world title in August 2014 with a unanimous decision over defending champion Sakio Bika.
Since losing the title to Badou Jack by majority decision in April 2015, Dirrell has won three consecutive bouts and next could fight England’s Callum Smith (22-0, 17 KOs) for the 168-pound world championship that Jack vacated earlier this year to move up in weight.
As he awaits his potential title shot, Dirrell is set to watch Andre Dirrell fight Jose Uzecategui for an interim 168-pound world title at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, on Saturday night (Showtime, 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT).
- Anthony Dirrell