Long ago, Leon “Bumper” Lawson made two predictions about his grandsons, Andre and Anthony Dirrell: that they would become top amateur fighters and, one day, world champions. The brothers made good on the former prophecy and are working doggedly to bring the latter to reality—and soon.
“We’re pretty sure that it’s going to come true,” Anthony Dirrell says. “We’re not going to let him down.”
The brothers’ quest continues Friday at Taj Mahal Casino Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where Andre Dirrell (24-2, 16 KOs) takes on former 175-pound title challenger Blake Caparrello (22-1-1, 6 KOs), and Anthony Dirrell (28-1-1, 22 KOs) battles Caleb Truax (26-2-2, 16 KOs). Both fights are scheduled for 10 rounds. (Spike, 9 p.m. ET/PT).
Lawson is actually more than just a proud grandfather; he’s also been the siblings’ career-long trainer. With 32-year-old Andre Dirrell, Lawson works alongside his son, Leon Lawson Jr., in Florida, while also handling 31-year-old Anthony in Detroit with help from Javan “Sugar” Hill Steward, the nephew of the late Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward.
The elder Lawson actually has already witnessed one of his grandsons reach the pinnacle of his sport: In August 2014, Anthony Dirrell won a 168-pound title after beating Sakio Bika by a unanimous decision in a rematch of their draw from eight months earlier. However, Dirrell lost the crown in his first defense last April, falling to Badou Jack by majority decision.
Andre Dirrell, meanwhile, has come up short in both of his world title opportunities, losing to Englishmen Carl Froch in October 2009 (split decision) and James DeGale in his most recent fight in May (close unanimous decision).
Those two narrow defeats haven’t discouraged Andre Dirrell so much as they’ve reinforced his determination to get to the top—and bring his younger brother along with him.
“My time will come to be world champion. Anthony will be one again, also,” says Andre Dirrell, a 2004 Olympic bronze medalist whose list of victims includes former titleholder Arthur Abraham. “My grandfather wants both of us to hold a world title. Whether we do it at the same time doesn’t matter. “I don’t want to retire professionally and my career be in vain.”
“ My time will come to be world champion. Anthony will be one again, also. ” Andre Dirrell
To get back on the championship track, Andre Dirrell will need to shake off 11 months of ring rust and take care of Caparello.
For the second time in as many fights, the left-handed Dirrell will be facing a fellow southpaw in Caparello, a 29-year-old Australian who was last in action against Luke Sharp in November. In that contest, Caparello earned his third straight unanimous decision victory—and his second straight at 168 pounds—since suffering a second-round knockout loss to 175-pound champ Sergey Kovalev.
A boxer-puncher not known for his knockout prowess, Caparello actually put Kovalev on his backside in the opening round only to get dropped three times in the second and deciding stanza.
“Caparello is hungry just like me, and he’s fighting for his career, so I know he’s a dangerous man,” says Dirrell, who weighed in Thursday at 169 pounds, while his opponent checked in at 167. “Caparello has only lost to the monster Kovalev. He wants to redeem himself, but he’ll be denied.
“I’m going into this like it’s a world championship [fight] against the best man in the division.”
Anthony Dirrell, meanwhile, is coming off September’s unanimous decision win over former 160-pound title challenger Marco Antonio Rubio. In rebounding from his tough loss to Jack 4½ months earlier, Dirrell put on a dominating performance, shutting out Rubio over 10 rounds.
In Truax, Dirrell will be facing a 32-year-old opponent who is on the heels of his own bounce-back effort. Truax stopped Melvin Betancourt in the fourth round in February after being knocked out in the 12th round by 160-pound champion Daniel Jacobs last April.
Dirrell, who tipped the scales at 168.8 pounds, says he expects a tough battle with the Minnesota native, who weighed 168.6 pounds.
“Styles make fights,” Anthony Dirrell says. “Truax is a good, rugged fighter who will bring out the best in me. I need someone who will push me to the max.
“I’ll have to stick to my game plan if I want to get the stoppage, but you can’t stop everybody. I’ve definitely got to look impressive, even if it goes the distance.”
Born and raised in Flint, Michigan, the Dirrell brothers were inseparable early on in their pro careers, debuting on the same January 27, 2005 card at Michael’s Eighth Avenue in Glen Burnie, Maryland. That night, Anthony finished Henry Dukes in 80 seconds, while Andre defeated Carlos Jones by fourth-round stoppage.
The pair would go on to fight on the same card six more times through late 2006 and not again until March 28, 2009, in Miami, Oklahoma. Not since that day more than seven years ago have the siblings shared a ring on fight night.
“In the beginning, we fed off each other’s energy during training. But we’ve been professionals for over 10 years now and realized it was probably best for us to do separate camps,” Andre Dirrell says. “This is how we feed our families, so we know exactly what we need to do.
“My brother will do his job Friday night, and I’ll focus on doing the same.”