12 Rounds With … Anthony Dirrell

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Former middleweight champion talks about his career and collecting a KO Saturday night when he faces hometown hero Abraham Han on the PBC on FOX card in El Paso, Texas.

Former super middleweight world champion Anthony Dirrell won his last fight in November by a six-round technical decision over southpaw Denis Douglin before a hometown crowd in his native Flint, Michigan—improving to 4-0 with two knockouts since losing his 168-pound title by majority decision to Badou Jack in April 2015.

Trained by Javan “Sugar” Hill Steward, nephew of the late Emanuel Steward, the 33-year-old Dirrell (31-1-1, 24 KOs) has sparred with heavyweight title challenger Bryant Jennings, among others, in preparation for Saturday night’s clash with Abraham Han (26-3-1, 16 KOs)—a co-feature between rangy switch-hitters on the FOX-televised card (8:30 P.M. ET/5:30 P.M. PT) from the Don Haskins Convention Center in Han’s native El Paso, Texas.

In victory, Dirrell is “open to fight any” of the division’s champions, comprised of James DeGale, David Benavidez or Englishman George Groves and Mexican Gabriel Ramirez, if not interim champion Jose Uzcategui of Mexico—who stopped Dirrell’s 34-year-old brother, Andre Dirrell, in the ninth round of last month’s rematch of Andre’s disqualification victory from last May.

The owner of a two-knockdown, first-round knockout of former champion Caleb Truax, Anthony was 8 years old when he and Andre started boxing under their grandfather Leon “Bumper” Lawson, a lifelong friend and former sparring partner of Muhammad Ali.

How do you feel after your last performance at home against Douglin?

It was a fight, I got the “W” and that’s all that matters. We haven’t been thinking about that fight. It’s in the past and we’re on to the next one.

A win is a win, like in football or basketball. Even if it’s only by a point, it’s still a win no matter how you get the “W.”

With one of your biggest victories being that first-round stoppage of Caleb Truax, what are your thoughts as you reflect on that performance?

I was right on top of Caleb Truax, controlling him with my jab, setting up with combinations and maintaining the tone of the fight.

Caleb went on to beat James DeGale for the title, so I showed that if I work hard like I did leading up to that fight, I know that nobody can beat me.

So is it time to get back to knocking guys out?

I don’t have a prediction, but I am going for the knockout, and whatever round it comes in, I’ll take that. People always wanna see the knockouts. I wanna give the fans one.

The knockout is definitely something I’m going after, especially down there in El Paso, Texas, where Abraham Han is going to be fighting in front of his hometown fans. Former 168-pound World Champion Anthony Dirrell

What are your thoughts on Han?

Abraham is a good fighter coming off of a tough draw with J’Leon Love and a guy you can’t look beyond. Caleb Truax proved that by beating James DeGale for the title, so I’m truly focused on this fight right now.

Abraham is a tall, switch-hitter who comes straight forward, but that’s nothing I can’t handle because I’m always ready and in shape. I’ll stick to my game plan and execute.

Like I’ve said, I’m always looking for the knockout, and if it comes, then it comes and I’ll get him outta there. I’m definitely looking for the knockout, but if I have to go rounds to get the victory, then I will.

Do you have any concerns about winning a decision given you’re fighting in front of Han’s partisan fans?

Well, the knockout is definitely something I’m going after, especially down there in El Paso, Texas, where Abraham Han is going to be fighting in front of his hometown fans.

But him fighting at home doesn’t mean a thing to me because I’ve fought many people in front their local fans when I was an amateur.

As far as the crowd, I’ll tune them out. It’s just going to be Abraham, myself and the referee who will be in the ring that night, and the referee can’t help him.

Have you had any notable sparring partners?

We’ve had a few good sparring partners, including Bryant Jennnings for about six rounds. But I’m really missing my family, so I’m ready to put a hurting on this boy for keeping me away from my family for so long.

Speaking of family, how’s your brother, Andre doing?

Andre’s good. He just wants me to focus on my fight and not to worry about him or the past. That’s water under the bridge and right now, we’re getting through it as a family and it has nothing to do with boxing.

We’re a strong knit family that sticks together and we’re already beyond it, and Andre’s working to get his next fight. After that, he’s gonna be alright.

Would Uzecategui be someone you would want to fight, or would you prefer Benavidez, DeGale, Ramirez or Groves?

I want people who have championship belts, and we all know who they are, so that’s not a secret and everybody knows that. Hopefully, I’ll get a shot at one of them after this fight.

But right now, I’m focused on Abraham Han, and I can’t look past him at anybody else saying that I wanna fight them. So I’m not even looking at my next fight, which is, of course, important.

This is a tough sport, so I’m zeroed in on Abraham Han, and then, when I get beyond him, I will sit down with my management team and we’ll talk about the future.

For a closer look at Anthony Dirrell, check out his fighter page.

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