The former world-class kickboxer admits he has a tough task Saturday night in former 168-pound champ Anthony Dirrell, but that won't stop Han from putting on a show in the Lone Star state.
Some may view Abraham Han as an example of crushed optimism. Others may regard him as a steely-eyed realist. No matter which side you’re on, his circumstances are relatable.
Han is a 33-year-old super middleweight who has been a pro for 10 years. This Saturday night, he faces Anthony Dirrell in the co-feature of a FOX-televised tripleheader (8:30 pm ET/5:30 pm PT) at the Don Haskins Convention Center in his hometown of El Paso, Texas.
“I’m what’s considered a worker,” Han said. “My job is to lose and help build someone else’s career. It’s something I’ve grown accustomed to.”
Han is simply being honest about the optics. Perhaps there is something admirable in this sobering outlook. At the very least, he’s saying what a lot of people are thinking.
Boxing isn’t Han’s first love. His father, Master Han, was a martial arts specialist. Master migrated from South Korea to El Paso, where he opened Han’s Oriental Martial Arts in a strip mall.
Master’s four children were his first students. Daughter Jennifer ultimately focused on boxing. In 2015, she became the first world champion from El Paso, male or female, when she won the IBF featherweight title.
Abraham fell in love with kickboxing.
“I began boxing when I was 13, but I didn’t take it too seriously,” he said. “I had over 300 amateur kickboxing matches and I’m a world amateur kickboxing champion. Boxing? My amateur record was horrible, like, 80 wins and 70 losses, or something like that. I don’t know why I stuck with it, but I did.”
Following his amateur kickboxing career, Han joined Chuck Norris’ World Combat League.
“I kicked everyone’s butt,” he says. “I was just knocking people out left and right. Then they shut it down completely in year three. So, I had to make a decision. There was no money in kickboxing. And I wasn’t really excited about MMA. So, I decided to stay with the boxing.”
Han turned pro in 2007. He won his first 19 bouts and landed a contract with Top Rank Promotions. Following a loss to Glen Tapia in 2013, he was dropped from his contract.
Han won his next four, clawing back to title contention. The subsequent two fights would forever alter his psyche.
It began in February 2015, when he fought Sergio Mora. Mora used his experience to tally an early lead. Han’s kickboxing habit of leaning straight back made him an easy target for the right hand.
Han got stronger as the fight progressed. In the tenth, he briefly dropped Mora with a left hook. But it wasn’t enough to secure the win as Mora escaped with a 12-round split decision.
“ One thing is that it’s in El Paso. I’m undefeated in my hometown. Who would’ve thought? Maybe that’s the stroke of luck I need. ” Super middleweight boxer and El Paso, Texas native Abraham Han
Two months later, Han was pitted against another heavy favorite, Fernando Guerrero.
Han set the tone in the first, dropping Guerrero with a left hook. He controlled the first half of the fight, but Guerrero stormed back in the final three stanzas and won a 10-round split decision. The crowd at the StubHub Arena littered the ring with expletives.
“I just stopped caring after that,” said Han. “My heart wasn’t in the same place that it was. What’s funny is, not caring so much has actually helped me out. I feel more relaxed in the ring. I used to put a lot of pressure on myself, especially against big-name opponents. When I stopped caring, I performed better.”
Han hasn’t lost since. Last September, he battled J’Leon Love to an eight-round, majority technical draw. According to punch stats, Han landed more shots and at a higher percentage.
Then in the eighth, an accidental headbutt opened a nasty cut on his scalp. The bout went to the cards, where one judge had Love well ahead, and the other two scored it even.
“The judges are going to score it however they score it,” Han says. “I was fighting in his hometown and under his promotion. It’s tough to win in those instances.”
Han’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed. He’s been rewarded with a primetime bout against former world champion Dirrell.
“Dirrell has a lot of power, particularly in his right hand,” Han notes. “He’s got some killer uppercuts too. He’s the total package when it comes to power, so I have to avoid that at all costs.
“I know it sounds like I’m underestimating myself. But guys like Dirrell and Love get to eat and sleep boxing. Not me. I have a day job. I teach martial arts class. They have the money, so they can train full-time.”
Han does have one thing in his favor.
“There is no pressure here, because I’m supposed to lose,” he says. “I’m just going to go in there and do the best I can. Hopefully it’s enough. But it probably won’t be.”
A win against Dirrell could change his fortunes. At the very least, it should reposition his mindset.
“One thing is that it’s in El Paso. I’m undefeated in my hometown. Who would’ve thought? Maybe that’s the stroke of luck I need.”
For a closer look at Dirrell vs Han, visit out our fight page.