For the second time in his career, Andre Dirrell is getting a title shot against an Englishman. But on this occasion, the Flint, Michigan, native won’t have to go overseas to fight.
Andre Dirrell (24-1, 16 KOs) will face James DeGale (20-1, 14 KOs) in a 168-pound championship bout at Agganis Arena in Boston on May 23 as the Premier Boxing Champions series returns to NBC at 4:30 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. ET.
Dirrell and DeGale, a 2008 Olympic gold medalist, are fighting for the title that was vacated by Carl Froch, who handed Dirrell his only loss in a split decision.
“I’m satisfied with being able to fight here in my home country,” Dirrell said. “I’m sure that if this fight goes the same exact way, that the right decision would be displayed this time. So now it’s time for me to step up to the plate, go out there and get the job done.”
Partisan fans cheered every punch thrown by Froch in October 2009, when Dirrell challenged the Englishman in his hometown of Nottingham. A left-right-left combination badly staggered Froch in the 10th, but that was the same round in which Dirrell's efforts were all but neutralized by a questionable point deduction for excessive holding.
In Dirrell's next fight, in March 2010, he scored a fourth-round knockdown and dominated Arthur Abraham, but the bout ended in controversy after Abraham was disqualified for punching Dirrell while he was down in the 11th round.
Dirrell suffered head trauma against Abraham that kept him inactive for 21 months. He eventually returned to the ring in December 2011, when he stopped Darryl Cunningham in the second round.
”I’ve been through a lot since that fight with Froch and the one with Abraham. Those were just two unfortunate events that have helped me to appreciate boxing a lot more,” said Dirrell, 31, the older brother of former 168-pound champ Anthony Dirrell. “The only thing that I could do was to keep on fighting, and that’s what I did. That’s why I’m getting this second shot. I’m truly excited about it."
DeGale, 29, has won 10 straight fights, including six by stoppage, since losing a 12-round majority decision to countryman George Groves in May 2011. He gained a third-round technical knockout of Marco Antonio Periban in November in his last bout.
“On May 23 it's my time to make history as the first Briton to win an Olympic gold medal and a world title," DeGale said. “I’m excited about coming to the U.S. for this fight. Boston is a great city and I will be bringing plenty of support from the U.K. It's been a frustrating period waiting for my shot, but now it's here and no one is taking it away from me."
Dirrell begs to differ.
“I’m actually more alert, because I know that DeGale is in great shape," Dirrell said. "I’m not looking for a handout or any favoritism or anything. I’m just looking to be appreciated for my performance, which is going to be an excellent one, I promise you."