Andre Dirrell was understandably dejected following his narrow loss to England’s James DeGale on May 23 in a fight for a vacant 168-pound world title.
It was his second defeat in as many championship fights, with both coming against English opponents (in 2009, he fell by split decision to then-titleholder Carl Froch of Nottingham, England). As if Dirrell’s loss to DeGale, a 2008 Olympic gold medalist, wasn’t tough enough to swallow, it happened a month after his younger brother, Anthony, had his 168-pound title ripped away by Badou Jack.
Sure, Andre Dirrell’s spirits were lifted a bit when he returned to his Florida home and was greeted by his three young children holding a make-shift title belt with a heart and smiley face. Still, the disappointment from losing to DeGale ran deep, and Dirrell (24-2, 16 KOs) beat himself up for some time.
It wasn’t until he was about to begin preparations for Friday’s fight against Australian Blake Caparello (22-1-1, 6 KOs) that Dirrell snapped out of his funk. All it took was attending a lecture given by a man who has made a living teaching others how to get reenergized and regain their self esteem.
“Tony Robbins’ event was held three days before camp [for Caparello] started,” says the 32-year-old Dirrell. “He’s a great motivational speaker who has changed my belief system. He talked about incantations and how your body movements spark certain parts of the brain. He discussed how you can wake up feeling energetic.
“I’ve read four books since I’ve been in camp, and every morning I pump myself up doing about 15 to 20 minutes of incantations where I tell myself I’m the greatest and that I can’t be beat.”
Dirrell will carry that inspiration into the ring Friday against Caparello in a scheduled 10-round clash from Taj Mahal Casino Resort (Spike TV, 9 p.m. ET/PT). The fight will headline a card that also includes Anthony Dirrell (28-1-1, 22 KOs) facing Caleb Truax (26-2-2, 16 KOs) in another 10-rounder.
For Andre Dirrell, this fight will end a layoff of more than 11 months. As excited as he is to return to the ring and get back in the win column, Dirrell insists it’s not because he’s still trying to erase the sting of the DeGale loss. With help from Robbins, the Flint, Michigan, native says he’s learned moving forward is more productive than looking backward.
“I did a lot of things wrong against James DeGale, but I don’t dwell on it,” says Dirrell, who rose from a pair of second-round knockdowns against DeGale. “I’m focused on Caparello, not revenge or redemption. This whole camp has been one of the best I’ve ever had. I believe in myself, and I believe in the talents I possess.”
Against Caparello, Dirrell will have a familiar face back in his corner: In addition to his grandfather and career-long trainer, Leon “Bumper” Lawson Sr., Leon Lawson Jr. has rejoined his father as an assistant for the first time in five fights. Lawson Jr. says he likes what he’s seen from his fighter during this training camp.
“Andre already knows how to fight,” Lawson Jr. says from their facility in Boca Raton, Florida. “We’re correcting all of the little stuff and bringing it all together. Everything is going perfectly.”
Caparello, 29, is a little-known boxer-puncher who has spent virtually all of his 6½-year pro career fighting in his homeland. Only twice has the southpaw come north, and that was for consecutive bouts in 2014, both in New Jersey: Seven months after defeating Elvir Murigi by 10-round unanimous decision, Caparello lost to 175-pound champion Sergey Kovalev by second-round TKO—but not before dropping the still-undefeated champ in the opening stanza.
Since that defeat, Caparello has reeled off three straight unanimous decisions, culminating with a victory over Luke Sharp on November 11.
Aside from Kovalev, Dirrell represents the toughest opponent of Caparello’s career—an opponent who will be returning to the ring with renewed vigor and supreme confidence.
“I’m just a whole new person with a new glow, energized to perform to the best of my abilities anytime I get into that ring,” says Dirrell, a 2004 Olympic bronze medalist. “I’m chasing the future and getting farther from the past. I know that world championship is coming soon.”
For full coverage of Dirrell vs Caparello, check out our fight page.