Inside the Mind of Anthony Dirrell

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The World Super Middleweight Champion opens up ahead of his 168-pound showdown versus undefeated David Benavidez Saturday, September 28, on FOX Sports PPV.

WBC World Super Middleweight Champion Anthony Dirrell (33-1-1, 24 KOs) takes pride in living up to his ring moniker, “The Dog.” It’s a fitting nickname, given the way Dirrell applies pressure to opponents inside the ring.  

Still, as with all top-level fighters, there is plenty of strategy and technique behind what Dirrell does during a bout. But one must go deep inside the mind of Dirrell to truly understand the scope of his fight game.

“In boxing, you’ve got to work smarter, not harder,” said the two-time world champion. “[Setting traps] comes with experience. I’ve been in this game 26 years in October. You learn from your mistakes; you learn what to do.

“You learn from other boxers. Nobody gets their style from themselves. They learn something from somebody else and tweak it. Now you’ve got something you’ve developed.”

Dirrell’s skillset will be on display Saturday, September 28, when he takes on undefeated former world champion David Benavidez at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Their anticipated showdown is the co-feature to the welterweight unification between Errol Spence Jr. and Shawn Porter, live on FOX Sports PPV (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).

Dirrell believes his experience will be a huge factor on fight night. And he’s got some tricks up his sleeve. Part of being able to lay traps effectively involves proper foot placement, a technique that perhaps looks easier than it is.

“Keep your back foot planted,” Dirrell explained. “Once the guy comes up, you can still move out of the way, look to deter his punch, or make him miss slightly so you can counter punch easier. You’ve just got to stay ready at the end of the day.”

The 6-foot-2 Dirrell is also adept at switching stances. While it’s a somewhat rare skill, it’s even more notable because Dirrell maintains full defensive awareness out of either stance.

“It’s something I’ve been doing my whole boxing career,” Dirrell, 34, said. “My grandfather didn’t let us just go one way. A guy works on certain types of tactics in the gym. When you switch up on him, you confuse him. It gives you a little edge because you’re not just a one-sided fighter—you don’t want to give him everything he knows from tapes.”

Some pundits speak somewhat negatively about switching stances, claiming a fighter may be vulnerable in the moment he’s switching or may not display the same level of fundamentals in the opposite stance.

Dirrell doesn’t subscribe to the “one size fits all” mentality on boxing—or anything else, for that matter.

In boxing, you’ve got to work smarter, not harder. WBC World Super Middleweight Champion - Anthony Dirrell

“That’s how a lot of people are,” said Dirrell. “If they tell you, ‘You can’t do it,’ it don’t mean I can’t do it. It’s a personal preference thing. It comes natural to some people. I’ve seen a lot of people switch up from instinct.

“[People say negative things] just because they couldn’t do it,” Dirrell said. “That’s with anything though. With life, if somebody failed at something you’re doing, they’re gonna say, ‘You can’t do this.’ You couldn’t do it, so that means I can’t do it? No. I’m gonna do it my way. Even if I can’t do it, I’m gonna try to do it and do it to the best of my ability.”

Outside the ring, the Flint, Michigan native has overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. In 2006, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and endured two years of chemotherapy while continuing his boxing training. He’s now cancer-free.

“My greatest accomplishment was overcoming cancer,” Dirrell said. “Generally, when people think of cancer, they think of death. I didn’t. I got through it and that made me stronger.”

Those who rode with him through the lows are the people he looks up to most.

“My heroes are my family, just for sticking behind me. My grandfather, my mother, my wife—while I’m gone, she’s taking care of home.”

There are a multitude of fighters Dirrell is inspired by, not just for their ring accolades.

“Muhammad Ali is one of them,” Dirrell said. “Boxing-wise, it’s Roy Jones, Pernell Whitaker, Marvin Hagler. There are so many fighters I grew up watching that I looked up to and I wanted to be like. It’s not just any one boxer.”

For entertainment in his down time, Anthony’s favorite films are modern classics.

“I have a couple favorite movies: Remember the Titans and A Bronx Tale. I can probably say the lines as they go.”

Dirrell’s favorite fictional character is one that a lot of people became attached to in recent years. But for Anthony, the character inspired some real-world action.

“Probably Iron Man. I like the Marvel movies. Even though Iron Man died in the last movie, he’s still a good character. I got a lot of cars because of him. I saw the movie and I was like, yeah, I got to get those. One of them was an Audi R8—he inspired me to get Audis.”

When it comes to food, Dirrell’s favorites are no doubt dishes he can’t enjoy until after weight has been made.

“My favorite food is probably a burger. I like lamb chops too.”

For the fans, Anthony had a final message ahead of his next bout:

“Tune in September 28. It’s gonna be a big, epic fight card. Not just me and David Benavidez are fighting, but the whole card is epic. At the end of the day the fans will win.”

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

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