Badou Jack set the tempo against Anthony Dirrell at 1:56 of the second round Friday night, when a jab to the body by “The Ripper” preceded a head-swiveling right hand three seconds later.
That sequence was The Moment in Jack’s 12-round majority decision at Chicago’s UIC Pavilion in which he upset Dirrell and won a 168-pound world championship.
“That was the game plan all along,” said Jack, whose pressure, accuracy and defense kept Dirrell on his heels throughout the fight. “I knew he wanted to come strong over the first round or two, but I knew that if I could weather the storm and then go right to him that he really wouldn’t be able to fight going backward from the third round on.”
Jack (19-1, 12 KOs) was in his third fight since being stopped in 61 seconds by Derek Edwards in February 2014, a result Dirrell (27-1-1, 22 KOs) sought to emulate.
Edwards twice dropped Jack with right hands, but Jack’s trainer, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, came up with the right strategy for Dirrell, who has never scored a knockout beyond the seventh round.
Critical to Jack’s success was his matching and eventually surpassing the intensity of Dirrell’s jab, which he successfully followed up with right hands.
“Badou put pressure on him behind a good jab, a short right hand, got inside and landed body shots,” Muhammad said. “We had good head movement and a tight defense. We stayed consistent and just wore Dirrell down.”
Jack used his elbows to block body shots, as well as a highly held guard that parried elevated punches, particularly Dirrell’s right hand and left hook.
Jack even foiled the fourth-round switch to southpaw by Dirrell, who still had difficulty landing either the straight left or the left cross.
“We knew Anthony was a dangerous puncher, so we worked on defense,” said Jack, who went 12 rounds for the first time in his career. “He caught me with a good body shot in the 11th or 12th round, but it didn’t hurt me.”