Anthony Dirrell thought his health problems were behind him. On May 11, 2012, he was nearly four years removed from winning his battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and in discussions to fight for a 168-pound world championship.
That night he dropped his son, Anthony Jr., at a family member’s house and went to test-drive a motorcycle. It was a decision he would soon regret.
"It seemed like it wasn’t even two minutes," Dirrell said, "when I got into the accident.”
Dirrell, who was wearing a helmet, crashed into a car that pulled out in front of him, and suffered a broken left leg and fractured his left wrist. The accident not only prevented Dirrell from fighting Nikola Sjekloca for a world title, but also kept him out of the ring for nearly 18 months.
“I have a rod in my left leg from my knee on down," said Dirrell, who endured a four-hour surgery at the Hurley Medical Center in his native Flint, Michigan. "It’s just something that I have to have in me, although right now it’s not doing anything for me."
Anthony Dirrell (27-0-1, 22 KOs) will be at full strength when he defends his 168-pound world championship against Badou Jack (18-1-1, 12 KOs) on Friday night at Chicago’s UIC Pavilion. The fight will be broadcast on Spike TV at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
Dirrell, 30, says he has “a guardian angel looking over me" after having survived the motorcycle accident and his nearly two-year cancer fight that started in December 2006 and included strength-sapping chemotherapy treatments.
"I’m just blessed," Dirrell said. "I’m not saying that what has happened to me was supposed to happen, but I do believe that everything happens for a reason."
In his first fight after the crash, Dirrell won an eight-round unanimous decision over Don Mouton in May 2013. It was the first time Dirrell had fought that many rounds.
“Mouton was definitely a tough fight, but it was the perfect fight for me to come back in and to get the rust out,” Dirrell said. “That was the fight that helped me to get back into the grind, and I was able to do what I had to do to get the win, which was the main thing.”
Dirrell received his first title shot in December 2013, when he faced 168-pound champion Sakio Bika. The fighters battled to a draw, but met again in the ring in Carson, California, last August. This time, Dirrell won a 12-round unanimous decision to become a world champion.
"I wouldn’t change anything because the key in life is to learn from everything that you go through," Dirrell said. "I’m hoping that my story reaches a lot of people. If it does, then that’s a good thing.”