Anthony Dirrell has 35 tattoos canvassing his skin, each one serving as an illustrated chapter in telling the 168-pound world champion’s life story.
“All of them mean something; I got them for a reason,” said Dirrell, who is preparing to defend his title against Badou Jack in Chicago on April 24 in a bout that will air on Spike TV. “There is not one tattoo on me that I didn’t get for a reason.”
On the left side of Dirrell’s chest is a rendering of then-newborn son Anthony Jr. swaddled in a blanket. Dirrell said A.J., who is now 3 years old, remains “close to my heart the whole time.”
On Dirrell’s right pectoral is an illustration of a cancer ribbon recalling the length of his battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma from 2006-08 along with the word "survivor.” The tattoo also covers a scar related to the disease.
The circumference of the lower half of Dirrell’s right arm is dedicated to his Christian faith, while the upper part pays tribute to his hometown of Flint, Michigan.
“This tattoo here, I got it when I had cancer,” said Dirrell, pointing to an area between his forearm and upper arm. “It says, ‘With Men This Is Possible. With God, All Things Are Possible.’ I got it because you can do anything that God has for you to do.”
Dirrell’s inner right forearm is graced with the visage of his grandmother, “who prays for me all the time.” On his left shoulder is his mother, whose image he kisses before every fight.
“I’ve got a family tree on my back,” said Dirrell, whose tattoos are “a form of expression. It’s how I feel. With tattoos, you really can’t take them away.”