By Bob Hough
Arthur Abraham (31-0, 25 KOs) says he’s fine with covering ground, on planes and in the ring. The Armenian super-middleweight, who fights Andre Dirrell (18-1, 13 KOs) on March 27 to kick off Showtime’s Super Six World Boxing Classic Group Stage 2, was training in Palm Springs, Calif., for the fight which was set to happen there on March 6. Abraham flew home to Germany when the fight was postponed because Dirrell injured his back, and moved to Detroit, Mich. He expects to be on the move in the ring, too, in pursuit of his elusive opponent. “My sparring partners copy Andre Dirrell’s style every day and they run away a lot,” Abraham said in a recent teleconference, through an interpreter. “I’m prepared for that.”
Changes to the date and location are simply part of boxing, said Abraham, who’s supremely unflappable.
“We’re athletes so we don’t have problems with this,” he said. “It’s all a question of attitude and there’s no problem with that. I’ve never had a problem with jetlag so everything will be fine.”
To Dirrell, who lost a controversial split-decision to Carl Froch in the tournament’s first round, it would be foolish to stand and trade with Abraham.
“We know he’s one-dimensional, that he has awesome defense and he’s very explosive,” Dirrell said. “You just can’t stand in front of Arthur Abraham. His power is right there in front of him and he’s got strong hooks. You have to be smart, but with the preparation I’m putting in, I believe I have enough to do the job.”
Dirrell, who said he would fight more effectively than he did against Froch, suggested that he’ll use his fast hands and effective movement—not running—to out-box Abraham.
“You can’t let him get off,” Dirrell reiterated. “Speed is going to play a big role. I have to go in there and beat him to the punch. I’m not saying I’m going to go in there and bang with him.”
Dirrell, who put his fitness at 90 percent, said he’s day away from being fully recovered from the back injury he suffered in sparring. “I was sparring and I turned and when I stepped to the side of him before I turned all the way to face him I threw a punch across my body and that’s how I threw my back out,” he said.
Facing Abraham in Detroit, about 65 miles from Dirrell’s hometown of Flint, Mich., can only help his chances, Dirrell believes.
“Fighting at home is going to be a real confidence booster for me,” said the 26-year-old. “I call it a do-or-die situation for me. I’m training harder than I ever did and even smarter than I ever did.”
For Abraham, who knocked out Jermain Taylor in his first Super Six fight, the move means a smaller contingent of Armenian fans. Palm Springs, the original site, is about 110 miles from the Los Angeles area, which is home to a substantial number of Armenians and people with roots in the European nation.
“It would have been nice to fight in Palm Springs because there would have been more Armenian fans than in Detroit, but, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter,” said Abraham, who turned 30 on February 20. “What’s important is what happens inside the ring.”
Dirrell knows that all too well, in the wake of losing to Froch in the first round of the Super Six, his first loss. He admitted that he suffered for a lack of experience fighting 12 rounds and facing a rough opponent.
“I had a game plan but it unfolded when he started using dirty tactics, but I’ve learned from that,” he said. “Going into the late rounds my mind was kind of wondering if I could go 12 rounds. By the ninth round I figured 12 would be a cinch and I finished strong.
“But as far as the holding, it wasn’t part of the game plan. I wasn’t meant to hold that much, but because of the dirty tactics, he threw me off my game plan. When I got on the inside I clenched a little too much, and so I’m working on that right now. I’m prepared for anything now.”
Abraham expects a smart fight from Dirrell. That and the delay, an extra trip to Germany and back, and the fight moving from California to Michigan are no concern. The fight’s important regardless of its location, all the more important to Abraham because it’s in the USA.
“This is a really big chance for me to be a big star in America,” he said. “It’s what I’ve been looking for.”