Andre Dirrell knows what it’s like to climb the ladder up the ranks in boxing and finally land a shot to capture a world championship. He also knows what it’s like to come up short ... to have a lifelong dream shattered.
Dirrell is keen to struggles outside of the ring, too, as it has taken him almost six years to return to the pinnacle of his division and to challenge for another world title. He’s been taking care of business between the ropes; it’s been a series of delays and health issues that have kept him out of the spotlight until now.
Following a fight with Arthur Abraham where the native of Flint, Mich., suffered neurological injuries and took almost two full years off, Dirrell slowly eased himself back into the sport and hasn’t looked back. He’s won six consecutive fights and feels at the top of his game entering Saturday’s Premier Boxing Champions card that will be televised live in the afternoon on NBC (4:30 p.m. ET). He understands that chances at snatching a legitimate world title don’t come to everybody, but he is well aware that his bout on Saturday will not be a walk in the park.
Standing opposite him vying for the same title is British brawler James DeGale, a man with only one disputed loss on his pro ledger.
Related » Boxing Preview: PBC on NBC
“James is one hell of a fighter. He has a lot of heart, a lot of spunk, a lot of energy and he wants to win,” Dirrell said during a media conference call this week. “If you want to put me in front of a fighter for a world championship fight, then James DeGale is bar none one of the best to do it in front of. So, I'm excited about this fight. I want a breakout performance and I did everything in camp to make sure I can do so.”
DeGale echoed the sentiments about his opponent at the final pre-fight presser: “He's a tricky, talented, confident fighter -- he believes in his ability. He said that he would not get beaten again in his career, and I am sure he believes that 100 percent. So you have two very confident fighters going into the ring on Saturday.”
Dirrell, who last fought in December when he scored a unanimous decision over Derek Edwards, believes that while they are similar fighters in some regards, DeGale isn’t as talented. “The Resurrected” believes that will be the difference come the opening bell.
“We're pretty much evenly-matched and I actually like that scenario because I know I'm faster,” Dirrell said. “I know I'm smarter and I know I'm a better boxer. It's just as simple as that. But, none of that can come into play without hard work, and I know he's worked his ass off, man. He has to come over to America just like I went over there to England to try to fight for a world championship.
“I know what kind of guy I'm going to face come the 23rd,” Andre added. “I've worked my butt off like I said and with those advantages, I've put the hard work in so I can display that. I just feel like I'll be the better man that night.”
Obviously, ‘Chunky’ feels the opposite and points to the notion that he has most recently taken on better competition than the American as one of the leading factors he’ll have his hand raised.
“My last two performances speak for themselves,” DeGale stated during the conference call. “I boxed Brandon Gonzales, an undefeated American, a confident American. He come over from America and I boxed him front of 80,000 people and knocked him out in four rounds. Then four months later, I boxed Periban. If you don't know Marco Antonio Periban, he boxed Sakio Bika for the world title and lost on a split decision and I knocked him out in three rounds. So, I'm confident. I'm feeling good, and I'm motivated very well at the minute.”
Both Dirrell (24-1, 16 KOs) and DeGale are overflowing with confidence, though neither has taken any real verbal jabs at the other. There hasn’t been any animosity or genuine trash talk from either and oftentimes that leads to better fights. Whatever unfolds in the between Dirrell and DeGale (20-1, 14 KOs), the better man will have won. The better man will exit the squared circle with the IBF super middleweight title.