Many involved within the sport of boxing figured American boxer Andre Dirrell would finally realize his dream of becoming a world champion. He fell short in 2009 against Carl Froch and he was favored to defeat England’s James DeGale in the main event of Premier Boxing Champions’ card on NBC on Saturday afternoon.
DeGale had other plans.
Dirrell boxed beautifully early on, using his southpaw stance to crack the Brit with dozens of stiff jabs and hard counters. After a round and a half, it seemed almost too easy for the Flint, Mich., native; he was boxing DeGale’s ears off.
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Toward the end of the second frame of the contest, however, DeGale came out of nowhere with a massive overhand left that exploded on Dirrell’s jaw. “The Resurrected” instantly collapsed into the ropes as soon as the punch connected and in the blink of an eye, the tides had turned. Dirrell mustered the strength to climb back to his feet, but DeGale was all over him. A flurry of shots, anchored by another left hand, floored the ’04 Olympic bronze medalist a second time. Again, Dirrell rose to his feet but he was in serious peril.
DeGale tried to close the show right then and there but the bell betrayed him, saving his battered opponent. For the next few rounds, DeGale would rock Dirrell several more times as he dominated most of the action. Dirrell tried to get back to his boxing, but ‘Chunky’ continuously raked his body with thudding hooks and popped him in the mouth with jabs and overhand lefts.
Dirrell (24-2, 16 KOs) would seize control of the action late, though; he was finally able to find a rhythm with his jab and right uppercuts. Dirrell started to chip away at DeGale’s large early lead and it seemed as though he might be able to dig himself out of the hole he found himself in and possibly push the official decision in his favor.
Again, DeGale had other plans as he stormed back in the championship rounds, winning them both with a higher punch output and harder, crisper shots upstairs. In the end, all three judges scored in favor of DeGale, who won via tallies of 114-112 (twice) and 117-109 to improve to 21-1 with 14 KOs. The win also awarded him the vacant IBF super middleweight championship, making him the only British fighter in history to win both Olympic gold and a legitimate world title as a pro.
“I’m speechless,” a jubilant DeGale said afterward. “My whole career I’ve wanted to win a world title and I did it.”
In the co-feature bout inside the Agganis Arena in Boston, local fighter Edwin Rodriguez tore into Craig Baker from the start, landing dozens of power shots to the head and body. Baker didn’t have many answers early on, but he stood his ground and fought back when he had to. Rodriguez was all over the Texan and it seemed like he was on his way to an early stoppage.
Baker came alive in the third by landing more punches than he had in the two previous rounds, but a short left hand from Rodriguez on the inside changed everything. The punch rattled Baker, who backed into the ropes. Baker wasn’t terribly shaken, but Rodriguez swarmed him, throwing an assortment of power shots to the head. Baker blocked virtually every one of them and rolled with most; he appeared ready to either counter or escape out to his right. Rodriguez was all over him but Baker was biding his time until referee Bob Benoit inexplicably jumped in and halted the action. Baker immediately protested in confusion, as did many of the fans in attendance due to prematurity of the stoppage.
As head-scratching as the ref’s decision was, the result stands as a TKO win for Rodriguez. The official time of the stoppage came at the 2:22 mark of the third, allowing Rodriguez to ascend to 27-1 with 18 KOs. Baker, for his efforts, loses for the first time in his career; he now stands at 16-1 with 12 KOs.
In the walk-off bout of the afternoon, local kid Danny O’Connor (26-2, 10 KOs) dominated Chris Gilbert (13-2, 10 KOs) in a welterweight showdown and stopped him in the fifth. Gilbert was knocked down twice in the fifth, prompting the ref to intervene officially 64 seconds into the frame.
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