Anthony Dirrell Q&A: ‘If I’m going to go out – I’m going to go out fighting’.
By Ian Aldous: It’s been a long road for Anthony ‘The Dog’ Dirrell (32-1-1). He’s survived cancer and a serious motorcycle accident during his career, yet somehow managed to reach the top of the mountain in 2014 when he ripped the WBC super-middleweight world championship away from Sakio Bika. It’s a script ready and waiting for Hollywood. Now he wants one more shot at a world title before calling it a day and hanging up his gloves. This week, the Flint, Michigan native spoke with me over the phone about his career and his impending final bout.
IA: Following your victory over Abraham Han last month, you were quoted as saying you want one more fight before retiring. Is this true?
AD: Yeah. Yes it is.
IA: You’re only thirty-three years of age now, what was behind your decision to potentially call it a day?
AD: I love the game, but there has been a lot of bulls–t decisions in boxing and it keeps steering me away from the game more and more. But, like I said, I love the game. I grew up in the game since I was nine years old. The love for the game is just not there anymore, (pauses) it’s there, but it’s slowly fading away.
IA: Speaking of your win over Han. Were you happy with your performance?
AD: Yeah, I was happy. I didn’t get him out of there like I wanted to, but of course I was happy. I think I did what I wanted to do in the ring and showed my talent, showed that I can box and I can go the distance, what most people don’t think I can do. I give myself an ‘A’ out of an ‘A+’.
IA: Were you shocked at how much punishment he took from you?
AD: I definitely was. That was a shocker, but like I say, you can’t get everybody out of there. If you can’t get them out of there, you’ve got to know that you can go the rounds to get the victory and I did that. He took the shots that I was giving him. I knocked him down at the end of the first round, but he’s a tough fighter – we know that. We seen it in there that he can basically take a beating.
IA: Currently, you’re the #2 ranked super-middleweight by the WBC. Is David Benavidez (WBC champion) the man on your radar right now? (The WBC ordered negotiations for Benavidez and Dirrell to fight on the very same day I conducted this interview).
AD: Definitely. I think that’d be a big fight for the both of us.
IA: Who do you believe is the best champion at 168lbs, David Benavidez, James DeGale, George Groves or Gilberto Ramirez?
AD: You could pick your best, but they’re all champions. They fought they ass off to get there, so we wouldn’t know that until they fight. If I had to pick the top people (pauses), then definitely Ramirez (is a worthy champion). James DeGale proved day-in and day-out he’s a champion after he came back from that loss to Caleb Truax. I didn’t think he trained hard for the first fight, but he got the victory in the second fight. David Benavidez, a young up-and-coming fighter, hell of a champion, we all know that, we know how he fights. George Groves had been fighting to get to that title that he finally got to. I think it’s well deserved.
IA: You’ve tasted gold yourself once before when you dethroned Sakio Bika in the rematch for the WBC belt after your initial drawn fight. I just remember those fights being brutal, tough, dirty fights. I’m not saying you were dirty, I’m saying he was dirty (laughs). How do you reflect on them now?
AD: I definitely don’t think of myself as a dirty fighter. It was a fight you need, you know. You have to adapt to the situation and go forward from there. Anything you can do to pull out the victory, you do it. I think I beat him worse (in) the first fight than I did (in) the second fight. But, the judges thought otherwise and you have to respect their decision. I got the title and that’s all water under the bridge. I’m just ready for another shot.
IA: What was going through your mind when you were waiting for the judges’ scorecards in the first fight when it was scored a draw? Did you think you’d done enough to win it?
AD: I definitely think I done enough because I knocked him down and the ref took a point from him at the end of the fight for being dirty. So, you’re telling me if I didn’t knock him down or they didn’t take the point, I’d have lost the fight? It was a lot of BS to me. You live with the decisions that are thrown your way just like life in general. Obstacles are thrown your way and you’ve got to live with it and move on from that situation.
IA: You’re also highly ranked with IBF at #5. Jose Uzcategui is the interim champion for that governing body after his fight with your brother, Andre. It would be like a Hollywood film if you were to challenge him and beat him after he what he did to your brother. Is that a fight that you think could happen?
AD: I want a title fight. I don’t want any other fight. Honestly, I want this to be my last fight. If not, then we can talk. I’m pushing for this to be my last fight. I’ve been in the game since I was nine years old – almost twenty-four years. So, it’s been a long, long journey. I have three beautiful kids, man. It would be nice to sit at home for once and really do the things that I need to do here – and that’s take care of them, show them what life is like with me being here all the time.
IA: You’ve been a pro for thirteen years now……..
AD: That’s a pretty long time. Especially when you got to lose weight every dang fight. You can’t eat throughout that fight week. It’s a lot that comes into boxing that people don’t really know about and that’s the hard part. The fight, you know, for most fighters is fun, it’s easy, more easier than training. Once the fight gets there, they’re excited and ready to go, so you just put on the best show that you can.
IA: Over these past thirteen years, do you have any regrets or are there things you’d have done differently now when you look back?
AD: No, no regrets. You can’t live with regrets. I live life with no regrets and I think everything happens for a reason. I think my life went exactly how it’s supposed to even with when I had cancer to the motorcycle accident to everything, because it made me out to be the man that I am today.
IA: You’ve achieved a ridiculous amount considering the setbacks you’ve had, things could have been a lot different had those setbacks not happened, I guess?
AD: Yeah, but who says that I’d have been champion? Everything played out to what it was supposed to play out to.
IA: Finally, you’ve beaten countless contenders over the years and held a world championship once. Tell me why Anthony ‘The Dog’ Dirrell deserves one more crack at a world title?
AD: I was in line for a (vacant WBC title) fight before I got injured, me and Callum Smith, he pulled out because he didn’t want to come to my home town and fight, then I got injured and couldn’t fight for it. Now is the time, this is the right time for me to get my opportunity. The WBC just ordered me and David Benavidez to start negotiations about the fight. I’m ready, I’m more ready than ever. If I’m going to go out – I’m going to go out fighting.