In the other super middleweight tourney fight Saturday, in Germany, Arthur Abraham delivered to Jermain Taylor his second consecutive 12th round stoppage, a nasty KO that showed why Abraham is one of the tournament's favorites and why Taylor was thought by many not to be tournament-worthy. That puts Abraham in the lead in the tournament so far, with 3 points; Froch with 2; and Dirrell and Taylor each with 0.
CARL FROCH - ANDRE DIRRELL
I just didn't see Froch land much of note. He had a rough time even coming close to landing anything of note on Dirrell -- maybe just that one clean punch in the 8th? I know there are judges who favor aggression over someone backing up and moving in circles, but Dirrell's clean lands were really obvious. And he landed more, I bet punch stats would show. Lots more, especially with his left. The only other meaningful shots Froch landed were mostly illegal -- many of them in clinches on the back of Dirrell's head, because some of the punches on the back of the head he landed while Dirrell ducked down were not Froch's fault.
Checking out the responses around the Twitter and what not, most people had Direll winning about nine rounds. I guess a couple of rounds were closer than I realized, I'd say some of the middle rounds where Froch was creating a lot of awkward action. Early on, Dirrell was keeping the fight in the middle of the ring, scoring at will. After Froch body slammed Dirrell in the 5th, Dirrell lost his head a little, trading too much with Froch and allowing himself to be distracted by the referee. The only round I gave Froch was the 7th. In the 10th, Dirrell was deducted a point for holding, which, yeah, Dirrell was holding a lot, but I'm not sure he was the one who should have suffered a point deduction first, given Froch's roughhousing. I scored that one 9-9 because that was the round where Dirrell really rattled Froch with a pair of big lefts.
In between the 11th and 12th, Dirrell's trainer/grandfather told him he needed a KO because he wasn't going to get a decision, and as it happened, he was right. One judge had it 114-113 for Dirrell, the other two had it 115-112 for Froch. I know I've said before that if plenty of people thought the fight was close other than the judges, "robbery" is too strong a word. But really, I think the vast majority of people, just in my informal survey, thought Dirrell won easily. The ringside press scored it for Froch. Maybe they saw something live we didn't see on TV, but I'm going to say they were just fooled by the commotion and the crowd.
Even though he comes out of the fight with a loss, I think Dirrell proved he was for real Saturday. His stamina held up through 12 rounds, and his chin did too, not that it got tested all that often. He lost his composure a little in the middle rounds, but he came back like a man in the 11th and 12th when he needed to. I also thought it was a pretty good performance from the standpoint of excitement; yes, he was playing defense, but he was offensive-minded throughout, and he pushed for the knockout the one chance he got.
Froch goes on to fight Mikkel Kessler, who, as Froch himself said, is going to stand and trade with Froch. Froch may not come out ahead in that gamble because Kessler's probably the bigger puncher, superior athlete and the better boxer, but one way or the other, Froch has been finding ways to win. Dirrell moves on to fight Abraham, who should be a tougher opponent than Froch -- faster, harder-hitting, more skilled. Both match-ups entice.
ARTHUR ABRAHAM - JERMAIN TAYLOR
I don't want to focus so much on Taylor when Abraham delivered another of his methodical beatdowns, the kind that make him the co-favorite to win the tournament with Mikkel Kessler, but it's not a headline that Abraham did what he always does. The headline is that what happened to Taylor is what always seems to be happening to Taylor these days.
The big question coming in was whether Taylor should even be in the tournament, and it's a bigger question now. This is now his third knockout loss in five fights, and they've not been gentle. Kelly Pavlik left him in a scary heap. Carl Froch delivered a frightful 12th round beating. And when Abraham sent him down, he was out before he hit the canvas, then took a little while to revive.
Taylor says he'll continue on: "I'm not finished yet: I can win my next two fights." Given that Andre Ward, his next opponent, is the lightest-hitting man in the tournament, he probably doesn't get knocked out in his next bout. But I'm worried about JT's health. I didn't think he looked all that sharp with his jab, although some of that had something to do with Abraham's stultifying defense. He said in between one of the rounds he could see Abraham's right hand coming every time, but if he could, he couldn't do anything about it -- and a boxer who sees what's happening in the ring and can't do anything about it, he's usually a shot fighter. Taylor also didn't throw his right hand enough, even though it was landing. I guess the good news is that his stamina seemed OK, but we're talking about a small consolation here.
I didn't have the fight all that close on my scorecard. I had Taylor winning the 1st and 4th, but he was competitive well into the fight. There were rounds, like the 2nd and 3rd, even some of them after, that someone could have scored for Taylor and I wouldn't have argued. But he won most of any rounds he won by outworking Abraham, and in the close rounds, it was Abraham doing the most damage. Taylor also lost a point in the 6th for low blows that, while there were real low blows in there, probably came a little too soon. Considering Abraham hit Taylor on the back of the head every few punches with no penalty, the long leash should have gone both ways or neither way, not just for the hometown German guy. Abraham's jab was really stinging throughout, and he landed well to the head and body. Then, out of nowhere -- even though Abraham had stung Taylor in the 9th, it looked like he'd survive to the final bell -- Abraham landed that big straight right that ended matters with six seconds left on the clock. It was a good showing from Abraham, and it culminated in a Knockout of the Year-caliber KO.
I don't believe, despite what Showtime's Steve Albert kept saying, that Taylor loses a point by losing by KO. I think Abraham just gets an extra one. But next we get Abraham-Dirrell, which is a fight that should have been between two guys who came in as winners in the first round of the tournament. (Kessler-Ward next month is the final first round tournament fight.)