The conclusion to Andre Dirrell-Arthur Abraham this weekend has been picked apart like the Zapruder film here and elsewhere, but I think there's yet more to say on the subject. I engaged in a little mental argument ad hominem in not engaging deeply before, since a lot of the chatter was coming from people who either clearly were Abraham fans, or Dirrell detractors, or the type of people who say nasty things about everyone in boxing forums. But subsequently, people who are smart and whose views I respect have argued seriously that Dirrell must have been acting, so I think it warrants a more in-depth response. That, and other thoughts from the big weekend that was:
Was Andre Dirrell Faking?
Friend of the site Pretty Toney invoked Occam's razor -- the simplest solution is usually the correct one -- to explain why Dirrell was embellishing. What's interesting is that I was going to do the same to say the exact opposite.
My opening case, stated most directly, is this: In order to believe Dirrell was really hurt, all you had to do is accept Dirrell's behavior. To believe he was faking, you have to supply evidence of what was happening beneath the surface. That evidence is lacking, in my view.
Here are some points of further discussion.
A. It wasn't only Dirrell himself who behaved as though Dirrell was under duress. His team, in the ring, was extremely animated and emotional, behaving exactly as though Dirrell's behavior was genuine. Did they intuitively get in on the "act?" Did Dirrell discretely whisper things to them about how everyone should start playing along? And what of the ring officials, including the doctors? Admittedly, they had a bad evening -- more or less treating Abraham's cut mid-fight, not getting the mouthpiece out of Dirrell's mouth quickly, not escorting Dirrell out of the ring on a stretcher if they believed he might be suffering a brain bleed -- but they appeared very worried about Dirrell, and said that Dirrell afterward still didn't know what happened. Were they in on it, too? Might they have a better perspective on Dirrell's condition than fans at home watching on television, or were they stupid beyond recognition? It all strikes me as terribly far-fetched to think such a clever conspiracy would become so widespread so quickly without anyone blowing the whistle.
B. Arthur Abraham is one of the most destructive one-punch knockout artists in boxing, and it's easy to believe that Abraham might hurt someone badly by catching a prone boxer who couldn't roll with the free shot on his chin. He does that kind of thing all the time with people who are capable of defending themselves. See: Jermain Taylor, Elvin Ayala, Khoren Gevor, Wayne Elcock. In every single one of those, the opponent got put to sleep -- we're talking deep, deep slumber -- by one shot. Dirrell was rolling with every punch Abraham landed or in the midst of doing so in this fight, and even then he still got hurt in the 10th. If you think Abraham didn't hit him that hard while he was down, I think you're underestimating Abraham's demonstrated power and the effect it might have on someone who was sitting right in front of him and catching it flush.
C. You're entitled to believe Dirrell was faking if you truly believe that, but most of the arguments for how he was faking aren't very convincing to me. We've heard just about everything. One thing people keep bringing up is that he didn't react immediately like he was unconscious. I could see why that might provoke some doubt, but I've seen so many delayed reaction knockouts that isn't such a fanciful thing (this forum links to two of them). People have pointed out that Dirrell did things with his body that were suspicious, like touching the right side of his face. Here, again, plenty of people have reacted strangely when they're KO'd. The skeptics have suggested Dirrell was up and at 'em too early. He wasn't exactly up and at 'em right away, by any stretch, and even the very definitively knocked-out Ricky Hatton in 2009 got up after a few minutes. I think the strongest reason to be suspicious is that Dirrell was ahead on the cards and Abraham was catching up, so there was motive. But motive doesn't get convictions by itself.
All of the reasons to be suspicious have very plausible counter arguments, and certainly aren't so convincing as to overrule Abraham's power, Dirrell's behavior at face value or the convincing behavior of everyone around Dirrell afterward.
We'll hit the rest of the weekend in more limited form.
- Dirrell's performance and what's next. The good news out of all this is that Dirrell tested negative for any kind of real problems, even a concussion. So he's OK, and there's no reason to believe he'll be anything less than 100 percent going forward. It's great news, because I think I may have been distracted by Abraham's momentum into thinking Abraham had put Dirrell in very severe danger. One of the benefits of watching the 11th round a million times is that I noticed Dirrell really had bounced back in that round after a shaky 10th. Abraham clearly can erupt at any time, but if there wasn't a DQ, I'm fairly convinced Dirrell was going to cross the finish line with a win. I think Dirrell is still more athlete that fighter, but he showed in this fight he has some fighter in him, too, and he was a significantly more mature and disciplined boxer, and a less skittish one, than he was in the Carl Froch fight. His next fight, against Andre Ward, will be extremely intriguing, and not merely because they're such good friends -- these are two exceptionally talented boxers coming into their own, with Ward getting the upset win over Mikkel Kessler in the tournament's previous fight.
- Abraham's late punch and what's next. There's been a good deal of speculation about what Abraham was thinking when he threw that late shot, albeit less than the "Is Dirrell faking?" meme. Some think he was frustrated by being behind and reacted out of that frustration. Some think he was trying to extract some kind of toll on Dirrell however he could, since he's accustomed to getting away with illegal tactics in his native Germany. Some think he genuinely didn't notice Dirrell was down in time. No one can know, really, but I'd put them in about that descending order of likelihood. Everyone seems to agree it was a bad move, and even people who think Dirrell was acting support the disqualification. I do think Abraham hurt his reputation less by his performance and more by his lack of sportsmanship and the lack of sportsmanship his team showed afterward -- not only accusing Dirrell of acting, but hinting that he might have been on steroids. Whatever his standing with the boxing public, his next fight is against Froch, which figures as a real donnybrook.
- Super Six vitality. There was a lot of overheated rhetoric when Showtime's super middleweight tourney hit a few snags about whether it was falling apart and losing its appeal. I think the last two fights in particular should have scratched that notion. Everyone but Kessler and Allan Green (who hasn't fought yet) have some points; both the pre-tournament favorites, Abraham and Kessler, have a loss; the least experienced fighters, who happen to be the two Americans, have shown they're real forces to contend with, not some undeserving rookies; the next fight on deck, Kessler-Froch, may be the fight that guarantees the most action; there are good match-ups ahead (Ward-Dirrell, Abraham-Froch); and now there's a wild card in Green. I'm really excited about this thing still, and I think every boxing fan should be.
- Joan Guzman's triple play. I'd forgotten until friend of the site JB pointed it out that Guzman was accused by Alex Arthur of pulling out of their fight a couple years ago. Do you know what the rumors were at the time? Guzman had trouble making weight. That's two confirmed times, including this past weekend, and one rumored time. Whaddya want to bet that the rumored time was true, too?
- YURIOKIS GAMBOA! I finally got to check out my boy Gamboa in his featherweight bout against Jonathan Victor Barros, and I'm not sure what he was doing there. It looked like he could, but didn't, knock that fool out at any time. (And I'm not dogging out Barros. Any boxer next to Gamboa is but a fool.) Was he practicing his defense or somethin'? He came out like the Cyclone of Guantanamo that he is in the 8th, scored a knockdown and then went back to being conservative, maybe because Barros showed some fire and Gamboa didn't feel like messin' with it. Either way, I loved the Germany in front/Cuba in back trunks.
- Other results, other videos. I missed a few results over the weekend, like Oleydong Sithsamerchai's close decision over fellow strawweight Yasutaka Kuroki, but ESPN's Dan Rafael has most of 'em covered. No big surprises. I also added a few videos to the weekend videos post, including the quick brawl between light heavyweights Chris Henry and Hugo Hernan Garay (which features some bad behavior afterward by the Garay team), plus this bit of weirdness (h/t friend of the site Dan N).
- Edwin Valero is in rehab, Joe Calzaghe takes cocaine. Explosive junior welterweight -- in the ring and out -- Edwin Valero is reportedly checking himself into rehab after a crazy series of reports about him allegedly beating up another family member, something of an alleged pastime for Valero. This is good news if it's really happening, because if even a little of Valero's out of the ring troubles are real, he needs help. And some doofus British news sting found out that former super middleweight Joe Calzaghe takes cocaine and spouts off at the mouth about other people when he's not in public. Shocking. I bet no other celebrities say mean things about other celebrities in private. And I'm not saying Calzaghe should be taking coke or anything, but this hardly strikes me as a useful sting operation.