An IBF super middleweight elimination bout between 168-pound contender Andre “The Matrix” Dirrell (23-1, 16 KOs), of Flint, Mich., and veteran spoiler Derek “The Black Lion” Edwards (27-3-1, 14 KOs), of Las Vegas, has been confirmed as a 12-round co-feature of on Friday, Dec. 19, live on Showtime from Pepsi Coliseum in Quebec City, Quebec.
For the switch-hitting Dirrell, the elimination bout for the IBF’s No. 2 position behind No. 1 James DeGale and champion Carl Froch will be his first start on SHOWTIME and fifth overall since getting injured against then-undefeated Arthur Abraham in his second Super Six World Boxing Classic fight on SHOWTIME on March 27, 2010.
Dirrell had scored a knockdown in the fourth and was comfortably ahead of the Armenian on all scorecards heading into 11th. About a minute into the round, Dirrell slipped on a wet canvas and Abraham blatantly hit him while he was down, knocking Dirrell out cold and resulting in Abraham being disqualified. Dirrell suffered neurological issues as a result of the punch, withdrew from the tournament and was sidelined for 21 months.
A fixture on SHOWTIME before the injury, Dirrell is quickly approaching the peak form he exhibited when he entered the Super Six and was regarded by many as one of boxing’s fastest-rising contenders. Dirrell has won his last five fights, three by stoppage.
“I’m excited to be back on the fast track and I’m ready to show that this is definitely where I belong,” Dirrell said. “It takes time to move back to the top, but I like to improve myself each time I step into the gym. I almost feel like I’ve been overworking myself in the gym to prove that I’m back.
“But I feel like I’m there and ready for a title shot. And, when the time comes to prove that I’m ready, I won’t leave any doubt.’’
A 2004 U.S. Olympic bronze medalist and the older brother of WBC Super Middleweight World Champion Anthony Dirrell, Andre scored a second-round TKO in his return to the ring on Dec. 30, 2011, but didn’t fight again until February 2013. He’s been victorious in both his fights in 2014, winning his last via fourth-round TKO over Nick Brinson on Oct. 8.
After blasting out Vladine Biosse two starts ago, the 31-year-old Dirrell called out IBF Champ Froch, who was the unbeaten WBC 168-pound champion when he dealt Dirrell his lone loss via a controversial, 12-round split-decision in his native England in the first Super Six fight for both fighters on Oct. 17, 2009.
“I know I won that fight against Froch,” Dirrell said. “I think everyone knows I won that fight. He’s the one opponent I want and the fact that he’s a world champion again is just icing on the cake. I don’t think I’ve ever been defeated and I want that title shot. Hopefully he doesn’t retire because I know the world wants to see that rematch.
“I want to fight the best at 168. I want to unify the division, but if my brother does that first then I will move up to 175. I have a lot of work to do in a little amount of time – I want to fight for about five more years – and if Anthony runs me out at 168 then I’ll go up to 175.”
Before Dirrell gets his shot at a title he must first defeat a power-punching opponent who has a knack for upsets.
“This guy may have power, but power-punchers are the best opponents for pure boxers, for slick guys like me,” Dirrell said. “That’s when I’m at my best. I’m not even looking at his power – his will and determination in the fight will be more important than his power.
“I know he’s going to be at his best when he steps in the ring on Dec. 19. He’s been in some tough fights, but I don’t think we’ve seen the best from him yet. I’m not worried about anything but getting the job done and I know I will when the time comes.”
Edwards, who once fought light heavyweight kingpin Adonis Stevenson when he was campaigning at 168 pounds, is coming off perhaps the most unlikely result of the year, a stunning 1:01, first-round knockout of previously-unbeaten, top-five ranked Badou Jack on ShoBox: The New Generation last Feb. 28 on SHOWTIME.
An extreme longshot going in, Edwards twice dropped Jack, the first coming with an overhand short right 32 seconds into the match. Moments later, Edwards registered another knockdown from a right followed by a glancing left hook. Jack stumbled to his feet but the referee had seen enough and waved off the bout.
“I’m definitely confident going in against Andre,” Edwards said. “He’s a different fighter than Jack. He had a good amateur background and fought some of the best super middleweights in the Super Six, but I see some things I can exploit in Andre. I know I’ll need to force the action on him and be the aggressor.
“A win like this would put a lot of other fighters on notice; let guys know that I can deal with the speed of a fighter like Andre and the power of a guy like Jack. And it would give me the confidence to fight anyone.’’
A “traveling underdog” who has fought from 161 to 185 pounds, Edwards, a native of Winston-Salem, N.C., is known for an ambidextrous style of fighting. Despite only six amateur bouts, he won his first 25 fights – more than 50 percent by knockout – after turning professional in October 2002.
And while he’s never faced an opponent with the speed, amateur pedigree and as naturally athletic as Dirrell, he knows that a second consecutive upset victory could forever change his life.
“I’ve never been this motivated for a fight,” said the 34-year-old Edwards. “A win like this would put a lot of things on the table, open up a lot of doors and opportunities. It’s definitely the biggest fight of my life.
“There’s no tomorrow. It’s just one night. I need to seize the moment and lay it all out on the line. This is my one big shot.”
In the main event on Dec. 19, hard-hitting WBC and The Ring Magazine Light Heavyweight World Champion Adonis “Superman” Stevenson (24-1, 20 KOs) will defend against Dmitry “The Hunter” Sukhotskiy (22-2, 16 KOs), of Russia.
Kevin Bizier (23-1, 16 KOs), of Quebec, will face the only man to defeat him, Canadian-based Romanian Jo Jo Dan (33-2, 18 KOs) in a 12-round IBF welterweight eliminator – the winner to face World Champion Kell Brook – in the second clash of a four-fight telecast. The opener will feature the SHOWTIME debut of two-time Russian Olympian Artur Beterbiev (6-0, 6 KOs), who twice beat WBO/WBA/IBF Champion Sergey Kovalev in the amateurs. Beterbiev meets fellow unbeaten Jeff Page Jr. (15-0, 10 KOs), of Andover, Kansas, in a 10-round light heavyweight scrap.