Former super middleweight world champion Anthony Dirrell gets a crack at his old title when he faces top contender Avni Yildirim for the vacant WBC Super Middleweight Championship in the main event of a PBC, FSI and FOX Deportes card on Saturday, February 23 at The Armory in Minneapolis.
Dirrell (32-1-1, 24 KOs) was originally set to face unbeaten David Benavidez (20-0, 17 KOs) for the belt until Benavidez failed a drug test that resulted in a suspension
by the sanctioning body. He will instead meet Turkish fighter Yildirim (21-1, 12KOs) for the vacant title.
Dirrell (32-1-1, 24 KOs), the younger brother of 2004 Olympic bronze medalist and fellow fighter Andre Dirrell, has had a tough road to success. He first won the WBC strap with a convincing unanimous decision over teak tough Sakio Bika back in 2014.
That win was quite tame by comparison to his previous battle with non- Hodgkin’s lymphoma which sidelined the Flint, Michigan native for 20 months. Dirrell was later cleared to resume boxing after completing chemotherapy in 2008.
The wins kept coming for Dirrell until his 28 th fight when he met the Swede Badou Jack at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago. Anthony had a well-earned reputation for his sleep-inducing power but Jack was not intimidated. For 12 rounds, Jack walked
Dirrell down, beating the American to the punch despite eating some huge shots along the way. Two of the judges sided with Jack to award the majority decision to hand Dirrell the only loss of his career.
Yildirim was an amateur standout in his native Turkey, winning the national championship five times. As a pro, he has been one of the most active contenders in the entire super middleweight division. The 27-year old has fought at least four times a year dating back to 2014. This fight marks only the second time that
Yildirim will fight on U.S. soil since outpointing Glen Johnson in Miami in 2015.
Yildirim suffered the only loss of his professional career against Chris Eubank Jr. in the first round of the World Boxing Super Series in Stuttgart. He was almost felled in the opening round by a right upper cut but had to take a standing count. The
carnage continued over the next two rounds before the referee halted the action at 1:58 in round three after Yildirim was put down again by a left hook. Avni has won five straight since that crushing defeat to include a majority decision over Lolenga Mock in his last outing.
Three Keys to Victory
Pressure – Dirrell does not like to be reminded about his lone career loss to Jack but it is instructional for future opponents. Anthony was outworked that night and banged up by Jack’s performance on the inside. He faded badly down the stretch and his output tapered off significantly as he could not overcome his
opponent’s momentum. Yildirim is not as talented as Jack is but has a strong inside game that could turn the tide in this battle.
Motivation – At 34 years old, this could be the last and best chance for Dirrell to win another world title and command better fights in the future. Dirrell cannot afford to lose to an opponent of Avni’s caliber at this stage of his career so expect him to come out looking strong in this fight. Avni always comes to fight and will be determined to make the most of his second bid for a world title. Another loss could see his stock drop as a top contender.
Ring Generalship – Avni is your prototype come forward fighter with little variation in his attack mode. That plays into the hands of the bigger Dirrell, who at 6’2”, will have a major height and reach advantage over the 5’11” Yildirim. Dirrell knows how to use his length and power to create distance and score against
Cancer survivor Anthony Dirrell has endured more than most people will in their lifetimes and continues to thrive. His Turkish foe should provide a stern test but presents nothing new that he has not seen before. Just under a year ago, the former world champion hinted at retirement but expressed his desire to win another belt. This fight is a culmination of that dream and we can expect the power puncher to bring his A-game. While Yildirim has built up a respectable resume, it is hard to ignore the championship pedigree and experience that Dirrell brings to this matchup.
Avni is a better fighter than the version that fought Eubank Jr in 2017. However, he is taking another significant step up in class and one has to wonder if he has the ability to pull off the upset. The early polling is not on his side either as many expect Avni to leave The Armory empty-handed when this one is done.
Anthony Dirrell should cruise to a wide points win over a game Avni Yildirim. Dirrell by Unanimous decision.