Boxing, it appears, is entering another golden era. In multiple divisions across the sport, big-name fighters are going toe-to-toe with the best fighters in their weight class and giving boxing fans plenty to talk about and tune in to in 2017.
Showtime has been at the forefront of the sport’s resurgence, with marquee fights left and right, including their live broadcast of the heavyweight mega-fight between Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko along with their broadcasts of fights involving welterweight stars Keith Thurman, Kell Brook, Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter.
While those divisions have received top billing among fight fans, the super middleweight division is also kicking it up a notch. After broadcasting a major divisional showdown between Badou Jack and James DeGale earlier this year, Showtime will once again air a major super-middleweight clash, this time between Andre Dirrell and Jose Uzcategui, with the winner set to take on James DeGale for a shot at his IBF World Super Middleweight Title.
Ahead of the fight, CBS Local Sports caught up with Dirrell about his upcoming bout with Uzcategui and his burning desire to get back in the ring with DeGale after suffering a loss to the current champ nearly two years ago.
CBS Local Sports: How have you kept in shape after your 13 months out of the ring after your fight against (Blake) Caparello?
Andre Dirrell: I’ve just been in and out of the gym. Not doing too much work but I’m an avid runner. I love to run. And I love to work out, honestly. I started camp back up as soon as I could because we thought we’d be fighting a lot sooner, but it ended up getting pushed. So we ended up taking two weeks off, but resumed at about five weeks out. So I got a lot of rounds in, I’ve been working well.
CBS Local Sports: It seems like you’ve been in training camp more or less since December, so you must be ready to go after training out of the ring for so long.
Dirrell: I am. A layoff is like beyond me. I feel like I’m worth a million dollars because I’ve been working for so long. But I’m sharp as a tack, I’m feeling great and I’m really excited.
CBS Local Sports: Before your win over Caparello, you had a hard-fought loss against James DeGale. What did you learn about yourself after that loss that’s helped you moving forward?
Dirrell: It taught me that I can go. I mean, he put me on my a** man — and I swear to this day it was an error on my part — but nevertheless, I got up off the canvas, and I rallied back. It was unfortunate to not get the decision, but I can go. I can fight until the end.
CBS Local Sports: (Jose) Uzcategui: He hasn’t fought a Top 25-ranked fighter in his last four fights. You, on the other hand, have fought two of the division’s best back-to-back (James DeGale, Blake Caparello). How much of an edge do you think that gives you?
Dirrell: Experience wise it gives me all the edge. Telling me that he hasn’t been in the ring with somebody experienced like I have when it comes to a real championship title fight. But as far as the edge, I have that regardless. I don’t care who he’s fought, where he’s been, the experience he has, I know what I possess. I’m extremely fast, very aware and just a smart fighter. So me being that alone it gives me the confidence and the edge and that’s all that matters.
CBS Local Sports: What would it mean to you to get another shot at James DeGale if you win this fight?
Dirrell: Everything. It’s literally everything. This fight right here is the James DeGale kind of feeling. Leading up to the fight — leading up to that fight again — I have to take every fight as if it were the world championship fight again. I’ve been in the ring for 12 years now and I’m looking to make my exit soon, so I want to go out with a bang. I get James DeGale first, then I’m going after the top dogs after that, literally back-to-back, then in three or four years I’m going to be out of this sport. So it would mean the world.
CBS Local Sports: With all of the excitement surrounding a rematch and your long-term plans, how do you avoid looking past Uzcategui?
Dirrell: I don’t. I told the last guy that interviewed me that I’m focused on Uzcategui. He’s a strong puncher. He can fight, he’s up for a challenge. He has everything you have to possess to be a world championship fighter and get a world championship shot, just like he had with DeGale before DeGale got injured. Like I said, this is my world championship fight, I’m not looking past him whatsoever. He is the situation, and I’m sitting down and I’m evaluating game plans and I plan on going in strong.
CBS Local Sports: What’s the biggest challenge Uzcategui presents in the ring?
Dirrell: He’s strong, but I’ve been there with strong fighters. His determination. This is his shot as well as mine. Like you said, his last three or four fights haven’t come against top tier guys so this is his shot, this is his opportunity. Everything’s on the line riding on this. He poses a very very immediate threat, and I’m taking that very very seriously. So I’m going in there with a serious game plan as if he were Mike Tyson! I’ve got to take him serious.
CBS Local Sports: How much do you think your switch-hitting style can be used to your advantage here?
Dirrell: I’ve been using that in camp tremendously. I kind of let it go trying to perfect my southpaw stance the last few years, but my uncle recommended I keep it. I’ll usually switch it up and go three and three. So I’ll go three rounds fighting southpaw, three rounds orthodox, then three rounds adjusting to the guy after that. I think it’s really important. It’s something that definitely throws a fighter off his game. We all know southpaws give problems, but I’m just as good with my right and left, my southpaw stance, so we’re utilizing that very well and paying attention to details as far as defense goes.
CBS Local Sports: Quite simply: Why are you going to win this fight?
Dirrell: Because I’m a winner. Simple as that. I’m a winner.