Nottinghams Carl Froch made a winning start to the Super Six World Boxing Classic and retained his WBC super-middleweight world title in doing so with an sometimes messy split decision victory over America’s Andre Dirrell.
The fight which didn’t start until after 2am due to American television, started cautiously with Froch struggling to get his punches off against a negative Dirrell, although he landed enough shots to take the win in the opinion of two of the judges to the delight of a partisan crowd.
Froch, 32, was the clear favourite heading into the clash while Dirrell came into the contest with an impressive 18-0 record and a successful amateur career resulting a 2004 Olympic bronze medal.
At the start of the first round Dirrell landed an early body shot before both fighters set about weighing each other up with barely another punch landing.
Froch was the more positive fighter in the second round, while switch hitter Dirrell was proving elusive.
The third was similarly devoid of action – Dirrell landing a slick right-left-right combination with Froch finishing strongly by landing a reaching right that landed solidly.
Froch wore a moody expression as the slick Dirrell continued to enjoy eluding his man, even escaping after seemingly being trapped in the corner at the end of the fourth.
Froch threw the awkward Dirrell to the floor in the fifth as the American tried again to clinch and received a warning from the referee Panamanian Hector Afu. Dirrell.
In the sixth things hotted up although a lot of it was again messy work and dirty tactics, a big right hook from Froch and better work won him the round.
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The scrappy nature of the fight continued, when Froch landed a right followed by a chopping left hook which Dirrell argued was on the break and another flurry saw the challenger’s protests again ignored by the referee. Dirrell also was warned on several occasions.
Froch edged the eighth round with some sporadic but good left hooks and his better work coming forward won him the next round also.
The home fans were lifted in the tenth when Dirrell was deducted a point for holding on, and about time too, the fight was getting very scruffy and something had to be done, Dirrell was being very negative and not being the cocky in your face way he was at the press conference with Froch. Although Froch was hit flush in that round too, Dirrell finished the tenth round with a good left cross.
American Dirrell won the 11th. although both fighters were landing big shots especially the left hands and both were guilty on occasions of leaving there chins out to dry.
The 12th won by Froch was quiet with both feeling the pace and both believing they were winning, coasted it out to some degree. Froch edged it due to two short bursts in his own corner, with both men raising their hands at the final bell to claim victory.
There was a nervous air as a split decision verdict was announced, but with Froch being awarded 115-112 by two judges and Dirrell 114-113 by the other.
“I’m a little bit dissatisfied but I can only beat what’s in front of me,” Froch said. “Andre Dirrell is very fast, very skilful, very slick; if you couple that together with negativity, which is what he brought tonight, you’re going to get a bit of a dud fight.
“We never really stood and had a trade and got going with anything tonight.
“A win’s a win, he can’t expect to come to Nottingham and beat me by running and holding and complaining.
“I don’t feel like I got hit or hurt at any stage. I felt comfortable all the way. Through the whole fight, I didn’t feel hurt or jaded or fazed, it was just comfortable.
“I disagree with the spilt decision, but that’s professional boxing, it’s subjective scoring.”
In the other fight to start the Super Six in Berlin. Arthur Abraham began with a superb 12th-round bonus point knockout victory over fellow former middleweight champion Jermain Taylor.This was Taylors second 12th round knockout in a Row, after getting stopped by Froch in the 12th last time out. By Chris Maylett