Andre Dirrell Out of Super Six With 'Neurologial Problem'
Flint, Mich., super middleweight (168 pounds) contender Andre Dirrell has withdrawn from his scheduled Nov. 27 title bout against WBA king Andre Ward, of Oakland, Calif., as well as from the tournament in general with what his promoter, Gary Shaw, told FanHouse was a "neurological problem."
Initially Dirrell's exit was attriubuted to an undisclosed injury as Showtime's Ken Hershman announced during a conference call early on Thursday.
Hershman, the network's general manager of sports, said that he learned of the situation "in the last 48 hours," calling it a "tremendously frustrating" development in a tournament that has been beset with setbacks, postponements, fighters' exits and injuries.
"The injury, and I wouldn't call it an injury, but a neurological problem. We have had him examined by a neurologist, who advised Andre not to train or to fight until further notice. Another advanced battery of tests will be done in a little while," said Shaw.
"It wasn't something where I could give Showtime a new start time for him," said Shaw. "It's for right now, how long that he will be out, we just don't know until we get clearance. It's something that we will have to wait on until we receive clarity from the doctors."
It is unclear whether or not the head injuries are the result of Dirrell's March, 11th-round disqualification victory over hard-hitting Arthur Abraham (31-1, 25 KOs) of Germany, who hit Dirrell in the head when the fighter was down.
A still-dazed Dirrell rose on unsteady legs after having slipped, and, been subsequently clobbered while he was on the canvas by Abraham's vicious, downward-swooping right hand.
"All that I could think about was, 'Everybody get away from me.' I couldn't even breathe," said Dirrell at the time, believing that he had lost by a knockout. "I got dropped. That was all that was in my mind was that I got dropped."
Hershman said that Ward (22-0, 13 KOs) of Oakland, Calif., still could fight on Nov. 27 in an "outside of the tournament" bout at his hometown Oracle Arena in Oakland despite the exit of Dirrell (19-1, 13 KOs).
Hershman said that he had a few options on the table as potential opponents for Ward.
"We will have an announcement shortly on who will fight Andre Ward Nov. 27, however, I just want to be clear that the Super Six will go on. Andre will fight on Nov. 27," said Hershman. "That has all been confirmed. We have not determined whether Andre's bout will be inside or outside of the Super Six tournament."
Ward-Dirrell did not have a site determined, but would have been a clash of former Olympic teammates, with Ward being a 2004 gold medalist, and Dirrell, a bronze medalist.
Ward-Dirrell has been difficult to put together, having been pushed back from its original date of Sept. 25 when a site was not determined.
As a result, there are some in the boxing community who speculated that Ward-Dirrell would not come off either because of the fighters' friendships, or over their perceived desire for more money.
Ward is undefeated in the tournament and has qualified for the semifinals, whether or not he wins his next fight.
Hershman said, "I'm not going to go into the nature of the injury," during his call, adding of the latest development that "the wind gets taken out of the sails," of the tournament, and, "I feel that way, so I can imagine that the fans feel that way."
Asked if he thought Dirrell's injury was suspect, Hershman would not elaborate.
"I'll leave that to you and everyone else on this call to pursue that on your own," said Hershman. "That's not my job. You have to talk to the Dirrell camp about what they want to disclose. It's not my place."
In September, Shaw and Ward's promoter, Dan Goossen of Goossen Tutor Promotions, were mailed "legal letters," according to Shaw, from Showtime representatives.
The letters advised the promoters that Ward-Dirrell must come off on the original date, or else, in early October, with a lawsuit being the potential threat if it did not.
"We have the options of progressing with just five, or putting in another replacement. We'll probably have that information all wrapped up by tomorrow is my guess. Obviously, we're disappointed with this development. We still believe in the Super Six," said Hershman.
"It's a fantastic concept, and very, very challenging, obviously to get through that many fights at that level of competition over this course of time," said Hershman. "But we will still have the semifinals next year with at least three of the original participants."
The Super Six tournament features six of the premiere 168-pound boxers in the world in three group stage fights that were to determine four semifinalists based on points toward eventually coming up with a championship bout in 2011.
But problems have slowed the tournament to a frustrating crawl.
In January, former middleweight (160 pounds) champ, Jermain Taylor (28-4-1, 17 KOs), of Arkansas, pulled out of the tournament following October's 12th-round knockout loss to Germany's Arthur Abraham (31-1, 25 KOs), and was replaced by Allan Green (29-2, 20 KOs), of Tulsa, Ok.
On Aug. 25, then-WBC champ Mikkel Kessler (43-2, 32 knockouts), who was dethroned as WBA champ by Ward, withdrew from the tournament with an eye injury, thereby aborting his scheduled Sept. 25 clash with Green.
Since then, Jamaican-born, 41-year-old former world champion Glen Johnson (50-14, 34 KOs) of Miami has replaced Kessler as the Nov. 6 opponent for Green.
Green-Johnson will take place as the Showtime televised co-feature to a bout between WBO featherweight (126 pounds) titlist Juan Manuel Lopez (29-0, 26 KOs) and former world champion Rafael Marquez (39-5, 35 KOs) at MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Also, an Oct 2 clash already set for Monaco between Abraham and Carl Froch (26-1, 20 KOs) was forced to be fought on Nov. 27, as a proposed double-header with Ward-Dirrell, following a back injury suffered by Froch.
Froch was dethroned in April as WBC champ by Kessler, whose subsequent designation as the WBC's "Champion Emeritus," means that Kessler can fight his available replacement as soon as he is healthy.
Originally, the WBC designated that man to be the winner between Ward (pictured at right) and Dirrell before switching that honor to the Froch-Abraham winner. Now, Froch will get to fight for the crown he lost to Kessler.
Hershman said that there has been consideration for disbanding the tournament format and still putting on the fights with the participants who are involved.
"We certainly went through that analysis. We made provisions in the tournament to move forward with five fighters in the case of this kind of circumstance. We still have Andre Ward, and Arthur Abraham, and Carl Froch who have all fought very difficult, competitive fights and we still believe in the tournament and want to move forward in that," said Hershman.
"We want to move forward in that vain and we want to crown a champion. I think that having one replacement in the semifinals with the quality that we're talking about is a fair tradeoff. Our mission is to put on the most competitive fights possible," said Hershman.
"But we think that we have a great field. We still think that the ultimate victor will be someone who has been through the rigors of this tournament," said Hershman. "It may be somebody who slipped in as a substitute. But if they can beat this field that is in place, then I think that they deserve to be crowned champion as well."