Abraham-Dirrell: A View from the Cheap Seats

boxingby GM Ross - Last Saturday I hopped on a Greyhound in Ontario, making a pugilistic pilgrimage to Detroit, Michigan, to take in the Arthur Abraham versus Andre Dirrell, Showtime Super Six match-up. Upon my departure, the thought of writing an article regarding my experiences had not seriously crossed my mind. It was a pleasure trip, nothing more. When I arrived in Detroit all this changed. I was struck by the deserted landscape, often devoid of automobiles or pedestrians. Yet, the large, picturesque sky-scrappers stood as a testament to the city's former glory and the warm smiles and hospitality of shopkeepers, waitresses and passers by, never faded, no matter how bleak my surroundings became. The sheer impact the city had on my psyche – I thought as I wandered with my traveling companion throughout Greektown – necessitated an article.

On Saturday evening I dinned in Greektown, gorged myself on lamb, octopus and fish roe, then proceeded to the Joe Louis Arena. If one was unaware of the Abraham-Dirrell fight upon arriving in the city, they would be unlikely to realize it was occurring. There were no advertisements to speak of.. As I approached the arena, there was nothing to suggest a world-class boxing match was to take place inside. A solitary employee stood at the top of the stairs, near the entrance. “You have tickets?” he called down to us. We nodded, and he waved us up. Inside the Joe Louis, scattered boxing fans sought out their seats, stopping to look at statues of Gordie Howe and other Red Wings greats. Our seats were located just behind the boards representing the limits of the ice surface. After a friendly usher helped us located our seats, we settled in, tracked down a program and chatted about what promised to be an exciting undercard.

Support for local Michigan athletes was evident all around us. Keego Harbor heavyweight Rich Power received a warm ovation as he entered the ring, and plenty of support after he was knocked to the canvas early in his bout with Ray Lopez. This support, I firmly believe, helped the big Michigan fighter eventually pull things together and earn a TKO victory. I was thoroughly impressed by Vernon Paris – a local Detroit fighter – who skillfully dismantled Oscar Leon, offering up more speed and power than his opponent could handle. That being said, there was still much room for improvement. Paris looked tired in the last couple rounds, giving Leon opportunities to get back into the fight. Paris' showboating
was also worrisome, and quite unnecessary. His utter domination of Leon early in the fight made it evident to all in attendance that he was the better fighter. His showboating, like his endurance, merely provided openings for an opponent who was thoroughly out classed.

Daryl Cunningham, by my estimation, was the most popular fighter after Dirrell. As he went to work on Pat Coleman a cry of “Don't embarrass us Daryl!” projected from someplace behind me. The worried fan, however, had little to be concerned about. Cunningham easily controlled Coleman, amidst a downpour of advice from his thousands of admirers in attendance. “Pump that jab,” “jab, jab, jab,” “Move, Move!” and variations of these commands flowed constantly from the Detroit faithful to their local prospect. This crowd support was by no means lost of Cunningham who, after his victory, made his rounds throughout the audience, shaking hands and posing for pictures, setting an excellent example for others in the game today.

Ronald Hearns did well against a largely defensive Marteze Logan, staying busy to get the win. Although Logan's short bursts of left and right hooks were the most exciting combinations of the contest, they were far to rare to overcome the consistency of Hearns. Speaking of consistency, Dominik Britsch put forth a masterful performance, out boxing rugged Mark 'The Bull' Berkshire and displaying more power than his seven knockouts in seventeen wins suggests. Britsch's body shots were particularly crippling, the impact of which was evident in the cringing, pain-induced mannerisms of Berkshire throughout the contest. Unfortunately, in the lone cruiserweight contest, the audience seemed more enamored with Freddie Roach than Lateef Koyode, the man the eminent trainer was cornering. As Koyode entered the ring murmurs of “is that Freddie?” were audible all around me, and continued throughout the fight. Kayode looked strong and polished and deserves some light inside his trainer's shadow for earning a fourth round TKO over journeyman Chris Thomas. Under the right management, Kayode could be a name we hear more often in the future.

The happenings of the main event have now been told over and over again in web-articles, blogs, magazines and newspapers, and, to be honest, I have little to add that hasn't already been noted by's Paul Strauss, Frank Gonzalez or James Slater. Chants of “USA, USA, USA!” echoed throughout the Joe Louis Arena, while Abraham supporters eagerly waved Armenian flags. We were brought to out feet on several occasions in the opening rounds as Dirrell out-worked and out-landed Abraham. When Dirrell scored his knockdown in the fourth round the audience exploded with passion, and those around me exchanged high-fives and hugs, hollering “Yeah, Yeah!” and “He gottem!” It was difficult for an unattached spectator (like myself) not to cheer for the hometown hero, and I found myself clapping and cheering for Dirrell as the fight entered the later rounds. I became filled with anxiety as Abraham pushed forward, landing more frequently. I wished desperately for Dirrell to send his opponent to the canvas for the fatal ten. I had nothing to gain from the outcome, but felt compelled to assist the devoted Detroit fight-goers in their efforts to cheer Dirrell to victory. After the people of Detroit had treated me with such respect and hospitality, I felt I owed them my claps and cheers. So there I was, a Nova Scotia boy, with no ties to the city, state or Dirrell – aside from a couple positive experiences earlier in the day – completely won over to the hometown fighter's side through the kindness and professionalism of the city's inhabitants and boxers. The situation grew a bit tense following Abraham's illegal blow on Dirrell, leading many of those around me to leap the barricade separating the lower bowl of the arena from the floor level seating, and make their way to the ring in support of Dirrell. If the verdict had been different, and Laurence Cole declared the fight a TKO victory for Abraham, pandemonium would have ensued. Dirrell fans rushed the ring, mixing with the many Armenian flags representing pockets of Abraham fans. The audience was transformed into a powder keg, waiting to be ignited. Luckily, a more riotous outcome was avoided, thanks to the appropriate disqualification of Abraham and the calming influence of many of those at ringside.

When all was said and done, I was left wondering why more big fights are not held in Detroit and other American cities with renowned local fighters. I find it hard to believe that I would have enjoyed the same experience at a casino in Las Vegas, where fighters are separated from much of their fan base. In my opinion, its time to take boxing back, nourish hometown heroes, build regional followings and re-manufacture some of the faded fight towns of the past.

Article posted on 30.03.2010

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