Andre Dirrell rises from early knockdown, dominates Blake Caparello

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Andre Dirrell figured to be a bit rusty Friday night following a nearly yearlong ring absence. Sure enough, he took a knee after getting caught with a sneaky shot from fellow southpaw Blake Caparello in Round 2.

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Dirrell vs Caparello highlights: April 29, 2016

It turned out to be the only adversity Dirrell would have to overcome.

A two-time title challenger, Andre Dirrell (25-2, 16 KOs) shook off the flash knockdown and went on to dominate his Australian opponent in a 169-pound contest at Taj Mahal Casino Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Dirrell, a 2004 Olympic Bronze medalist, won every round but the second on all three cards, winning by a trio of scores of 98-91.

“My focus, determination and my drive got me the win tonight,” Dirrell said. “I know I’ve got more work to do, but I never stopped grinding in there tonight.

“I wanted to send the boxing world and this whole division a message: I’m coming for anyone with a title.”

Back in the ring for the first time since losing his world championship to James DeGale by unanimous decision last May, Dirrell got clocked by Blake Caparello (22-2-1, 6 KOs) late in the second round and hit the deck. From there, however, it was Dirrell who dictated the action.

Applying pressure through the middle rounds, Dirrell frequently pinned Caparello on the ropes, connecting with calculated shots while remaining wary of the wild right hooks and left hands the Aussie’s corner implored him to land.

Aware that he had fully regained control of the fight, the 32-year-old Dirrell switched from puncher to boxer during the latter rounds. In the end, he had little trouble ending Caparello’s three-fight winning streak and handing the 29-year-old his second professional defeat.

“The knockdown I got in the second round felt good. I knew I had him hurt, but I wasn’t able to capitalize on it,” said Caparello, who was dropped three times by current 175-pound champ Sergey Kovalev in his only previous defeat, a second-round TKO in August 2014.

“I continued to look for the same left hand all night; it just didn’t come again. Andre has a lot of tricks. He is both good and fast.”

After taking down Caparello, Dirrell was adamant about wanting a third title shot, having lost previous championship fights to Englishmen Carl Froch by split decision in October 2009 and left-hander DeGale by unanimous decision in May. Dirrell’s triumph came a day before 168-pound champions Badou Jack (20-1-1, 12 KOs) and DeGale (22-1, 14 KOs) are to defend their titles against former champion Lucian Bute (32-3, 25 KOs) and Rogelio Medina (36-6, 30 KOs), respectively, at the D.C. Armory in Washington, D.C. (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT).

“I’ll take on anyone who is a champion,” Dirrell said. “I know I’ll be a world champion. I have to be a champion. I don’t slow down for anyone. I’m going to keep pushing to get where I’m going.”

A native of Flint, Michigan, Dirrell and his brother, Anthony—who took out Caleb Truax by impressive first-round TKO in Friday’s co-main event—have teamed up with Spike TV on a fundraising effort to aid victims of their hometown’s lead-poisoning water crisis. Funds raised from a Crowdrise page will go to the Flint Child Health & Development Fund.

Andre Dirrell has stated that at least 30 family members still live in Flint, where President Obama declared a national state of emergency in January. Obama has scheduled a Wednesday visit to the city, where blood tests of thousands of citizens have shown increased levels of poisonous lead, mostly in children.

“Seven of my nieces and nephews have lead poisoning right now,” Andre Dirrell said in a video that aired on Spike. “But I pray and hope that they do something right now.

“Flint is so in need of positive recognition. It needs that light. So if I can shine the light in boxing, then this would be my platform to do so.”

For complete coverage of Dirrell vs Caparello, check out our fight page.

Andre Dirrell and Blake Caparello

Anthony Dirrell (left) survived a second-round knockdown against Blake Caparello on Friday to win by a wide unanimous decision in a 169-pound battle. (Dave Nadkarni/Premier Boxing Champions)

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