Anthony Dirrell eyes another world title as he faces top contender Avni Yildirim for the vacant WBC super middleweight championship on February 23, 2019, at The Armory in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Anthony Dirrell (32-1-1 with 24 Knockouts)
Flint’s Anthony Dirrell’s journey to a world title was both hard and long and when the Flint, Michigan native finally achieved his dream to become a world title by defeating Sakio Bika via unanimous decision in their rematch, he lost the belt eight months later to Badou Jack. When Jack vacated the belt to move up in weight, Dirrell was ordered to fight David Benavidez for the vacant title. Dirrell got hurt and eventually pulled out of the bout. Five bouts later, Dirrell finds himself with another opportunity to win back his old belt.
Anthony is the brother of former Olympic bronze medalist and former interim IBF super middleweight champion Andre Dirrell. The 34-year old is listed at 6-2 with a reach of 74.5 inches while fighting as an orthodox fighter. Dirrell started out his career as a knockout artist, winning his first 24 bouts and stopping 21 opponents in the process. But he’s become a more complete fighter in recent years and has proven that he can go the full route and win fights on points. Dirrell may be looking at his final chance at winning another world title and becoming a two-time world champion.
Anthony Dirrell vs Avni Yildirim Odds
Odds from bet365 as of 2/20/19
Avni Yildirim (21-1 with 12 Knockouts )
Avni Yildirim has been one of the most active super middleweights in the world in the last four years. The fighter from Sivas, Turkey has fought at least four times a year beginning 2015. Like Dirrell, he is on a five-bout winning streak and has bounced back nicely since suffering the only loss of his professional boxing career to Chris Eubank Jr. via 3rd round knockout in 2017. In his last fight, Yildirim defeated little known Lolenga Mock by majority decision for his fifth straight victory.
The 27-year-old Turkish fighter stands 5-11 and has a reach of 70 inches while fighting out of the orthodox stance. He is known as a come-forward fighter and likes to brawl. Yildirim has fought mostly in Germany and will only be making his second appearance in U.S. soil. In his only other fight in the United States back in 2015, Yildirim defeated former world champion Glen Johnson via unanimous decision to win the minor WBC international silver light heavyweight title. He defended that belt four times before moving down to the super middleweight division where is currently campaigning.
The American has a significant advantage over his opponent in terms of experience as Dirrell began fighting professionally a decade earlier. But having more mileage also means that the wear and tear of a long career could backfire on Dirrell. Not only has he been derailed by a serious illness, but he is also already 34 years old. Dirrell has not fought since April 2018 and it remains to be seen if Dirrell is still the same fighter who beat Abraham Han nearly a year ago via wide decision to earn this crack at a world title. If nothing has changed since that bout, then expect Yildirim to have a long night ahead. However, aging fighters tend to suddenly grow old at some point during their careers and end up suddenly regressing in a certain fight. Let’s hope this is not yet it for Anthony Dirrell.
Yildirim only knows one way to fight and that is to move forward. The main problem with him is that he often does so without throwing enough punches, often relying on his power which is decent but not really that impressive. Yildirim throws hard punches but he does not possess the one-punch knockout power that makes opponents cower in fear. In the fight against Eubank Jr., Yildirim kept on plodding forward. Although he kept his hands up to defend his face, he didn’t do a lot of punching. Eubank was backing up but threw a volume on Yildirim who eventually got hurt and was nailed with a right hook that dropped him hard enough for the referee to stop the bout. Dirrell is a harder puncher than Eubank and is more technically gifted. If Yildirim falls into the same trap, the result could be the same.
But Yildirim has learned from that experience and has become a more fundamental fighter in his recent bouts. However, he has not fought the same kind of opposition that Dirrell has in the United States. Let me admit that Dirrell is no Andre Ward but he’s fought four former world champions in Sakio Bika, Badou Jack, Marco Antonio Rubio, and Caleb Truax, beating three of them in the process. Dirrell has good boxing fundamentals, decent speed, and respectable footwork. He definitely has more pop in his punches than Yildirim.
I think that Dirrell starts this fight cautiously, trying to figure out if he can take his opponent’s punches and when he realizes that Yildirim isn’t a one-punch knockout puncher, at least not at this level, Dirrell is going to start and open up his offense and being peppering Yildirim with shots. Yildirim isn’t shy to engage but as the slower and more flat-footed fighter, he will be an easy target for Dirrell all-night-long. I don’t know what to expect from a 34-year old former champion in terms of knockout power but I think Dirrell has more than enough skill to pull of this win.
I’m picking Anthony Dirrell to beat Avni Yildirim most probably by decision but if the Turkish fighter becomes reckless, he could end up kissing the canvass for the second time in his boxing career.