In this corner with Russ Anber: 'A big injustice'

Russ Anber
26/02/2019 8:35pm

Photo: Russ Anber Instagram

In his latest column, Russ Anber gives his insider view on the controversial conclusion to Avni Yildirim's defeat against Anthony Dirrell...

On Saturday night, experienced trainer, hand wrapper and cut man Russ Anber worked the corner of Turkish super middleweight Avni Yildirim in his WBC super middleweight title fight against Anthony Dirrell in Minneapolis.

Dirrell prevailed via a controversial technical decision victory after the fight was halted in the tenth round due to a cut the American had suffered over his left eye. At the time of the stoppage two judges had Dirrell ahead, while one plumped for Yildirim. Anber here gives his account of the fight to Boxing Monthly... 

It was a big injustice as far as I'm concerned. And when I say that bear in mind this is the first time I've worked with Avni, it's not like I have a massive history with him.

Avni fought a far better fight than anybody would have expected. I mean he took it to Dirrell from the opening bell. There were a couple of rounds early in the fight where Dirrell didn't do much for most of the round and Avni was winning not just by his aggression and by coming forward but by mixing up his shots to the body and head and taking it to him. Dirrell would try and land a good combination or single shot to try and steal the round.

Avni never let up on him. He stayed on him the entire fight, he had him pinned on the ropes on numerous occasions, he took it to him with aggression throughout the whole bout.

I believe there was a little bit of a problem in the scoring. We had a version of open scoring in which they gave us the scores after the fourth round and after the eighth round. At the end of the fourth round two judges had the fight even and one had Avni winning all four rounds. It's pretty hard to be up by four on one card and 2-2 on two others, right?

At the end of the eighth, two judges had Dirrell up by two and the other had Avni up by five or something. We thought that was what we were seeing too.

Then something happened which I found very peculiar. After the tenth round, Dirrell came out and he's dancing, he's moving left, he's moving right, like he was just waiting for a minute to pass. The referee then stepped in, took him to the doctor and the fight was stopped.

It felt as if they knew they were going to stop it. Dirrell came out a way he hadn't the whole fight. When you stop the fight during a partial round generally if nothing happens they score the round even, they don't necessarily award it to one fighter or the other.

Dirrell didn't seem too concerned about the stoppage - I guess he knew he was ahead. I know the WBC are trying to be fair and transparent in terms of the scoring, but this is an example of where it hurts the sport. You want the judges accountable for sure, but the Dirrell camp knew they were ahead and seemed more than happy for the fight to be stopped when it was. If they didn't know the scores there was no way they would have felt so confident about the fight being stopped. 

Another concern I have is calling the fight on an accidental head butt. I asked the referee afterwards if he saw the head clash that caused the cut and he said yeah, but we didn't see it.

We assumed it was caused by a punch - that's why Avni reacted the way he did and celebrated when the fight was stopped - he thought he'd won it. The crowd thought he'd won it.

I admit I haven't seen the fight back yet, but I'd like to see definitively if it was a punch or a clash of heads that caused the cut. If it turns out that the cut was caused by a punch then that should automatically turn the fight over from a technical decision to a TKO win for Avni.

To me it seemed to start off as a small cut that got progressively bigger. It was a bad cut but there wasn't any blood going into his eyes, he didn't have an mask of blood like Badou Jack had against Marcus Browne. Mind you, the cut was in  a different place and a more dangerous place, on the eyelid.

I didn't see what happened in the Dirrell corner in between rounds with the doctor but the cut didn't seem any worse later on in the tenth round than at the beginning of the tenth. If that's the case why not stop the fight in the corner before the start of the tenth round? I find that odd.

The referee is in the heat of the action, of course, and has to make his call. But in a sense, it's an easy route for a referee to make the call of an accidental head butt and send a fight to the cards. It relieves the pressure on him.

But for me there is something not quite right about the fight ending that way.

Avni put up a tremendous fight, and after putting up such a performance and the doubts about the scorecards and the conclusion to the fight he definitely deserves a rematch. As far as I know Avni's promoter Ahmet Öner is on his way to Mexico now to make his case to Mauricio Sulaiman.*

In the build-up to the fight and in the press conference Dirrell and his fans really tried to humiliate Avni the whole time - saying he had only fought bums and had a suspect chin. They gave him such a hard time, there was almost a xenophobic feeling to it. They treated this kid with no respect whatsoever.

But if you watch the fight you'll see the inspired performance Avni put on and if that doesn't give you some respect for this kid nothing will. He fought a real old-school fight. He took it right to Dirrell and stayed right in there punch for punch against a bigger guy, a taller guy, a more experienced guy - he stayed with him all the way.

Fighters develop and adapt and there was a big difference in the way Avni fought compared to [his loss] against Chris Eubank Jr. The quality was there in his punches and in the way he executed combinations. Instead of being emotional and swinging wildly, he was controlled and aggressive and kept his emotions in check.

Avni was also absolutely fantastic to work with. He was so happy to have us there, so appreciative to have me there. He followed instructions well. He was a real pleasure.

It was also great to be reunited with Harold Knight, Avni's trainer, who used to work with Lennox Lewis. I've known him since he was a 119lbs 15-year-old kid. His coach at the time was John Davenport who was Lennox's coach for a number of years and was one of my mentors. I feel that Avni has made great improvements since he started working with Harold and it really showed throughout the fight.

Russ Anber is on Twitter and Instagram @russanber.
Russ was speaking to Luke G. Williams

*UPDATE:
Öner and Yildirim met with Sulaiman today to make an appeal for a rematch.

In a statement Yildirim said: "Respectable President Sulaiman, I have come to Mexico City to visit you in the WBC head offices because of respect and gratitude for the opportunities given to me by your honorable organization. The WBC has supported my career as a professional boxer and I have grown through The WBC platform to become the fighter I am today. The WBC ratings committee believed in me and The WBC Board believed in me and gave me the great opportunity to fight for the most prestigious organization in the world of boxing”

“I started my training camp since many months before and sacrificed very much to get to USA to win the Green and Gold belt. I fought my best fight of life, I go always forward and fight with heart, honor and pride. I respect WBC and the judges and referee, I am sorry that accidental headbutts happened and finished the fight before the complete fight. I was coming very strong and decisively won round 8 and 9 and then fight is stopped in the middle of round 10.

“Fight did not finish, round 10 did not finish and I lost in the scores of 2 judges because round 10 was scored for Dirrell, but round was not finished, if I win round 10 then fight was a draw.

“My dream of becoming the first world champion from Turkey was finished but not with a clear ending.

“I accept result, I thank you Mr President for complete explanation of rules and procedures, I don’t ask to change result of fight, I please ask for WBC to support direct rematch.

“I respect Dirrell and I know he wants to fight me again to show in the ring who is best with final and clear ending."