Updated: March 26, 2010, 6:24 PM ET

Dirrell happy to be fighting at home

Rafael By Dan Rafael
ESPN.com
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Andre DirrellAP Photo/Tom HeveziDespite dropping a decision, Andre Dirrell feels he learned a lot in his fight with Carl Froch.

After suffering a split-decision loss in his previous fight in his opponent's hometown, Andre Dirrell sure is glad to be home for his next assignment.

"Fighting at home is going to be a real confidence-booster for me," Dirrell said. "I call it a do-or-die situation for me. I'm training harder than I ever did and even smarter than I ever did, because I always train hard. I'm highly prepared for battle."

He'll need to be, because Dirrell will square off with heavy-punching former middleweight titleholder Arthur Abraham of Germany on Saturday night (Showtime, 10:30 ET/PT, free preview weekend) at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit in the opening match of Group Stage 2 of the Super Six World Boxing Classic.

"I have faced power punchers before, none as explosive as Abraham, but I have fought power punchers in my career and handled them well," Dirrell said. "I'm smarter, faster and more elusive, and I feel that I have the most skill and speed. It will be difficult for him to catch on to my style, but not for me to adjust to his."

Dirrell, from Flint, Mich., will be the crowd favorite, a far cry from the situation he was in for his most recent fight, when he traveled to Nottingham, England, and lost to Carl Froch on Oct. 17 in a title bout in a Group Stage 1 match of the tournament featuring six of the top 168-pounders in the world.

"I'm glad to be back in Michigan, and the opportunity to fight here in Detroit is a great thing," said Dirrell, 26, whose only previous pro fight in his home state was in his 10th fight. "This is a history-making event, and I'm excited to be a part of it. I really wanted to bring something positive to this community. It feels good to fight in Detroit, and it's something that I'm really looking forward to. When fighters fight at home, your mental game has to be really strong. This is a big, monumental event, and I'm looking forward to it, but I won't let it distract me.

"This area has been sleeping on boxing for a while now, but I'm bringing excitement about the sport back to Detroit with this fight. I'm here to make a statement to the boxing world and all the fighters in the Super Six tournament with my performance in this fight. "

Abraham (31-0, 25 KOs), 30, who drilled Jermain Taylor in the 12th round in Berlin in his opener Oct. 17, is the tournament leader with three points and is favored against Dirrell.

But the 6-foot-2 Dirrell (18-1, 13 KOs), a speedy 2004 U.S. Olympic bronze medal winner with a four-inch height advantage over Abraham, is confident he'll prevail. Part of the reason is because of what he learned in the loss to Froch, which many believed Dirrell won.

"It was a championship fight. It was in his hometown," Dirrell said. "I had a game plan, but it unfolded when he started using dirty tactics. But I've learned from that. Going into the late rounds, my mind was kind of wondering if I could go 12 rounds. By the ninth round I figured 12 would be a cinch. And I finished strong. But as far as the holding went, it wasn't part of the game plan. I wasn't meant to hold that much, but because of the dirty tactics, he threw me off my game plan. When I got on the inside I clinched a little too much, and so I'm working on that right now. I'm prepared for anything now.

"When Arthur Abraham steps into the opposite corner as me I'll be ready to get busy and get this win. Winning is everything right now. I already have one loss, and I can't lose again or I'm out of the tournament. So I'm coming off a loss and looking for that victory. I'm just working hard to get that victory, and if the knockout comes, it comes."

Dirrell is still guaranteed a Group Stage 3 bout if he loses, but advancing to the semifinals with two losses will be difficult.

The fight was originally supposed to take place March 6 in Rancho Mirage, Calif., but Dirrell tweaked his back during training, forcing the bout to be postponed to Saturday. When the original venue at the Agua Caliente resort was not available, promoter Gary Shaw moved it to Detroit.

As of a week ago, Dirrell said his back was "90 percent."

Even with the setback, he said he's well-prepared for Abraham, one of most vicious knockout artists in boxing.

"I've trained with many guys that fight like Arthur Abraham," Dirrell said. "He has awesome defense, he's very explosive and has dangerous weapons he brings into the ring."

Besides punching power, Abraham also brings tremendous desire. He wants to be great, and has embraced the idea of leaving Germany to fight in the United States, even if means coming to Dirrell's turf.

"This is a really big chance for me to be a big star in America. It's what I've been looking for," said Abraham, whose only previous fight in the U.S. was his fourth-round knockout of Edison Miranda in their June 2008 rematch. "I really feel that there is so much interest from America and from Showtime and from the journalists in the Super Six. I'm just really happy to be here, and this is a great chance for me.

"I guess it will be a little bit of an advantage for him to fight in front of his home fans, but inside the ring we are all just by ourselves and you have to fight on your own, so that shouldn't be a problem."

Maidana back in action

Matt A. Brown/Icon SMICome on, Khan: Marcos Maidana is keen on fighting Amir Khan sooner rather than later.

Marcos Maidana burst on the American boxing scene last summer when he made heralded prospect Victor Ortiz quit in the sixth round of an all-action HBO fight in Los Angeles. The victory netted Maidana an interim junior welterweight belt and put him into the mix for major fights in a loaded 140-pound division.

After one defense in his native Argentina in November, Maidana (27-1, 26 KOs) is back in the United States to defend his belt against highly regarded Victor Cayo (24-0, 16 KOs) at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas on Saturday night (HBO, 10:30 ET/PT).

Maidana is apparently taking the fight quite seriously as he trained for two full months, including the last month-plus in Las Vegas.

"I have watched several videos. He has a good technique, swift legs, very fast," Maidana said of Cayo. "I hope he will not be able to resist my power, and if he is, then I am prepared to win on points."

Before the fight was made, Maidana had to agree to forego a mandatory fight with full titleholder Amir Khan, who was not interested in facing the dangerous Maidana yet. Maidana was disappointed but understood the business aspect.

"Khan wouldn't like to face me at the moment," Maidana said. "This shows his intelligence. I would have liked to make a unification fight right now, but my manager, Mario Margossian, advised me that it would be better to make two fights in the U.S. before the unification, which will be a very important fight. I have watched various tapes of Khan's fights and thus know him quite well. He will not be able to resist my attacks. I am sure that I am going to win by KO."

Opening the telecast, South Africa's Ali Funeka (30-2-3, 25 KOs) faces Joan Guzman (29-0-1, 17 KOs) of the Dominican Republic in a rematch for a vacant lightweight belt. In November, they fought to a highly controversial draw most observers thought Funeka easily won.

Molitor's second chance

Canada's Steve Molitor (31-1, 12 KOs) is happy to have another chance. The former junior featherweight titleholder was blown out by Celestino Caballero in four rounds in a November 2008 unification fight, and it's taken until now to get back where he wants to be -- in another title fight. Molitor has won three straight, including an eliminator, and Saturday night faces South Africa's Takalani Ndlovu (30-5, 18 KOs) for a vacant belt at Casino Rama, where Molitor has will be fighting for the 10th consecutive time, in Rama, Ontario.

"Boxing is unlike any other sport," Molitor said. "If I was in the NHL, a two-game losing streak wouldn't mean I couldn't win the Stanley Cup. But in boxing, one tough loss set me back a year and a half. That's the nature of the sport. It's brutal and unforgiving, but I'm seriously and honestly at the top of my game, and ready for another lengthy title reign beginning Saturday night."

During his first title reign, Molitor stopped Ndlovu in the ninth round of his first defense. Molitor is expecting another knockout win against his familiar foe.

"I'm healthier and stronger than ever heading into a fight," he said. "And given the fact that I've already smacked him around the ring once, I know what to expect out of him. Come Saturday night I'm going to reclaim my title."

So does Molitor expect anything different from the first fight?

"Other than him getting knocked out a lot sooner, nothing at all," he said.

Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com.

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