WASHINGTON — Was it déjà vu for Andre Dirrell, or a clean knockout for Jose Uzcategui?
Turns out it was a little of both. Dirrell was knocked out a split second after the bell by Uzcategui at the end of the eighth round of their interim WBA super middleweight title fight Saturday night, bringing back memories of his sucker punch by Arthur Abraham seven years ago that changed the direction of Dirrell’s career. Saturday’s stunning ending and the ensuing melee was not the same, but the end result was.
Uzcategui, from Venezuela was disqualified, and Dirrell, who didn’t get to his feet for what seemed like several minutes, was declared the winner and then things got downright ugly.
The confusion in the ring turned messy as a melee erupted outside of Dirrell’s corner at the Theater at MGM National Harbor, then spilled back into the ring when Dirrell’s uncle and trainer, Leon Lawson Jr., bolted across the ring to Uzcategui’s corner and sucker-punched him in the face with a left hook followed by a right that glanced off his shoulder. Ugliness turned to pandemonium, as Prince George’s County police moved in quickly to get things under control.
“I’m sorry for what my coach has done. My coach is my family, my uncle, and he was worried,” Dirrell, a 2004 U.S. Olympic bronze medalist, said. “He cares for me. He loves me. Please forgive him.”
Lawson, from Flint, Mich., left the scene after the melee and was being sought by Prince George’s County Police. Uzcategui’s team later filed charges against Lawson for first- and second-degree assault.
When the smoke finally cleared — and it took awhile as Showtime’s Hall of Fame ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. was pacing for the longest time in the ring, saying ‘What is going on here?’ with a confused look on his face — Dirrell (26-2, 16 KOs) was the new interim IBF super middleweight champion. Uzcategui (26-2, 22 KOs), was ahead on two of the judges’ scorecards 77-75, 77-74 at the time of the stoppage, and the third was even at 76-all.
“I forgive Uzcategui. I forgive his camp. I don’t want to win a championship like this,” said Dirrell, who could get a rematch title shot against unified super middleweight champion James DeGale. “I wanted to win fair and square. But I forgive him.”
Uzcategui felt he was in control of the fight.
“I felt very good. I was hurting him the entire fight. I felt like I could hurt him anytime I wanted. Nothing he hit me with hurt me,” Uzcategui said. “I was throwing a three-punch combination and I didn’t hear the bell. I didn’t mean to hit him. The third punch wasn’t that hard of a punch. I was surprised he stayed down.
“He did the same thing against Abraham that he did against me tonight. He quit against me and he quit against him. I deserve to be the winner.”
But referee Bill Clancy said he had warned Uzcategui twice earlier about punches after the bell.
“The bell rang to stop the round. The round was over and Andre was knocked out with an illegal punch,” Clancy announced. “So therefore, Dirrell will win this fight by disqualification. That’s a blatant foul. Earlier in the fight, I had warned Uzcategui. Dirrell wins the fight, he was clearly unable to continue.”
“All I remember was him (Uzcategui) throwing a shot at me at the same time the bell rang,” Dirrell said. “After that everything was blurry. I remember a shot and then all went fuzzy.”
Thoughts of Dirrell’s disqualification victory against Abraham during the Super Six Tournament seven years ago came to mind, when after Dirrell had slipped on the canvas and was on his knees in the 11th round, Abraham threw a vicious right uppercut that knocked Dirrell unconscious. Dirrell was out of action after that fight for 19 months, and has had trouble since getting his career back on track.
“I’m going to stand up like a man. I didn’t win like I wanted to, but I’ll be back. I’m going to come back as soon as they let me,” Dirrell said.