Anthony Dirrell and Avni Yildirim to Meet for Vacant WBC Super Middleweight Title

Minneapolis will host this weekend’s WBC super middleweight title fight between cancer survivor Anthony Dirrell and Avni Yildirim.

Updated: Feb. 21, 2019 • 10:11 PM ET

Minneapolis will host this weekend's WBC super middleweight title fight.

The vacant WBC super middleweight title will be on the line this Saturday in Minneapolis, as former champion Anthony Dirrell will face Avni Yildirim at the Minneapolis Armory.

Battling Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2006, Dirrell lost two years of his career to cancer. The memories of his fight against the disease have been his main source of motivation on his way back to earning a title shot.

“I’m a cancer survivor who’s going to be a two-time world champion,” Dirrell (31-1-1, 24 KOs) said via Premier Boxing Champions. “How many fighters can say that? Things will be different in that ring for [Yildirim], because I’ve almost had all of this taken away from me.

“This guy has no idea what’s coming at him. I still remember the time I had cancer and it’s something that I will never forget.”

Dirrell, a former WBC super middleweight champion, is riding five straight wins since suffering a majority-decision loss to Badou Jack for the WBC title in 2015. He most recently defeated Abraham Han by unanimous decision in April.

The 34-year-old Dirrell is approaching Saturday’s fight with his future in mind.

“I’m older and wiser, and as you get older, you have to fight smarter,” Dirrell said. “I want to be able to read to my children. I do know I have a past.

“I’m not the guy that walks away from a fight. If he comes at me, I’m going to come back at him. It’s the way I am, the way I’ll always be, but I do keep in my mind that I want to talk right, walk right and think right when this is over. Now am I saying I won’t bang with the guy? I’m not saying that. I just have to be smarter on how much I do and when I’m doing it.”

In his 14-year career, Dirrell has collected key victories over Caleb Truax, Marco Antonio Rubio, Sakio Bika and Anthony Hanshaw. The Flint, Mich. native, however, is older than Saturday’s opponent, who brings a new challenge. Dirrell, though, feels he’s ready.

“That’s going to be the difference maker in this fight,” Dirrell said. “The jab is everything. It will dictate the pace and the distance.

“If [Yildirim] wants to get inside—and getting inside is the only way he’s going to win—he’s going to pay a big price to do that. He’s going to get pounded. Everyone has a jab. It’s a matter of how well you use it."

Yildirim is still looking to win his first major title after unsuccessfully challenging Chris Eubank Jr. for the IBO super middleweight title in 2017. He’s also trying to become the first Turkish fighter to win a major title.

Since the loss to Eubank, Yildirim has won five straight, last defeating Lolenga Mock by majority-decision in September. The 27-year-old Turk will fight in the United States for only the second time in his career and face one of his toughest opponents to date.

Yildirim’s ability to fight in big moments has been called into question after being knocked out by Eubank in just three rounds. Yet, he has become more skilled in the ring and put together a great run of victories since.

Dirrell has the experience and toughness, so how will Yildirim shine in a big moment against a former champion?

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