Super middleweight Andre Dirrell has been preparing for his rematch with Jose Uzcategui by working with renowned trainer Virgil Hunter and former pound-for-pound great Andre Ward ahead of his showdown for the Interim IBF Super Middleweight title Tonight, March 3 live on Showtime 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) from Barclays Center, the home of Brooklyn Boxing.
The Premier Boxing Champions event is headlined by the highly anticipated matchup between heavyweight world champion Deontay Wilder and unbeaten challenger Luis Ortiz.
Dirrell has moved his training camp out to Oakland to train with Hunter and gain wisdom from being around Ward. Ward for his part, feels Dirrell has not yet reached his potential in the ring.
"The way I feel about Andre is the way I've always felt, the sky's the limit," said the recently retired Ward. "He has the God-given ability and talent to do whatever he wants to do in a boxing ring. In other words, he is blessed with the kind of gifts, that if he's made up his mind that he won't allow himself to be beat and if he prepares properly in camp, it's going to be very hard to beat him.
"With a fighter with Andre's experience and pedigree, it's less physical and more psychological. Do you want to be a champion and do you want to dominate your division? If the answer is yes, which I believe it is, then go do it.
"It sounds simple and in many ways it is, but you have to be very intentional to condition your mind to think this way and really believe it. That's the reason he is training with Virgil in the Bay Area. Physical training, mental preparation & spiritual preparation. It all matters."
Here is part of what Dirrell had to say about training camp with Hunter and Ward. Read the full story HERE via PremierBoxingChampions.com.
What are some of the nuances Virgil brings, and will your grandfather, Leon "Bumper" Lawson, remain in your corner?
"Virgil is teaching me similarly to the way my grandfather taught me, and I can easily say that he's picking up where my grandfather left off. My grandfather put my talents in me, making me the fighter Andre Ward had to worry about back in the day.
"But my grandfather doesn't have the ability to coach really anymore because he's in the beginning stages of dementia, but I still have him in my corner, and I always will. Virgil has taken over, and this is bar-none, the best I've felt, mentally, in my career. There are little things about Virgil that I had to adapt to.
"Virgil's sense of humor is raw, playful and serious at the same time. If I stop for one minute, he'll tell me, 'It takes one second to get knocked out.' He teaches with passion, direction and remains focused on the task at hand, really wanting you to instill how important things are, psychologically."
How beneficial is the atmosphere in Virgil's gym?
"There is a positive aura in the gym, which is a winning environment. When you walk into that gym, it's time to work. Virgil lets you know that simply by staring at you. You have Andre Ward's posters all around you, other fighters' posters around you. There are a lot of fighters' faces up on those gym walls, including Andre Berto's.
"I'm definitely inspired because the atmosphere has everything to offer as far as training. You have the mountains, the beaches. And of course, ultimately, you have Virgil, who has flair about him and a way to generate that fire within you and bring it out of you. The most important thing with Virgil is listening."
What counsel have you received from Ward?
"Andre's never really showed any hesitation about offering advice and has always been there to give it to me, no problem at all. Andre has always been cordial and honest about wanting to see me hold that championship belt. I believe that he'll see that this year.
"But I can imagine that now that he's out of the game, he can do it more freely. I recently had a 45-minute conversation over the phone with him about Jesus Christ, but, face-to-face, we've spoken quite often. He came down for a few of my sparring sessions and he'll be coming to a few more.
"We've always talked and had a good time, and he's been quite an inspiration, aside from being a boxer. Andre has a confidence about himself in and out of the ring, so he's one of the top guys in my life as a motivator for life outside of and beyond boxing."
Has Virgil broken down the Uzecategui fight?
"Virgil has watched the fight several times, and I've watched the fight several times. We both agreed that the mistakes were definitely all mine and both agree that I didn't use my ring generalship.
"Even with the flaws that I was committing, I still found my groove. I heard myself saying that I had gotten his timing down and was taking over leading up to the end of the fight.
"Uzecategui is a fighter, but that's it - he's no boxer. He has great punching ability but not great skills and he's not fast, so I expect him to attack me like the first fight. He knows how to put a one-two-three together, and he's hungry.
"As far as boxing goes, I'll have to teach him a thing or two about how this game is really played. There's no question I made the first fight harder than it had to be. I look at that first fight with so much confidence.
"I know that I fought it incorrectly, but I was still coming back. He won the first, second and possibly third and fourth rounds, but I was coming back. So this time, I plan on frustrating this boy so much that he'll be completely off of his game."
Tickets for the live event, which is promoted by DiBella Entertainment and TGB Promotions, start at $50 and are on sale now. To purchase tickets, visit Ticketmaster.com, BarclaysCenter.com, or call 800-745-3000. Tickets for the event can also be purchased at the American Express Box Office at Barclays Center.