NOTTINGHAM, England -- Carl Froch retained his WBC 168-pound title with a split-decision victory over Andre Dirrell late Saturday night in the second fight of the Super Six World Boxing Classic super middleweight tournament.
Froch (26-0, 20 KOs) barely won in his hometown, earning three-point advantages on two of the three judges' scorecards after a messy but entertaining bout between two unbeaten fighters.
Dirrell (18-1), a 2004 U.S. bronze medalist, used his superior speed from the opening bell to dance away from Froch's power, but Froch kept wading forward and attempting to brawl through Dirrell's defense. Dirrell was deducted a point in the 10th round for holding, and both fighters repeatedly complained about their opponent's tactics, including Froch's punching out of clinches and Dirrell's head-ducking defense.
"I definitely felt I won the fight," Froch said. "He didn't want to stand and fight. The minute I got close quarters and tried to rough him up and make him fight a bit, the fight which I want to be involved in, he either jumped on the floor, got shoved on the floor, complained to the referee, held on, every excuse in the book."
European judges Massimo Barrovecchio and Daniel Van de Wiele scored it 115-112 for Froch, while Mexican judge Alejandro Rochin favored Dirrell, 114-113.
Although the point deduction didn't decide the bout, it still perplexed Dirrell.
"I thought I held him off enough, boxed him enough to get a decision," Dirrell said. "We know where we're at, but I'm going to hold my head with pride. ... I still don't know why [the referee] took the point from me. I'm still clueless on the point for leaning on him. He'd been holding me, hitting me in the back of the head the whole time, bringing me down on one knee. He'd been rough the whole fight."
Froch tossed Dirrell to the ground in frustration out of a clinch in the fifth round, when he also bloodied Dirrell's face.
"So what am I supposed to do?" Froch asked. "If you're not going to stand and fight like a man, like a warrior, then all I can do is take what's there."
Shortly after Dirrell lost a point in the 10th, he landed two left-hand counterpunches, staggering Froch into the ropes shortly before the bell.
"You got to get him out, because you ain't getting no decision here," Dirrell's grandfather and trainer, Leon Lawson, told him before the 12th round.
Dirrell has the lightest pro resume of the six fighters in the tournament, which includes Andre Ward, his Athens teammate. Dirrell's speed and potential earned him a berth with the division's top names -- and the 3-to-1 underdog very nearly pulled a major upset against Froch.
"This is only going to make me work harder," Dirrell said. "The most dangerous [fighters are] ones that already have their first loss."
The fight didn't get under way until well after 2 a.m. at the Trent FM Arena in Froch's hometown, where the supportive crowd booed the American flag-waving supporters of Dirrell, who's from Flint, Mich. Dirrell embraced the nationalistic clashes of the Super Six's opening round, wearing two large "USA" scripts on his green trunks.
In the Super Six's opening bout earlier Saturday night in Berlin, Germany's Arthur Abraham knocked out former American champion Jermain Taylor in the 12th round to remain unbeaten.
The opening set of Super Six fights concludes Nov. 21, when Denmark's Mikkel Kessler fights Ward in the American's hometown of Oakland, Calif.
Froch will next fight Kessler in the tournament, while Dirrell takes on Abraham.
"I'm not 100 percent satisfied, because I like to feel like I've been in a fight," Froch said. "I feel like I could go back in there and do another 12 rounds with Andre Dirrell and beat him again."