Jack v DeGale – Preview
By Neel Khagram
8th January 2017
Having been brought up in an era where promotional differences starved the fans of fights such as Hatton v Witter and delayed the Mayweather-Pacquiao spectacle, there has recently been a refreshing change. Last year ended with Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward facing off against each other for the chance to be crowned the best fighter in the world. It was different from recent history as both prizefighters were in their prime and willing to put their legacies on the line for hall of fame immortality. Encouragingly, this battle is quickly being followed by Badou Jack and James DeGale attempting to unify the super middleweight division at the Barclays Centre in New York on Saturday night. Whilst the winner may not change some people’s perception towards boxing’s current pound for pound list, the two are in their peak and recognised by most as the best in the division which is extremely encouraging for the sport moving forward.
Jack is the Swedish born, Las Vegas based WBC champion. Boxing under Floyd Mayweather’s TMT promotional banner, he will be putting his green and gold belt on the line for the third time after dethroning Anthony Dirrell in 2015. His record currently stands at 20 wins, 1 loss and 2 draws from 23 outings. ‘The Ripper’ certainly has enough power in both hands and good momentum behind him after suffering a shock first round knockout loss to Derek Edwards in 2014. A chance to unify the division three years on is therefore a credit to the pugilist and team around him.
Former middleweight Olympic gold medallist James DeGale stands in his way. Since overcoming a long standing groin injury which resulted in abject displays against the likes of Hadillah Mohoumadi, ‘Chunky’ has impressed over the last three years and has gone on to become the IBF world champion during this period. His 2015 victory against Andre Dirrell (Anthony’s brother) in Boston for the vacant title meant he became the first Brit to win Olympic gold and a professional world championship title. A fourth successive voyage away from the UK to face Jack should not phase the self-proclaimed Harlesden ‘road warrior’ who holds a professional record of 23 wins and 1 defeat.
Interestingly, Jack and DeGale share four common opponents in Marco Antonio Periban, Lucian Bute, Rogelio Medina and George Groves. Whilst there is an old adage in boxing that styles make fights and one should not look too deeply into such results, it is still thought provoking for the narrative of the build-up. For instance, DeGale comprehensively beat Periban and Bute whilst Jack drew to both. Against Medina though, Jack stopped ‘Porky’ inside six rounds whilst DeGale was taken the distance.
The Groves story is most intriguing given the likelihood of future encounters. DeGale lost a razor thin decision to his bitter rival in 2011, whilst Jack had Groves down in round 1 before earning a split decision victory in their 2015 Las Vegas encounter. A rematch for either man is extremely likely, especially if the ‘Saint’ were to beat Fedor Chudinov and win the WBA ‘super’ title later this year.
Groves still believes that home town judging played a factor in his loss to Jack. It may be significant for DeGale then that this Saturday’s showdown is in New York. The location is five hours across the country from Las Vegas and in a different time zone, thus making it an away trip for Jack too. Perhaps more notably, a different commission will be used which hopefully eliminates the issue of unconscious bias for Jack which may otherwise have arisen were the fight in Nevada.
In what promises to be an intriguing chess match, one certainly hopes the contest passes off without controversy. Whilst DeGale’s natural boxing ability and switch hit style should see him through, a tendency to lose focus down the stretch could prove detrimental against Jack who is looking to destroy British dreams for the second time in as many years.
Jack v DeGale – Post Fight
By Neel Khagram
15th January 2017
In the midst of a cold winter’s evening in Brooklyn, Badou Jack and James DeGale put on an enthralling contest for the WBC, IBF and coveted Ring Magazine belt. The fight ended in a majority draw.
Preceding the unification bout, ‘The Money Team’ were buoyed by Gervonta Davis’s impressive knockout victory over the previously unbeaten Jose Pedraza to claim the IBF super featherweight world title. One could sense Floyd Mayweather’s joy at ringside at his charge’s success, with an unlikely TMT double now firmly on his mind.
As the headline acts made their way to the squared circle, the general consensus was for a DeGale victory so long as he remained switched on for the duration of the contest (having shown lapses of concentration in previous bouts.) Many also questioned whether Jack had enough variety in his arsenal to breakdown ‘Chunky’s’ slick switch hit style.
Jack is also known as a slow starter. Having been dismantled by Derek Edwards inside one round three years ago, he got off to the worst possible start against DeGale who threw a short left to floor the WBC champion in the opener. Whilst it was only a flash knockdown, DeGale now knew he could hurt his opponent.
However, the early success may have encouraged the Harlesden man to stay in the pocket too long and thus neglect his own box and move style. For example, his lack of elusiveness allowed Jack to score with a solid right hand with a minute to go in round two. The ‘Ripper,’ aptly wearing camouflage garments for the war ahead then caught DeGale with uppercuts and a straight right hand to the body in the third, and a left hook in the fourth. DeGale was therefore fighting Jack’s type of fight and smothering his own work, which would prove detrimental in the final outcome.
Going into the middle rounds, Jack then started to look the stronger and hurt DeGale with a sickening body shot in round six and dominated most of round seven. DeGale was then on the receiving end of a torrid eighth, as Jack drew blood from the nose and went looking for the knockout.
DeGale’s post-fight admission of fatigue from round five is interesting. Having undertaken a strength and conditioning programme for the first time in the build-up, the cause may arguably be down to his body’s extra demand for oxygen from the skeletal muscle built. When combined with Jack’s come forward style, the physical exertion might have been something that his body was not accustomed to.
What cannot be questioned is DeGale’s heart as he metaphorically bit down on his gum shield from round nine on, (having had his mouth protector dislodged several times in the fight) to reassert himself in the contest. The IBF champion unloaded combinations up close in the tenth and eleventh to win both rounds, and probably edged ahead on the cards going in to the last.
A short right uppercut from Jack in the final session though, (the shot which he was looking for all night) sent DeGale to the floor to swing the pendulum his way once again. DeGale showed tremendous courage to survive the round and hear the bell as we went to the scorecards.
Whilst a chorus of boos rang out from the partisan crowd upon hearing the decision (114-112 DeGale, 113-113 and 113-113), no one could really argue with the outcome. A rematch is the most desired option next, but Jack’s assertion that he will be moving up to light heavyweight makes it unlikely.