Former Beijing Olympic gold medallist James ‘Chunky’ DeGale takes on American challenger Andre Dirrell at the Aggonis Arena at Boston University in Massachusetts for the vacant IBF super middleweight world title.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing for James Degale after turning professional on the back of an Olympic Gold medal in 2008. Despite starting off like a train in the pro’s and racing to the British title by stopping Paul Smith, his career went into the wilderness for a few years after losing via way of a majority decision to bitter British rival George Groves in a big showdown at the O2 Arena in London back in May 2011.
However, to his credit, the Harlesden man has kept the wins coming on his record since that solitary loss. After losing he bounced back quickly and won the European title in his next fight and then progressed up the rankings by winning the WBC Silver belt by beating Fulgencio Zuniga.
However after winning the WBC silver belt Degale’s career seemed to stall with no clear pathway being paved for him to reach a world title. Four more bouts followed in the grand surroundings of shopping and sports centres against names like Demers, Bozic, Davis and Khatchikian.
It seemed that Degale was moving sideways and not upwards and all this was happening against the backdrop of George Groves enjoying the limelight after earning his world title crack against Carl Froch.
Despite at times looking laboured on route to victory Degale showed fleeting glimpses of top level quality but all too often took breaks and stood like a sitting duck on the ropes allowing his opponents to land eye-catching shots even if they were largely ineffective. He also looked to be letting his opponents off the hook at times. Did he lack killer instinct? Did he have a stamina issue?
People were just starting to think that Degale might not have the x-factor required to reach the very highest echelons of the sport after excelling in the amateurs. However his potential was undeniable even to his critics.
Now Degale stands on the brink of world title glory. Since moving to a new Promotional company he has been given a clear route to achieve his ambitions. He has dramatically progressed and has won his last two fights by knockout against decent world level operators in Brandon Gonzalez and Marco Antonio Periban.
He stopped Gonzalez in the fourth and Periban as early as the third round with a brilliant display of sharp and accurate power punching. He showed that he has knockout power in abundance and dominated in good fashion.
Whilst neither Gonzalez nor Periban were ranked in the top ten in the world and not good enough to win a world title they were both expected to provide a very tough test for the Englishman which they both failed to do.
To win an Olympic gold against the Cuban fighter, Emilio Correa, was no mean feat. Degale has a brilliant skillset with good variety of punches within his arsenal. He is looking extremely sharp in training and looks fitter than he has ever looked before going into this fight.
His 31-year old opponent Andre Dirrell is also a very skilful fighter with good amateur pedigree having won Olympic Bronze back in Athens in 2004. His only loss came when he narrowly lost to Carl Froch in Nottingham via a split decision back in September 2009 in the ‘super six’ tournament. Many though he actually did enough to win that fightand that Froch had been handed a hometown decision.
This fight is likely to be highly technical bout which is likely to last the full 12 rounds. The rounds will be close and hard fought to the bell and tough to score. Degale seems to have more momentum going into this fight and it wouldn’t be surprising if he won a majority decision.
He may have to win a couple of clear and decisive rounds to make sure with the fight being in America though. He seems the sort of character that needs to be put under pressure and put in big fights in order to keep his motivation and focus high and on point.
He of course has the added incentive of knowing what could be down the road in the near future if he can claim victory in Boston; a world title unification clash with George Groves should he win the WBC title against Badou Jack.
DIRRELL: W24 KO16 L1 KO0 KO%64
DEGALE: W20 KO14 L1 KO0 KO%66.67