James DeGale says he will ‘finally get the respect he deserves’ when he beats Badou Jack in the biggest test of his career this weekend. Jack does not boast a high-profile on these shores but, as George Groves already knows, the Swedish-born boxer should not be taken lightly. “I’m feeling really good – it’s the one I’ve wanted. Champ versus champ, best versus the best. He’s underrated. If I’m being honest the only reason why this fight hasn’t happened quicker is because Badou Jack didn’t want it.”
On the road…
DeGale is no stranger to travelling, even as far back as in 2010 when the Londoner traveled to Liverpool and stopped local favourite Paul Smith to win the British title.
After that impressive showing, a contentious loss to bitter rival George Groves looked to have dented his dreams. However, DeGale rebuilt and in 2015 beat Andre Dirrell in Boston for world honours.
DeGale and Jack defended their titles in separate fights on the same show in April when James outpointed Rogelio Medina and Badou drew with Lucien Bute, whom DeGale had previously beaten.
The IBF super middleweight champion has added a nutritionist/strength coach to his team. Unbelievably (or worryingly believably if you are into your boxing) this is the first time DeGale has hired a specialist to supplement his boxing training since turning Pro 8 years ago.
“It’s crazy actually, because I’ve been boxing at the top level for a long time, since the [2008 Summer] Olympics. I’d done a little bit of strength and conditioning with the Great Britain squad. But when I turned pro I just used to do bits and pieces with my actual coach, my boxing coach, Jim McDonnell. We used to do like little circuits. But the sports science side, I haven’t done nothing.”
Even in the Dirrel fight I remember DeGale fading in the last 3 rounds or the championship rounds as they are commonly known.
DeGale has been quoted recently as wanting to stay at 168lb and resist the temptation to move up to 175lb anytime soon. “I do the weight easy,” DeGale said. “It’s the perfect weight for me. I’m strong at the weight and I think on the 14th Jan you are gonna see a big, big difference – how solid I am, how strong I am, my power. You’re gonna see a big difference.”
This Saturday night (early hours for UK fans), IBF super middleweight champion James DeGale and WBC champ Badou Jack will be mixing it up in a unification match on January 14 at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn, New York. The DeGale vs. Badou match-up will be televised on Showtime Championship Boxing in the U.S. and on Sky Sports in the UK.
The DeGale-Jack fight has been long in the making and I’m looking forward to finally settling this is in the ring. Throw Chudinov, Groves, Callum Smith and Ramirez into the mix and you’ve got a tasty super-middleweight division. “Badou Jack has got a lot of confidence seeing me go 12 rounds and it was lackluster performance against Medina,” said DeGale.
“It’s all a lie,” said Jack about him avoiding the DeGale fight. “I’ve been ready since right after the fight, I told you guys, we could fight in June. I told you I’ve been waiting for Floyd and Leonard to let me know when the date is. I’ve been on Leonard every day for the whole summer.
I remember being at the O2 for the boxing in May 2015. In between one of the fights the big screen showed James DeGale and the arena united to give the recently crowned champion a standing ovation.
It was a touching moment, and even more so, when you recall the way he was booed on his professional debut by the UK fans in 2009. It was one of my favourite recent moments watching live boxing.
DeGale himself had no idea the ovation was for him and spent the thirty seconds or so looking round to see what was going on. Discussing the future, Degale remarked “Bottom line, I want to do this right, to get people to say, DeGale, he was a proper fighter. I might not be the best or the most popular but you can’t deny what I’ve done. And my name will always be in the record books”.
You cannot begrudge someone who lets his success do the talking and you certainly have to credit someone who can triumph in the face of adversity when the majority are hoping for his downfall.
People will undoubtedly, as DeGale wishes, refer to him as a “proper fighter”, but for me how he dealt with the sheer negativity surrounding the early years of his career and in particularly following the narrow loss to Groves…….now that’s a proper man. And that counts for everything.