New York hosted an early contender for ‘Fight of the Year’ in the Super Middleweight unification fight between James DeGale (23-1-1 14 KO’s) & Badou Jack (20-1-3 12 KO’s) on Saturday night.
A knockdown a piece bookending the fight resulted in a majority draw decision, Jack’s 12th round knockdown of DeGale taking two of the judges scorecards to 113-113 (the third judge scoring the contest as I had 114-112 DeGale).
With both men chasing the title of number 1 Super Middleweight on the planet with DeGale’s IBF title, Jack’s WBC title and the Ring magazine belt all up for grabs, neither boxer gave an inch from the first bell to the last.
In a fight that mirrored a pattern we are becoming used to from James DeGale, he started quickly and had Jack on his back side in the first round with a straight left hand. Jack is known for his toughness and as many had suggested, the early stages looked like it would be Jack’s durability vs DeGale’s speed & elusiveness.
The early rounds were DeGale’s but close and an argument could be made for either fighter. Jack boxed his way into the fight, more and more taking the centre of the ring and had DeGale in trouble with some fearsome body shots.
Indeed, Jack’s success through rounds 6-8 caused DeGale to appear for the ninth with swelling round both eyes, a cut below his right & his tendency to switch off during the middle of a fight looking like it was going to cost him on the biggest stage of his career.
In an ebb-and-flow fight however, DeGale came roaring back in the 9th and, for me, took rounds 9, 10 & 11, DeGale having to bite down on his gum shield (at this point a feat not to be underestimated as he had lost one front tooth and another badly damaged) and box through some shots however finishing the exchanges with a couple of extra punches which will have caught the judges eyes.
At this point, Jack looked to be tiring, making Super Middleweight a well known struggle for the naturally larger man.
Jim McDonnell, DeGale’s trainer, advised his fighter to avoid Jack’s right hand going into the last but it was a glancing right which followed a clubbing left hand which put DeGale on the canvas in the 12th & that knockdown proving costly to the Brit as the scores were read out.
In fairness, after that knockdown, it briefly looked like Jack could stop DeGale, with the American throwing all he had but somehow receiving some meaningful leather back in the final seconds!
With Jack & his Mayweather team openly discussing his struggle to make Super Middleweight, where DeGale goes now is unclear as this makes the rematch less likely.
Based on this fight, a rematch in the UK would do fantastic numbers but whether Jack now looks to the Light Heavyweight division, where his skills would see him instantly step in with their best against what would be a much bigger money-maker against DeGale is to be debated (his manager is Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather after all!).
Matchroom boss Eddie Hearn was planning on some huge UK homecoming fights, initially against IBF number 1 contender Callum Smith (22-0-0 17 KO’s) which may still be the most likely option however DeGale’s tendency to be hit & Smith’s proven punching power may make this a fight DeGale looks to avoid next.
His old foe George Groves (28-0-3 18 KO’s) has his fourth world title shot vs Fedor Chudinov (14-0-1 10 KO’s) in the coming months, and a second professional fight between DeGale & Groves would certainly please the boxers & fans alike. If Groves can with the vacant WBA belt, making that grudge match a unification is a mouth-watering thought.
Whatever happens, DeGale has earned a well deserved rest – which is injuries my require anyway, 4-6 months before we see him back out being likely – and in the meantime he can watch the rest of the Super Middleweight contenders fight for the right to be next!