By Geoff Poundes
Britain’s Olympic champion James DeGale, 14-1, 9 KO’s became the WBC “Silver” super-middleweight champion when he widely outpointed Colombian Fulgencio Zuniga, 25-7-1, 22 KO’s over 12 rounds.
The 35 year old Zuniga came smilingly to the ring but left it with his head ringing, after DeGale spent thirty-six minutes hitting him pretty much as he pleased. Not for the first time DeGale’s boxing was at times scintillating, and yet watching him continues to be a frustrating affair.
Zuniga was incredibly brave, but really only lasted the distance courtesy of DeGale’s inability to close a fight despite massive physical and skill-level advantages. The Colombian was down in the second round, despite referee Luigi Moratore wrongly ruling a slip, and generally simply motored forward and on to the Englishman’s slick counters and uppercuts.
In the fourth the referee featured again when DeGale dropped Zuniga with an exceptional left-right combination; the Colombian got unsteadily to his feet at eight, and DeGale trapped him on the ropes and was landing heavily when Moratore inexplicably called break, as if he’d mistakenly heard a bell, and thus gave Zuniga a ten second reprieve. Soon after the bell rang and Zuniga was saved.
Thereafter, and somewhat frustratingly, DeGale posed throughout the rest of the fight, boxing off the ropes and trying out defensive moves and lazy combinations. From time to time he snapped Zuniga’s head back but steadfastly refused to pour on the kind of pressure that would have made a real, conclusive statement to the world’s 168 pounders.
All three judges scored it 118-109 (your correspondent had it 119-108). There’s no doubting 26 year old DeGale’s class and next year he’ll clearly be ready for a world title.