In the years since Joe Calzaghe’s retirement, the Super Middleweight division has been lacking a true champion. Even after Andre Ward swept the division clean after winning the Super Six in 2009, the division truly hasn’t had a stable #1 guy in some time, but boxing’s deepest division is just about to crown a new king.
In one corner, we have WBC Champion Badou Jack went from disaster to glory in a span of a year, suffering a shocking first round knockout loss to Derek Edwards to only later dethrone Anthony Dirrell for the gold. In the other is James DeGale was a prodigious amateur and Olympian and now the reigning IBF champion; further glory may await him should he get past Jack.
Though the two may not be as well known in certain circles, this is a big fight with huge implications. The fight in of itself is boxing putting its best foot forward and matching two very good champions in what could be a very good fight.
Both Jack and DeGale are roughly the same height and reach, but their styles and method of attack couldn’t be any more different. Jack is a bruiser who uses his size to fight on the inside, opts not to waste punches and fights at a consistent pace. Despite the freak loss to Edwards, Jack has shined against more polished foes such as Lucian Bute and George Groves, meaning he’s not a clubber who can be exposed by a mere tactician.
However, Jack’s flaw is inconsistent pacing and being a slow starter. In the aforementioned bouts, Jack fell behind early but was able to come on strong late behind his accurate attack and body work. That could doom him against DeGale or at least put him in a deeper hole than he’s use to climbing out of.
DeGale is the more polished fighter of the two, but he’s also much better than anybody Jack has fought up to this point. His hand speed and combination punching will rack up early points as Jack tries to get his motor going, but his boxing pedigree could also maintain that lead going into the later rounds. Problem is, DeGale has shown a tendency to fade late, which is exactly when Jack is firing on all cylinders.
The key to determining this 50/50 bout is whether or not Jack can avoid his slow start and not get swamped by DeGale’s work rate. Eventually, Jack could wear him down to the point where his late charge might be the difference between a close decision or a late stoppage.
What is more than likely going to transpire is that DeGale will not only be scoring points, but laying down the groundwork for a sustained attack in the early going. Jack will have to hope he can catch DeGale early and discern his activity, but even so, Jack’s lack of early pressure will only leave DeGale fresher towards the finish.
This could very easily come down the stretch looking like it is going to be close either way, but in reality, DeGale is just too polished and too skilled to squander what should be an insurmountable advantage in points going into the final rounds. Jack may have his moments late, but there will be a very clear #1 and #2 fighter in the division when the night is done.
After a tepid start, DeGale will pull away around the middle rounds and really start laying into Jack late either drawing a stoppage or boxing his way to a clear, but competitive, decision and earning the distinction of being the man to beat at Super Middleweight.