In a boxing world rife with padded records, comfort fights and poor title defences, you’d be forgiven for forgetting there’s still a few men at the top level plying their trade the hard way. James DeGale has moulded himself into a true road warrior – winning the IBF World super-middleweight title in Boston against Andre Dirrell, before successfully defending it with back-to-back unanimous decisions in Quebec and Washington against Lucian Bute and Rogelio Medina respectively. He now has the chance to unify the 168lb division against Badou Jack in New York this weekend, and we at BNTV were lucky enough to join both men via conference call thanks to Mayweather Promotions and Maynard Communications.
The bout with WBC champion Jack is a real pick’em fight, though many favour a sharp-looking DeGale to prevail in what should be a terrific and tight encounter. As ‘Chunky’ told us, he won’t be taking the well-rounded skills of his counterpart lightly, and he believes concentration will be the key.
“James DeGale wins this fight at his very best, fully switched on, having no time off,” He said. “I can’t afford to have rounds off against Badou Jack. Fully fit, fully concentrated and it’s hard to beat me in general. He’s a basic fighter really, but he’s good at everything he does. Nothing fancy, he’s just straightforward but he does it very well.
All of my career, I’ve done it the hard way. When I beat Badou Jack, I am the number one in the division and people have to start taking note. Olympic, British European, World and Unified World champion.
“Let’s not forget who I beat for the world title though. I beat Andre Dirrell, who comes with good pedigree. He’s a good technical fighter. No one handed it to me – I did it the hard way. All of my career, I’ve done it the hard way. When I beat Badou Jack, I am the number one in the division and people have to start taking note. Olympic, British European, World and Unified World champion.”
DeGale’s physique going into this fight has caught the attention of boxing fans, and the Harlesden man looks to be in the best shape of his career ahead of his defining night on Saturday. As he explained it, he felt a change was necessary after feeling ‘a bit weak’ in the tail-end of the Medina fight last time out. He told us:
“The training I’ve been doing… Man! Because I can make super-middleweight so easily, sometimes I’ve left it to the last ten days where I’ve been a couple of pounds over. For this one I’m flying, I’m in fantastic shape. I’ve brought in a strength and conditioning coach after my last fight, because something was missing. I was feeling fit, but I was just feeling a bit weak. You’re going to see a big difference in my power and strength. You’ll look at me at the weigh-in and go ‘Wow!'”
There is, of course, one big question on everyone’s minds whenever James DeGale is mentioned. When is he coming home? He hasn’t fought on home soil since 2014, and his reputation appears to have soared in The United Kingdom as a result of his American heroics in the past two years.
The atmosphere is second-to-none, we’ve got the best fans in the world, and it’s time for me to come back. As Eddie Hearn said, I’m a buzz fighter. I love the big arenas, the big lights and the big fights.
Relations appear to have improved with Eddie Hearn after a minor spat, and though he wouldn’t give too much away due to having plenty of work to do on Saturday, it would appear a date is already in-mind for a May London return – whether under the Matchroom banner or not. The winner of DeGale-Jack will have to face Callum Smith next, and though DeGale did not mention the prospect of facing his British counterpart, he insisted only big fights in front of ‘the best fans in the world’ were on his agenda.
“Touch wood, if I beat Badou Jack, next May I’m going home and I’m having a big fight,” He said. “Everyone’s calling for the champ to come home, so that’s next in line. I’m fully focused on Badou Jack, but if everything goes to plan, I will be back for my next fight, one hundred percent. I ain’t spoken to Eddie [Hearn] or Al [Haymon], but it will be in London.
“I’ve become a bit more exclusive because I haven’t been at home, people can’t wait for me to come back. What I’ve done in America over the past couple of years has been really good. I’m really proud of myself, but I’m looking forward to boxing in front of my own people. The atmosphere is second-to-none, we’ve got the best fans in the world, and it’s time for me to come back. As Eddie Hearn said, I’m a buzz fighter. I love the big arenas, the big lights and the big fights.
“I want the biggest fights, the biggest risk and the biggest money. If I come through this, I’m willing to fight anyone – even Andre Ward. I want to be challenged. I want to be in fights where I’m the underdog for once. With me and Badou, I’m the favourite, and I don’t like it to be honest, because it’s a genuine 50/50! But yeah, I’m willing to fight anyone after this fight.”
This weekend’s action will be live from New York on Sky Sports, and we at BNTV wish both fighters all the best ahead of what should be a terrific main event.