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James DeGale vs. Badou Jack on January 14

James DeGale

By Eric Baldwin: Showtime Boxing has confirmed that IBF super middleweight champion James “Chunky” DeGale (23-1, 14 KOs) will be fighting a unification match against WBC 168lb champion Badou Jack (20-1-2, 12 KOs) on January 14, 2017 on Showtime at a still to be determined venue. The two fighters fought earlier this year on April 30 on Showtime from the Armory in Washington, DC, and it was thought that they would soon be facing each other.

Unfortunately, it’s taken a little longer than anyone expected it to take for the two of them to fight. By the time DeGale and Jack meet up in January, 2017, they’ll both have been outside of the ring for nine months. That’s a long time for world champions to be outside of the ring.

There might be some ring rust involved with one or both of them. Badou struggled in his last fight in fighting to a 12 round draw against former IBF super middleweight champion Lucian Bute on April 30. Badou, 32, felt that he’d done enough to deserve the victory, but the truth of the matter is, Bute outworked him over the 12 rounds.

The only thing you could say about Badou is he landed some nice shots at times in the first half of the contest. Bute took over the fight in the last six rounds, and he appeared to do enough to rate the win. The fight was close enough for it to be scored a draw.

DeGale, 30, looked almost as bad in his fight against Rogelio Medina, who he beat by a 12 round unanimous decision by the scores 117-111, 116-112 and 117-111. The fight appeared to be a lot closer than the wide scores handed down by the three judges. DeGale needed to take a lot of rest breaks against the ropes during the contest, and this enabled Medina to land a lot of shots. DeGale did a good job of finishing the fight strong by fighting hard in the championship rounds, but it was not a good performance.

DeGale and Badou are probably the two best fighters in the 168lb division right now, but the division is going through a weak period right now with Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler having retired from boxing. Former unbeaten super middleweight champion Andre Ward has moved up to light heavyweight, otherwise he would still be the top fighter at 168. There are some young fighters like Callum Smith and Gilberto Ramirez that are the future of the division, but they still need to prove themselves as being in the same class as Badou and DeGale.

DeGale has won his last 14 fights since suffering his only loss of his career against George Groves in 2011. DeGale’s best opponents since that time were against Bute, Mendina, Marco Antonio Periban and Brandon Gonzales. Those guys are nothing to write home about. You can say that DeGale is still pretty much an untested fighter. He’s improved somewhat since his loss to Groves, but not enough where you can say he’s markedly better than he was back then.

The main thing that’s changed is DeGale has faced lesser opposition than what he faced when he lost to Groves in 2011. DeGale has good boxing skills, and decent punching power, but his hand speed, defense and stamina remain huge flaws for him. It won’t be big news if DeGale loses to Badou on January 14, because he doesn’t have the kind of talent that guarantees that he’s going to win every time out. Even in his last fight against Medina, DeGale looked shaky during much of the fight.

Badou was knocked out in the 1st round by Derek Edwards in February 2014. You can say that Badou shouldn’t have lost that fight, because he had the better boxing skills and he was the better fighter. However, isn’t that good where you can say for sure he’s going to win every time out. Badou did win four straight fights after the loss to Edwards. He beat Jason Escalera, Francisco Sierra, Anthony Dirrell and George Groves.

Badou’s wins over Dirrell and Groves were huge wins that showed he’s for real as a fighter. That doesn’t mean he can’t or won’t lose to DeGale on January 14. It just means that it’s going to be tough on DeGale for him to get a win over him, because he’s going to be showing a lot of power and he’d going to be taking the fight to him for the full 12 rounds.

Keys to victory for DeGale are as follows:

– Stay in the center of the ring. Don’t go to the ropes to take rest breaks.

– Keep your guard up. Don’t fight with your hands hanging low, because Badou will clock you if your guard is down.

– Stay busy. Throw a lot of shots. Bute took advantage of Badou by outworking him, and that’s why he got the draw. DeGale won’t win if he fights against the ropes, and doesn’t let his hands go in this fight.

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