DeGale should look to Groves for inspiration
By Gav Duthie: After Saturday night we now have a standout candidate for upset of the year after James DeGale lost his IBF title to 34-year-old American Caleb Truax. DeGale has taken the loss badly and is even contemplating retirement saying, “It’s still quite soon after the fight so I’m not going to make any immediate decisions and I’ll take some time out over the Christmas and New Year to reflect”.
DeGale tweeted immediately after the fight that if he couldn’t be number 1, he didn’t really want to hang around. This is a sharp U-turn for ‘Chunky’ who was targeting a spring showdown with David Benavidez as well as all British showdowns with Callum Smith, Chris Eubank Jnr and a rematch with nemesis George Groves. Groves was one of the first to jump on the defeated stating time to retire you ain’t got it anymore. Personally, I feel that James pride and determination will force him to continue. It will pain him to hear this, but he needs to take a leaf out of George Groves book. ‘Saint George’ was close to retiring after his defeat to Badou Jack back in 2015 but his belief in himself forced him to continue and has since defeated Andrea De Luisa, David Brophy, Martin Murray, Eduard Gutknecht, Fedor Chudinov (won WBA title) and Jamie Cox. I think when James reflects he will realize he can do better than that and want to rectify the situation.
Upset of the year
Caleb Truax had failed every time he stepped up until now. He was outpointed by Jermaine Taylor and stopped by Daniel Jacobs at middleweight and his elevation to Super middleweight had looked desperate. His first real test against former WBC champion Anthony Dirrell ended in disaster with a first-round stoppage defeat. This fight for DeGale was a warm up, a show piece, a homecoming fight. It was made to show off James skills and surgically repaired shoulder as well as his debut with BT sports and return with Frank Warren. Truax hadn’t read the script. The American has since rightly lambasted James for looking past him towards other fights. DeGale was talking about fighting Benavidez in the spring. Perhaps most importantly there is NO rematch clause.
It was on the cards
I never in a million years thought DeGale would lose to Truax but a defeat was on the cards the way he has been fighting. In DeGale’s most recent fights including Andre Dirrell, Lucian Bute, Rogelio Medina and Badou Jack he has coasted in the mid rounds. His work rate drops significantly, he often goes to the ropes and stops jabbing. He did the same against Truax but this time he didn’t get away with it. I’m not saying he lost any of those other fights, but he made them harder than they needed to be. If James is going to come back he needs to drastically look at his work rate, stamina and tactics. His skill is not in question, but these are big issues that we are being ignored all too often.
DeGale has been trained by Jim McDonnell his entire career. McDonnell is not really a renowned trainer with his only other high-profile boxer being Danny Williams. James has a great relationship with him and he is fantastic at making James work hard. ‘Chunky’ sometimes has issues making weight, McDonnell who was European champion and beat Barry McGuigan in his career and fought Azumah Nelson is a work horse. He has run a marathon in under 2 hours and 30 minutes and is great at training with DeGale and helping him make weight. I feel DeGale may feel he needs to look more into the tactical side now and work on strategy and he may need to look elsewhere for that. I don’t like to see a broken relationship, but it goes without saying that James needs to do what is best for his career and this will be one of the things he will reflect on. James enjoyed a fantastic spell whilst rival George Groves was struggling but he came back stronger and there is no reason the same can’t happen with James. I don’t think we have seen the last of James DeGale but if he wants to get back to number 1 there is a long road ahead of him.