How much left for DeGale?
By Gav Duthie: James DeGale 24-2-1 (14) regained the IBF title less than 5 months after losing it in a bloody rematch with American Caleb Truax. During the aftermath the proud Londoner tweeted “Back where she belongs” #2 time #redemption in reference to getting the IBF strap back around his waist.
The rematch went under the radar, sandwiched as an undercard bout to Hurd v Lara and the fight was ugly. There was a lot of holding, a point deduction, a lot of sloppy punching, inside scrapping but in the end DeGale was champion again and deservedly so. The point here is why was DeGale scrapping for 24 rounds with Truax in the first place. Anthony Dirrell destroyed Truax in under 2 minutes and the American has never shown any signs of world class talent before. DeGale becomes a 2-time champion but why did he lose it in the first place.
It kind of reminds me of when Muhammad Ali lost and regained his title against Leon Spinks. It made Ali the first ever 3-time heavyweight champion, but he should never have lost to someone like Spinks. He retired straight after but like most proud fighters he came back and regrettably so losing to Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick being badly hurt in the process. I want to know where DeGale is at. Is it as bad as Ali? I am still unsure, he is only 32 years old and there are a lot of big fights and money to be made but what does he have left? Should DeGale see this win as a swansong? Was Truax just an awkward opponent for DeGale? Does he still have a chance to dominate the division? Is he declining badly?
Picking up the pieces
The super middleweight division is still in transition. It was dominated for a long time by an inactive Andre Ward, a resilient Carl Froch and a solid Arthur Abraham. James DeGale is now the longest serving world champion. We are yet to see Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez WBO 37-0 (25) and the exciting youngster David Benavidez WBC 20-0 (17) fight at elite level. George Groves WBA 28-3 (20) seems to be maturing with age so where does DeGale fit in. He had a chance to be the face of 168lbs with his unification bout versus Jack, but he drew in a great fight. His shoulder prevented him from entering the WBSS to prove his supremacy and now his claim to top spot is well behind the other champions after the Truax fights. Of course, a rematch with George Groves is always going to do well financially and so would Callum Smith if he wins the WBA title.
Worried for DeGale
At this point I’m not just concerned for DeGale against the other champions but even the contenders. Chris Eubank’s pressure could cause problems if DeGale neglects the jab, Avni Yildirim knocked his teeth out in sparring, Callum Smith is strong, Anthony Dirrell took 1 round to do to Truax what DeGale did in 24 and last but certainly not least DeGale now has Jose Uzcategui as his mandatory for the IBF. Uzcategui just beat up Dirrell and going by the recent form he would do the same to DeGale.
Retire or not – James DeGale really needs to make some objective decisions. He considered retiring after the Truax loss, so he should also do it after the win. Another decision he should make regards his team.
Team – Trainer, nutritionist, sparring partners, everything. He is very loyal to his trainer Jim McDonnell and I love that. It would have been a shame to leave after a loss but maybe for any big future fights he should join a trainer renowned for success at the highest level. In DeGale’s fights against Dirrell, Lucian Bute, Rogelio Medina, Jack and Truax 1 he coasted too much, seemed lazy, tired and easy to hit which isn’t good enough. The worst thing is that he never changed from fight to fight and eventually he lost. As a result, I think it is legitimate that he has a look at how he can rectify these issues.
The IBF title – If he wants to fight the winner of the WBSS he might have a better chance without his title. The IBF are sticklers for enforcing mandatories so there is no doubt they will push for the Jose Uzcategui fight. It’s not that DeGale can’t win that but it’s a high-risk fight for little reward. If he drops the title he can still fight Groves. Groves v DeGale doesn’t need to be a unification to sell to the public.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing and it’s easy to say Muhammad Ali should have retired after Leon Spinks. Will DeGale regret not retiring if he faces some of the top champions and contenders and is badly hurt. He has been a great fighter. The first Brit to be an Olympic and World Champion. I feel like I’m writing his career eulogy and I might be wrong. Like I asked earlier maybe Truax was just a bad style for him. If he fights on and gets revenge on Groves or unifies the division then he will cap a perfect career. It’s up to him to assess all this information and decide how much he has left and what more can he achieve. I suspect that he may regret fighting on, but I hope I’m wrong. For me at this moment he would lose to all the champions and his mandatory. Time will tell.