DeGale makes history

Danny Winterbottom
24/05/2015 12:59am

Thrilling, tense, nail-biting and history-making. Just a few words that describe James DeGale’s terrific victory over American braggart Andre Dirrell in a vacant International Boxing Federation super middleweight title fight on the grounds of the Boston University campus.

DeGale became British boxing’s first Olympic gold medallist to convert ultimate success in the unpaid code to world championship victory as a professional when he prevailed 114-112 twice and 117-109 in the eyes of the judges seated ringside inside the Agganis Arena.

“I made history!” said a jubilant DeGale who was draped in a Union Jack flag  but who was pushed closer than the lop-sided 117-109 scorecard from Canadian official Alan Davis would lead you to believe.

The pre-fight thinking that this would be a dull and tactical battle between two highly skilled southpaws was thrown out of the window in the second round when Harlesden’s DeGale lobbed a left hand that crashed heavily against the jaw of Dirrell sending the Michigan native to the canvas.

DeGale’s arms punched the Boston air in celebration as if he thought the sometime mentally fragile Dirrell was done but - despite a follow-up left dropping the former Olympic Bronze medallist to the floor for a second time - the fight had only just started.

With both men bloodied, DeGale to his right eye and Dirrell to his cheek, it was the American who suddenly seemed in control of the action despite almost being taken out in round two. His jab was upsetting the Londoner's rhythm and DeGale was loading up too much with the southpaw left as he dipped low on the outside but the two early knockdowns kept him ahead.

Rounds flew by without DeGale doing an awful lot of quality work and the simple fact was that he was allowing Dirrell back into the contest, at least on my scorecard, much to the frustration of fans watching back home and following the fight on social media.

Dirrell’s work had a fluidity about it that was missing from the British fighter's work in the middle rounds, and he swept rounds seven through 10 on my card, but to DeGale’s credit he came back strongly in the final two rounds as Dirrell suddenly looked tired, to etch his name into British boxing folklore.  But it was close, too close for comfort.

“He’s a very good fighter. I was super fit and I was feeling my way through the fight but I have respect for him.” DeGale told NBC after the contest.

“I needed speed and good footwork and that’s what I had. I will take on any super-middleweight in the world!” said DeGale.

After the loss to bitter rival George Groves in 2011, in a contest where he got his tactics horribly wrong, ‘Chunky’ was forced to rebuild and take fights in shopping centres and on small hall shows but the likeable 29-year-old is now on the cusp of the most exciting period in his career and poised to take over from Carl Froch as Britain’s premier 168lbs fighter.  As for Dirrell, he is too talented to slide into obscurity and who wouldn’t want to see these two do it again?