Fighting for the first time in the United States, James DeGale didn’t want to leave anything to chance against Andre Dirrell.
The British star gained two knockdowns in the second round Saturday, which proved to be the difference as he won a unanimous decision over Andre Dirrell at Boston’s Agganis Arena to win a 168-pound world title.
With blood already streaming from beneath his right eye, James DeGale brutally smashed Dirrell to the canvas with a looping left with 25 seconds left in the round, then floored him again moments later with a similar left amid a flurry of blows.
“I had him hurt in that second round," DeGale said. “If that round had went on for another 30 seconds, or maybe even five seconds, I would have taken him out."
DeGale won 114-112 on two judges’ scorecards and 117-109 on the third to become the first British Olympic gold medalist to win a professional world title.
“It’s some common history with the likes of Sugar Ray Leonard and Muhammad Ali,” said DeGale, who won Olympic gold in 2008. “These are the fighters that I watched and admire. As the first from Great Britain to win a world title, I’m just humbled and happy and over the moon.”
Dirrell (24-2, 16 KOs) lost in his first attempt at winning a world title. His younger brother, Anthony, won a world championship at 168 pounds last year before losing his title to Badou Jack in April.
"They said I ran from Carl Froch [in 2009] and they took that fight from me,” said Dirrell, a 2004 Olympic bronze medalist. “[DeGale] ran tonight and they gave it to him. All he did was run. No way I lost this fight."
DeGale (21-1, 14 KOs) outlanded Dirrell 115-111 in total punches and 83-65 in power shots, effectively moving in and out and countering to the head and body. Afterward, he made his claim as one of the world’s top fighters at 168 pounds.
“There’s Andre Ward, obviously, but me and [Dirrell] are next in line,” said DeGale, who won his 11th straight fight since losing to countryman George Groves in May 2011. “I want to unify titles; I want to fight the big names. I want to fight people with titles. Whoever the boxing fans want to see me fight, I’ll fight.”
Dirrell controlled the first and much of the second round, firing the jab and landing clean left hands that backed up DeGale and started blood trickling from underneath his right eye. But that changed when DeGale knocked Dirrell to the canvas twice in the second.
Dirrell stormed back after that, though, pressing the action and landing clean shots along the ropes through the middle rounds.
“I took my foot off the gas a little, didn’t I?” DeGale said. “There was so much on the line, I couldn’t be ruthless. All I wanted to do was just win it. I couldn’t mess up this chance.”
Dirrell began jawing at DeGale in the later rounds as he worked his way back into the fight.
“He actually came out and said, ‘You’ve got my respect now. Let’s go for it,’” DeGale said. “Before the fight, he didn’t give me respect. You could see that at the weigh-in. But through the fight, after I knocked him down, he gained respect.”
For complete coverage, including photos and videos, visit our Dirrell vs DeGale fight page.
Rodriguez gains quick TKO of Burns
Fighting before a partisan crowd just a short distance from his hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts, Edwin Rodriguez (27-1, 18 KOs) landed a succession of unanswered blows on Craig Baker (16-1, 12 KOs) that cause referee Bob Benoit to stop the fight at 2:22 of the third round.
With the win, Rodriguez established himself as a top contender in the 175-pound division.
"I knew that eventually he was going to go down, and that’s what I wanted," Rodriguez said. "I wanted to be able to drop him and make it convincing, but there’s no doubt that he was hurt."
Catch all the highlights of Rodriguez vs Baker at our fight page.