Minnesota's homegrown champion Caleb Truax is out to prove his shocking victory this past December was no fluke, while former titleholder James DeGale seeks redemption as he looks to regain his IBF belt tomorrow night on Showtime.
As great as the upset victory over James DeGale was at the time, Caleb Truax still doesn’t feel like he has established himself as a super middleweight world champion.
England’s DeGale is a 4-to-1 favorite over him entering their immediate rematch in tomorrow night’s Showtime-televised card (10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT) at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. That is despite Truax convincingly defeating DeGale during their 12-round fight in London on Dec. 9. Truax senses DeGale still doesn’t respect him because the former IBF super middleweight champion claims his majority-decision loss was the result of rushing back from shoulder surgery, not how Truax boxed against him.
“That really surprised me,” Truax said. “I expected him to humble himself and come back to try to get his title back, not to fall into the same trap he did last time. But it’s fine with me, man. He can look past me again. I’m more motivated this time than I was the first fight, just because everybody thinks it was a fluke, and it wasn’t the best DeGale and blah, blah, blah, blah. I opened up as a 6-1 underdog, somebody told me, so that’s even more motivation this time around to shut everybody up.”
Truax (29-3-2, 18 KOs) of Osseo, Minnesota wants to shut up DeGale most of all.
DeGale (23-2-1, 14 KOs), who won a gold medal for Britain in the 2008 Olympics, admits he took Truax lightly four months ago. His handlers advised him to push back his return until sometime early in 2018, but DeGale stubbornly insisted on returning to the ring in December for an optional title defense.
An overconfident DeGale figured there was no way he could lose to an opponent Anthony Dirrell had stopped in the first round just 19 months earlier.
“The whole camp, the sparring and everything, I knew I shouldn’t be boxing,” DeGale said. “But if I’m being honest, this is the way I was thinking – I was thinking it’s Caleb Truax. I can beat him with no hands. I’ll just move my feet and jab. And when I get through it, I’ll just start the year off again, but I’ve still got my title and whatever. I’m getting paid. That was my mentality at that time.
“But once again, you can’t think like that. I’ve been champion of the world for 2½ years. So I should’ve been more sensible and I shouldn’t have boxed. But it was my fault because my team and [adviser] Al [Haymon] did say, ‘Just leave it until next year.’ But no one was gonna tell me I wasn’t gonna box in December. So I only blame myself.”
“ I expected him to humble himself and come back to try to get his title back, not to fall into the same trap he did last time. I’m more motivated this time than I was the first fight ” IBF 168-pound World Champion Caleb Truax
Once DeGale got in the ring December 9, he couldn’t use his jab the way he wanted because his surgically repaired right shoulder wasn’t fully healed. For the first time in his eight-year pro career, DeGale acknowledges he wasn’t in good condition.
An opportunistic Truax kept applying pressure and clearly defeated DeGale, even though one judge scored the action even (116-112, 115-112, 114-114). DeGale predicted a completely different fight Saturday night.
His recently completed training camp has left DeGale confident he’ll be able to throw double jabs, hooks off his jab and defend himself much better than he did against Truax in their first fight. Truax thinks DeGale is merely attempting to excuse a performance DeGale has deemed “embarrassing.”
“That’s just an excuse,” Truax said. “Even after the fight, he said he was fine. He had 10 or 11 months or whatever to recover, and going into the press conference all he could talk about was how great his shoulder felt. And even after the fight, he said it felt fine. So it’s just lip service. I ain’t worried about none of that. I’m ready for a DeGale with six good arms, so it’s all good, man.”
A second victory over DeGale would secure Truax (29-3-2, 18 KOs) another six-figure payday, the type of purse the University of Minnesota graduate never thought he’d earn following his devastating defeat to Dirrell in April 2016.
Truax, 34, realized the hard way that he should have withdrawn from the Dirrell bout because his girlfriend, Michelle Stocke, was recovering from bleeding on the brain suffered while giving birth to their daughter, Gia, in February 2016. Stocke spent two weeks in ICU, which left Truax to care for their newborn daughter as Stocke recovered, all while trying to train for a former world champion.
DeGale, 32, is motivated by bigger paydays and more meaningful fights as well. He intends to avenge his December defeat and move on toward 168-pound title unification fights.
DeGale (23-2-1, 14 KOs) also adamantly denied Truax’s theory that DeGale is underestimating him yet again. If anything, DeGale suggested Truax is taking him lightly because Truax expects to encounter a similar version of DeGale in their 12-round rematch to that of the diminished man he upset December 9.
“I think he’s a decent fighter,” DeGale said. “But every time he has stepped up to the highest level, he’s lost. He never wins. But he is a good, solid fighter. If you’re not right, if you’re not 100 percent, if you don’t take him seriously, there’s a possibility he could beat you.
“But that night last December, I was horrendous. Anyone would’ve beaten me that night. With this shoulder I wasn’t fit as well. As I say, I took everything far too lightly. I overlooked him. But don’t worry, I learned the hard way, man. I’ve done it all my life, learned the hard way.”
For a complete look at Truax vs DeGale, check out our fight page.