James DeGale took no short cuts to reach the top of the 168-pound division. And he’s shown no hesitation to travel even farther to stay there.
In order to win and retain his world title, the British champion has twice battled on the East Coast in his first U.S. fights and once in Canada.
DeGale claimed the vacant title by defeating Andre Dirrell by unanimous decision in Boston in May 2015, but the 30-year-old southpaw hasn’t tucked away back in England to keep his championship.
Instead, DeGale has crossed the pond twice to win unanimous decisions in defense of his title. In November 2015, the 2008 Olympic gold medalist outboxed former champion Lucian Bute on the challenger's home turf in Quebec City before having a more difficult time getting past Mexico’s Rogelio Medina in Washington, D.C., in April.
“This belt wasn’t handed to me,” DeGale says. “I earned it the hard way, traveling away from home to win the world title.”
Now, James DeGale (23-1, 14 KOs) is on the road again, looking to retain his title once more. But this time, the king can add another crown if he defeats fellow titleholder Badou Jack (20-1-2, 12 KOs) in a world title unification bout Saturday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York (Showtime, 9:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. PT).
“If I unify the division, going across the pond, no one’s ever done that from Britain,” says DeGale, who is the first British boxer to win an Olympic gold medal and a professional world championship.
“Being in New York, at Barclays Center, it’s a fantastic opportunity. I’m living the American dream boxing in these fantastic states. This is the big one. You can’t beat it.”
DeGale suffered his only pro defeat on home ground in May 2011, although he wasn’t even the clear-cut crowd favorite at London’s O2 Arena, where he dropped a tight majority decision to countryman George Groves.
“You’ve got to give [DeGale] credit for winning in people’s backyards,” says Jack, who defeated Groves by split decision in his first title defense in September 2015 in Jack's hometown of Las Vegas. “I have nothing but respect for him, but we're going to war come fight night.”
DeGale and Jack both defended their titles on the same card in D.C. in April. But while Jack had to settle for a majority draw in his fight against Bute after seemingly controlling most of the action, DeGale gained a fairly wide decision despite taking some punishment from Medina.
Because Jack needed just six rounds to stop Medina in December 2013, DeGale believes his lackluster showing last time out has duped his fellow titleholder.
“Jack took this fight because Medina went 12 rounds with me,” DeGale says. “[Jack promoter Floyd] Mayweather got confidence from my lackluster performance, but don’t take too much away from that fight.”
If he can get past Jack and achieve even greater status in the 168-pound division, DeGale says he plans on having a home-field edge in his first fight as a unified world champion.
“The fans are calling for James DeGale to come back home,” he says. “The plan is to beat Badou Jack and go back home to England for a big fight. I’m going to win in style … and bring both belts back to London.”
For a complete look at Jack vs DeGale, visit our fight page.