James DeGale knows all about upsets. And the Londoner is adamant Saturday’s clash with Rogelio Medina is not going to be another one.
Five years ago, DeGale went into his all-British showdown with George Groves as the darling of the sport, having followed up a gold-medal winning effort at the 2008 Beijing Olympics by starting his pro career with 10 consecutive victories, with eight coming by technical knockout.
After 12 bitterly competitive, explosive and enthralling rounds against a boxer whom he had grown up with in London gyms, the decision finally came: Two judges awarded the bout to Groves by a solitary point, while the third scored it a draw.
DeGale’s world fell apart as the defeat began to sink in. And yet, five years later, it is he—not Groves—who owns a world title in the super competitive 168-pound division.
“It’s fair to say I have recovered from that setback,” says James DeGale (22-1, 14 KOs). “I’ve proved the talent I have got. I’m a world champion, he’s not, and I’m fighting the big fights in America.”
The next big fight comes Saturday at DC Armory in Washington, D.C., where DeGale makes the second defense of his title against hard-hitting Mexican Rogelio Medina (36-6, 30 KOs). The winner of the fight (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT) will meet the winner of the main event matchup between 168-pound champion Badou Jack (20-1-1, 12 KOs) and former titleholder Lucian Bute (32-3, 25 KOs) in a subsequent unification bout.
DeGale won his world title last May with an impressive unanimous points decision over Andre Dirrell in Boston, followed by another points success in November, this time over Bute in Quebec City. Those two victories on foreign soil mean the 30-year-old southpaw heads into the battle with Media widely recognized as the top dog at 168 pounds.
“ I don’t think Medina will stand there and wait to be beaten. He will trade with me, and that’s what I want. ” James DeGale
DeGale, who tipped the scales Friday at 167.6 pounds, is fast, fluid and frighteningly effective both on the inside and with his lacerating jab, and he’ll likely need all of those skills against the heavy-handed Medina, who weighed in at 167.8 pounds. The good news for DeGale is he has a decent chin propping him up as well: He's never hit the canvas in his pro career.
In fact, DeGale looks like the present-day embodiment of some all-time greats: He possesses Ray Leonard’s slickness coupled with Marvin Hagler’s ferocious power and Thomas Hearns’ balletic foot movement. But only in parts. At other times he tends to take his foot off the gas.
For instance, DeGale had Dirrell in terrible trouble when he dumped him onto the canvas twice in the second round, but he then allowed the American back into the contest, eventually winning on two scorecards by only two points. Then against Bute, DeGale coasted in the later rounds and nearly paid for it.
Given the potent power possessed by Medina, who has KO'd his last four opponents, DeGale would be wise not to shift into cruise control. Then again, Medina’s résumé suggests that he’s not the same fighter when he engages with a high-caliber foe.
He six losses have come against a group of quality veterans who entered the ring against Medina with a combined record of 187-16-3—and five of those fighters were a combined 90-1-2. Medina was knocked out in half of those defeats, including a six-round stoppage loss to Jack in December 2013.
Still, DeGale is wary of Medina’s power and aggression.
“I’ve seen his record, and I know he is a tough nut,” he says. “He’s a Mexican, so he will come to fight as well. I don’t think he will stand there and wait to be beaten. He will trade with me, and that’s what I want.”
While Medina is rigid and tough, he is also very hittable—something that figures to play to the strengths of DeGale, who usually has little trouble picking apart less-mobile opponents. That said, the 27-year-old challenger known as “Porky” says he’s not the least bit reticent about jumping in the ring with DeGale, whose nickname, by hilarious coincidence, is “Chunky.”
“I don’t care about DeGale’s strengths, as I’m only concentrating on mine,” Medina says. “I’ve seen what he can do, but I can knock out fighters with both hands, and when I catch up with him, he will go down.”
DeGale begs to differ.
“I’m just too good, too fast and too strong,” he says. “I feel all the power is coming up inside me, and whereas earlier in my career I wasn’t as confident in my own ability, I am now.
“It might take until the middle rounds, but I’ll stop Medina. It’s going to be another ‘Chunky’ win. Put your house on it.”
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