James DeGale is ready for Saturday’s 168-pound title fight against Andre Dirrell, boasting of improved punching power and a full recovery from surgery in December 2013.
Andre Dirrell (24-1, 16 KOs) and James DeGale (20-1, 14 KOs), a 2008 Olympic gold medalist, will meet at Agganis Arena in Boston as the Premier Boxing Champions series returns to NBC at 4:30 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. PT.
The switch-hitters are fighting for the title that was vacated by England’s Carl Froch, who handed Dirrell his only loss in a split decision in October 2009.
“I thought that [Dirrell] won that fight with Carl Froch,” says DeGale, who is trying to make history as the first British Olympic gold medalist to become a professional world champion. "Dirrell is an Olympic bronze medalist from 2004, and one of the top two or three fighters in the division, but I'm confident of winning."
Since falling to countryman George Groves by majority decision in May 2011, DeGale has won 10 straight fights, including six by stoppage. In his last bout in November, DeGale scored a third-round technical knockout of Marco Antonio Periban, who was stopped for the first time in his career.
Periban represented DeGale’s third straight knockout victory since undergoing an operation to repair torn muscles in his lower abdomen following a win by unanimous decision over Dyah Davis in November 2013.
“I had a problem called Gilmore’s groin," says DeGale, who will be fighting in the United States for the first time Saturday. "I couldn't punch hard against Davis, move properly or get my shots off because of the sharp pain. I was still recovering against Periban, but now I'm fully fit and ready to win a world title."
DeGale, 29, has had a bittersweet relationship with British fans. He was cheered for his Olympic victory, but subsequently booed after winning a four-round decision over Vepkhia Tchilaia in his professional debut in Birmingham in February 2009. DeGale also was jeered by fans when he lost a 12-round majority decision to countryman George Groves at the O2 Arena in London in May 2011.
”I've won them back over in England, and they're all rooting for me to bring back that title,” says DeGale, whose training partners have included a pair of undefeated southpaws in Billy Joe Saunders and Jamie Cox. “I’ve had lots of good sparring. I don’t think Andre Dirrell has ever fought anybody like me."
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