James DeGale takes unexpected punishment from Rogelio Medina, but retains 168-pound crown

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James DeGale welcomed an offensive attack by hammer-fisted Mexican Rogelio Medina, and the 168-pound champion got every bit of that during a contested unanimous decision victory Saturday at the DC Armory in Washington, D.C.

James DeGale and Rogelio Medina

Rogelio Medina connects with a strong jab against 168-pound champ James DeGale on Saturday in Washington, D.C. DeGale absorbed a number of big punches but held onto his title by unanimous decision. (Esther Lin/Showtime)

DeGale (23-1, 14 KOs) switched from southpaw to orthodox, moved in and out, endured a fierce body attack and alternately traded with Medina (36-7, 30 KOs), ultimately earning a unanimous decision by scores of 115-113, 116-112 and 117-111.

The latter two scores weren’t nearly indicative as to how close the fight really was, as Rogelio Medina—who entered the contest on the heels of four consecutive knockout wins—gave the 30-year-old champion from England all he could handle.

“[My] boxing skills are too good. If I’m being honest, he’s a very strong fighter, but skills pay the bills,” said James DeGale, who outlanded Medina 314-265 overall, including 222-216 in power shots.

“I watched [Medina] years ago, and this guy didn’t have the engine like that. He’s gotten better and stronger in the last year and a half.”

Medina’s assault early in the contest left DeGale with welts and bruises on both cheekbones, but the 2008 Olympic gold medalist gained momentum through the middle rounds, when he out-maneuvered his rival, absorbing shots while also ripping double-handed counters.

Medina’s most dominant rounds were the sixth—which the 27-year-old won on all three cards—and the final three frames, when he chased and hammered DeGale on the ropes with several rights while sustaining his body attack.

“I’m a bit disappointed,” DeGale said. “I should be taking out people like ‘Porky’ Medina, no disrespect to him.”

The relentless Medina, who spit on his opponent in the 11th in a fit of frustration, complained of head butts, but DeGale was never reprimanded by referee Malik Waleed. After the decision was announced, the challenger who lost for the first time since May 2014 expressed his disappointment.

“He said he was going to stop me,” Medina said. “He was running all around, and he didn’t stop me like he said he would. He was head-butting me and I was getting a little frustrated, and that’s why I spit on him.

“He’s the only one who thinks he won. The fans think I won. I definitely want the rematch.”

Although he came up well short of fulfilling his knockout prediction, DeGale nonetheless did enough to win his 13th consecutive fight and successfully defend his title for a third time.

Rather than a rematch with Medina, DeGale will next be obligated to face Badou Jack in a title-unification bout later this year. Following DeGale’s win, Jack held onto his crown with a widely disputed majority-draw against former titleholder Lucian Bute in a fight many observers believed Jack won handily.

“I’m always learning in the gym—my inside work, my defense, my concentration,” DeGale said. “I’m going to go back to the gym, I’m going to work and I’ll be ready [for Jack] in September.”

For complete coverage of all things DeGale vs Medina, head over to our fight page.

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