James DeGale and Badou Jack have traveled some of the same roads to arrive at their world title unification bout Saturday night.
The champions retained their respective world titles on the same card in Washington, D.C., in their last fights; recently defended their titles against former champ Lucian Bute within five months of each other; and earned their titles by beating a Dirrell brother.
Now their paths officially collide as Badou Jack (20-1-2, 12 KOs) and James DeGale (23-1, 14 KOs) compete for a unified 168-pound world championship at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York (Showtime, 9:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. PT).
Jack, 33, dethroned Anthony Dirrell by majority decision in Chicago to win his championship in April 2015, one month before the 30-year-old DeGale claimed a vacant title with a unanimous decision over Andre Dirrell in Boston to become the first British boxer to win both an Olympic gold medal and a professional championship.
“It's a 50-50 fight by records, knockout ratios and age,” DeGale said. “If I'm not 100 percent, he could beat me, but I’m better than Jack in my eyes.”
Jack and DeGale have been anticipating this fight ever since both kept their titles in Washington last April. On that night at the DC Armory, DeGale won a hard-fought unanimous decision over Mexico’s Rogelio Medina before Jack outlanded veteran southpaw Bute in a questionable majority draw in the main event.
Bute and Medina are two of the four opponents shared by DeGale, who was 166½ pounds at Friday's weigh-in, and Jack, who hit the scale at 167¼.
DeGale, a switch-hitting southpaw, defeated Bute by unanimous decision in Quebec City in his first title defense in November 2015, while Jack earned a sixth-round TKO of Medina in Shelton, Washington, in December 2013.
The two champions also faced British three-time world title challenger George Groves, though at significantly different points in their careers. DeGale, who won Olympic gold at the 2008 Beijing Games, suffered his only pro defeat to Groves in May 2011, while Jack earned a split decision over Groves in his first title defense in September 2015.
Their final common foe, Mexico’s Marco Antonio Periban, fought Jack to a 10-round majority draw in September 2013, but was dropped and stopped in the third round by DeGale two fights later in November 2014.
Jack, a native of Sweden who now lives in Las Vegas, downplayed the significance of those common-opponent results.
“George Groves was a long time ago when James fought him,” Jack said. “I knocked [Medina] out, but he probably was in better shape and had a longer time to prepare for DeGale.
“On fight night, none of the talk matters. You have to back it up in the ring. I'm just excited about the fight. I'm not focused on anything else other than that. I just need to win.”
DeGale cited his inexperience as the reason for losing to Groves, but he admitted to being overconfident before struggling to overcome Medina.
"Against Groves, I was young, inexperienced, terrible. It was all wrong against him, and I still thought I won,” DeGale said. “I went into the Medina fight like this guy shouldn't even last four rounds, but he was fit, strong, big and he pushed me.”
With both fighters making their third defenses, Jack and DeGale will now pit their skills and titles against one another to truly find out who is the premier 168-pound champion.
“I won my world title in the U.S., I've defended it here and now I'm going to unify it here,” DeGale said. “To do what no other British super middleweight has done—and there have been numerous greats at 168 pounds—fills me with pride and will cement my legacy in the division.”
For a complete look at Jack vs DeGale, visit our fight page.