JAMES DEGALE may have had a tough fight with Badou Jack in January. He did not manage to unify super-middleweight world titles. But he remains upbeat. He feels he showed another dimension in that fight, beyond the skills that won him an Olympic gold medal in 2008, the kind of grit that appeals to British fight fans.
“Because I got knocked down, because I lost my teeth, because I showed heart, because I showed a good chin, they love me now,” he said. “I don’t want too many of them. I’m not going to. I promised my mum, I promised my dad, I won’t have too many of them. You don’t want too many of them. I’m not the brightest spark anyway, I don’t need too many of them. I haven’t had too many hard fights. I proved in that fight, I’ve got heart, I’ve got a chin. I leave it all in the ring. I’d rather get knocked out than bottle it. I showed in that fight. It was hard, it was competitive, I had to dig deep.
“That fight wasn’t about my skill, I didn’t box that good really. I sat on his chest. When do I ever do that?”
DeGale is game for a rematch with Jack, but the latter has moved up to light-heavyweight and vacated his WBC title. “If Badou Jack really thought he won that fight, he would have stayed at super-middleweight, had a rematch, boxed for the two titles again and got paid double what he did last fight. He didn’t want the fight. He knew it was a hard fight,” DeGale said. “I know can make that fight so much easier.
“Judge every round as it comes, I win the fight, I win the fight by two rounds. It was a close fight. But the three judges round the ring had me two up going into that last round. So all I needed to do was stay on my feet. If I’d known that, I’d have moved round the ring, held. But that’s why boxing’s so intriguing because you don’t know who’s winning. It makes for a great fight.”
The IBF super-middleweight champion has been in the wars. “I had an operation, I had a deviated septum, they removed the cartilage that was blocking my airway. Sometimes it looks like I’m struggling for air, or I look a bit unfit, it’s because of my nose,” he said. “I have been plagued by injuries, my knee, my two groin injuries, my shoulder in this fight, my nose.
“When you’re boxing at the very highest level, the elite level, these little one and two percents add up. They all add up. It’s only because I’m so good, I can get through it. But no more. I nearly lost my title.”
There are appealing options out there for him in this country, a rematch with George Groves or even taking on Liverpool’s Callum Smith. “There’s Groves there, there’s Smith, there’s my mandatory,” he said. “Smith or Groves, who would you like to see me fight?”
“I told you years ago I’m going to be back and I’m going to be the man in the driving seat, calling the shots,” he continued. “And now everyone’s chasing me again, for the big money.”