WHEN James DeGale lost his IBF 12st belt to unheralded Minnesotan, Caleb Truax, in December, talk within the boxing community centred on the fallen fighter, as it often does after a high-profile, upset, replacing his long-term trainer, Jim McDonnell. McDonnell will still be the main man in “Chunky’s” corner on April 7 when he tackles Truax for his old title at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas, but his coaching duties will be shared as DeGale has brought in former two-weight world champion, Paulie Malignaggi to assist with his training needs.
The articulate New Yorker, a face of both Showtime and Sky, walked away from active competition last March when losing to Sam Eggington in the UK. Talk of a comeback against MMA superstar, Connor McGregor, blazed throughout last summer following a well-documented spar between the pair, but that rivalry seems to have simmered since McGregor’s boxing ambitions were exposed by Floyd Mayweather. With Malignaggi’s fighting career over, then, DeGale has made the bold decision to make him part of his close knit team.
“He’s someone who’s got so many great ideas on the sport,” revealed DeGale to Boxing News from his Los Angeles camp. “We got speaking to each other after the Badou Jack fight last year and we just clicked straight away when he was telling me things about my career. Everything he seemed to say was what I needed to hear and the advice he provided was never far from my mind. He’s got me looking at the sport in a whole new different way since joining up with the team, and I do fully believe that I needed to add a little something fresh to the set-up.”
DeGale’s sensational loss to Truax, arguably the upset of 2017, increased speculation that the 2008 Olympic gold medallist would part ways with McDonnell. The partnership, one established before DeGale’s professional debut, is a largely successful one that has delivered numerous titles, and although DeGale thought long and hard about his next move following the shocking reversal to Truax, he maintains that McDonnell is an important part of his team.
“You do look at every reason why things have gone wrong, but Jim has been there for me since day once and I can’t put anything down to him in that fight. I went into the fight injured, and because I was fighting Caleb Truax, I thought I could cut corners like that because he’s nowhere near as good as me, and he’s not even as good as people I’ve fought before him who I’ve absolutely took to school. I learnt a very valuable lesson in that fight about going in unprepared carrying an injury, but everything is all good now with my shoulder and I’m hoping I can correct that wrong when I go in with Truax again.”
With preparations for Truax now at that vital stage, the final days of DeGale’s camp see the confident Londoner content with what his new look team have put him through. The unexpected introduction of Malignaggi combined with the McDonnell’s disciplinarian approach is a pairing that has DeGale’s confidence brimming, but his choice to bring in the Brooklynite will only be vindicated if he returns to Britain with the belt he misses greatly.
“I’m going to win, and I’m going to look good doing it too,” predicted DeGale. “Paulie has played such an important part of this camp back home, and he’s been with me since I touched down here a couple of weeks ago. He’s different to Jim in the way that he’s slowing me down a little bit more and having me think about things in the ring how I should approach fights. I’m 32 now and he’s constantly reminding me of that because Jim can be a little old school with his approach so having them both put their ideas across to each other is working out really well so far. They’re getting on great, and it’s also great for me that both of them want the best outcome for me.”