JAMES DeGALE insists he is more focused than ever ahead of what he feels is the ‘biggest fight’ of his career, a super-middleweight unification clash with Badou Jack next weekend.
One week from today IBF champion DeGale will meet WBC boss Jack at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to determine who is the best fighter at 168lbs.
Now 30, the Olympic gold medallist is acutely aware of what will be at stake when he collides with Jack.
“One hundred percent this is my biggest fight. Badou Jack is an underrated fighter. There’s a lot on the line and we’re both confident of winning, I’ve seen a couple of things Badou Jack’s been saying and him and his team seem confident. We’re confident, and when both sides are confident it always makes for a good fight,” he told Boxing News from Miami, where he is finishing up camp before flying to New York.
This fight with Jack will be DeGale’s fourth North American outing on the bounce, having won the vacant IBF title against Andre Dirrell in Boston in 2015.
That win saw DeGale make history by becoming the first British Olympic gold medallist to also win a professional world title.
After he won gold in 2008, DeGale – as all Olympic champions are – was widely celebrated. However sections of the public turned against him during the fiery build-up to his bitter clash with domestic rival George Groves in 2011, in which he lost a close decision.
In recent years, the public perception of DeGale has shifted again as the Harsleden switch-hitter has notched some impressive wins. After winning the IBF title in 2015, DeGale sat ringside at the O2 Arena in London and when images of him appeared on the big screens, there were loud cheers from the crowd. For once, DeGale was left speechless.
“The last couple of years I’ve been keeping my mouth shut and doing all my talking in the ring, I’ve been winning titles to prove what I’m about without running my mouth. I’ve just calmed down a bit,” he continued.
“When my face came up at the O2 and there was a massive cheer, it was massively humbling. It was just nice to see what I’ve done in the ring, my job, people appreciate it and respect me, that was nice.”
That respect and admiration will increase should DeGale defeat Jack and unify the division. He would also be looking at a May defence against unbeaten Liverpudlian Callum Smith, most likely in London – a homecoming he has long been waiting for.