Tuesday, January 31, 2023  |



James DeGale: “I’m going in there and I’m taking the title”

Olympic gold medalist James DeGale (left) poses with his promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing, who he credits turning his once-stagnating career around. Photo by Jordan Mansfield-Getty Images

Olympic gold medalist James DeGale (left) poses with his promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing, who he credits turning his once-stagnating career around. Photo by Jordan Mansfield-Getty Images

Big things were expected of James DeGale when the British boxer turned pro after winning Olympic gold at the 2008 Olympic Games. However, a controversial (and razor thin) majority decision loss to George Groves in 2011 derailed the hype train before it ever truly got out of the station.

Since then, DeGale has gone unbeaten over his next 10 fights, albeit against underwhelming competition. Regardless, DeGale (20-1, 14 knockouts) will get the opportunity to not only make his presence felt in the boxing world, but also the American public when he faces Andre Dirrell (24-1, 16 KOs) this Saturday on Premier Boxing Champions on NBC for the IBF super middleweight title that Carl Froch recently vacated.

DeGale isn’t one to mince words and made it very clear that he’s obsessed with becoming the first British Olympic gold medalist to also win a coveted world title.

“A lot of people say I’m obsessed with making history and I am,” DeGale revealed on a recent conference call. “That’s what drives me and makes me train hard every day.”

It will be DeGale’s first professional fight in the United States and he knows that he’s coming in as a relative unknown to the general boxing public. However, knowing that he’ll be able to win over some new fans has added some extra incentive for the British boxer.

“I’m looking forward to it,” DeGale told RingTV.com about the opportunity to showcase his talents in the U.S. “I’m used to it as well because I box on big shows in front of 10,000-20,000 people in England. It should be good. They have a lot of Irish and English (in Boston). So, I should have some good support and I’m looking forward to it.”

DeGale is a slick boxer who stylistically will serve as an intriguing matchup with Dirrell, who is known for his fast hands. His amateur pedigree might match Dirrell’s, who is a former Olympian himself. But DeGale doesn’t believe that Dirrell will pose much of a threat to him as he plans to walk right through him on May 23.

“He thinks this is going to be a boxing match. Well, it ain’t,” DeGale boasted. “I’m going in there and I’m taking the title. I’m ripping it away from him.”

It’s that kind of confidence that has helped boost DeGale back into title contention after the hard luck loss to Groves. It was also a necessity for DeGale to be high on himself because he admits there was a time when he considered walking away from the sport to become a personal trainer.

“I was going through a hard time with my promoter at the time and I was a bit depressed because I wasn’t getting my chances, I wasn’t getting the right fights and I boxed on small shows,” the Brit said. “I couldn’t motivate myself properly. So, yeah, that was the way it was and then I made the change to Matchroom and things have just gone from pretty bad to really great.”

His recent string of victories has served as a confidence booster but skeptics aren’t quite sure that there is much to make out of those wins. He’s coming off a third-round TKO over Marco Antonio Periban but Periban hadn’t won in his previous three contests. Nevertheless, DeGale feels that it is his current wave of victories that will help push him past Dirrell.

“Momentum is a big thing,” DeGale said. “Look at my last two performances against good, quality opponents and look his last three. I just think overall, I’m better. I think he struggles. He doesn’t like it when it gets hard in there. He’s a competent fighter, but he likes it when he’s dictating the pace and he’s on the front foot.”

The truth will come on May 23 and we will see whether DeGale will make history against Dirrell.