George Groves breaks down James DeGale-Andre Dirrell
British super middleweight contender George Groves will be one very interested observer on Saturday night when James DeGale and Andre Dirrell collide for the vacant IBF 168-pound title in Boston.
Groves, who will face the newly crowned WBC titleholder, Badou Jack, this summer, has history with both men and perhaps a future should the boxing stars align accordingly.
“Both guys are capable of winning but I saw Andre in Chicago (at the Anthony Dirrell-Badou Jack fight) and he looked very fit and healthy,” said Groves, who defeated DeGale in 2011 and sparred dozens of rounds with Dirrell.
“Andre has got that confident swagger you see a lot in top American fighters but you don’t always see it from him during a fight. He can be very defensive but I don’t think he’ll take that approach against DeGale because he has an advantage in experience and there’s a world title at stake.”
Groves continued, “Dirrell is quick-handed and quite strong inside even though he doesn’t punch hard. He never puts full power on his shots because his style is to be defensive and rely on speed.”
Thus far, the boxing lives of George Groves and James DeGale have been inextricably linked. They attended the same gym in London as juniors, turned professional months apart, and developed into formidable contenders at the same breakneck pace.
The paths did diverge once or twice. DeGale, despite losing to Groves as an amateur, claimed Olympic gold in Beijing in 2008 and kicked open the door as a professional in February of 2009. Groves ventured into the paid ranks three months earlier but didn’t leapfrog DeGale officially until he won a majority decision over his rival.
“James DeGale is a good fighter with fast hands,” said Groves, who would go on to lose back-to-back IBF world-title bouts to Carl Froch.
“The area where James struggles is finding the proper range for his work. He doesn’t navigate himself into position very well and there’s no force in his jab, which he really only uses to switch opponents off. James waits for the target to stand still, creeps into range and then lets his hands go.
“That will work with 90 percent of the opponents out there but against someone quick and light-footed it might be a bit more difficult. It’s an intriguing fight between two southpaws and nobody knows what to expect. Will it be a stinker or will it be exciting?”
As Groves indicates, there is real intrigue in terms of the style confrontation and being that neither man has ever been stopped, there is every possibility that this one goes the distance. DeGale is a far more aggressive fighter but as a result could be vulnerable to sharp counters.
Groves said, “Both guys have been guilty of taking their foot off the gas in fights but with a world title on the line you can’t afford to do that. If the fight is close, which fighter will come out of their comfort zone and switch gears in order to take the lead?
“Dirrell has home advantage but you’ll probably have an Irish crowd in Boston who just want to see a good fight. I really hope James DeGale wins but I wouldn’t bet for him and I wouldn’t bet against him. I just hope it’s a good fight.”
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing