Sunday, February 05, 2023  |


‘Chunky’ becomes champion

Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images


BOSTON – Every so often the “Fat Kid” arises. The one they call “Chunky.” It’s an inner button that James DeGale can always push, shoving against the taunts and cracks he would sometimes get in his youth as a somewhat overweight 10 year old trying to change his life’s direction by going to the gym.

It’s what DeGale reached down and found in the championship rounds against Andre Dirrell on Saturday afternoon at the at Agganis Arena on the Boston University campus, to become the first British Olympic gold medalist to win a major world title. DeGale (21-1, 14 knockouts) seized the vacant IBF super middleweight belt by beating Dirrell (24-2, 16 KOs) by scores of 114-112 on judges Howard Foster, of England, and Dan Fitzgerald, while Canadian judge Alan Davis had it 117-109 for DeGale. THE RING scored it for DeGale, 114-112.

DeGale, the 2008 Olympic middleweight gold medalist, scored two knockdowns in the second round and had Dirrell in trouble. But Dirrell fought back to make it close.

“I am speechless. In my whole career, what I have been building up to is winning a world title and I have finally done it,” said DeGale, who was taken to a local hospital to stitch up a cut over his right eye he suffered in the second round. “It is an unbelievable feeling. I have made history; I am the first British Olympic Gold medalist to become a world champion. I am back now and injury free. I will take on any super middleweight in the world. There is no other super middleweight in the world who will beat me. I am hard to beat when I am at my best. Let’s not forget Dirrell is a very good opponent who is very, very talented and hard to beat. I am super fit, feeling good and I am ready. I am a world champion.”

There was a lot of trash talking in the ring – but not too much afterward. DeGale left for the hospital to get stitched up, and Dirrell gave a terse comment and was too angry to speak to the press. It’s a shame, because the fight was a good back-and-forth tilt. DeGale had his way in the early rounds, and landed a total of 115 of 400 punches (29-percent) to Dirrell’s 111-of-488 (23-percent).

But in the late rounds, it was Dirrell coming forward and cornering DeGale.

“They said I ran from Carl Froch and they took that fight from me,” Dirrell screamed. “He ran tonight and they gave it to him. All he did was run. There is no way I lost this fight. That’s all he did was run.”

On the undercard, Worcester’s Edwin Rodriguez (27-1, 18 KOs) impressed a partisan crowd with a third-round stoppage over the previously undefeated Craig Baker (16-1, 12 KOs). Referee Robert Benoit stopped it at 2:22 into the third round because Baker couldn’t answer when Rodriguez hit with a barrage of punches.

“It was a little easier than I thought,” Rodriguez said. “He came in undefeated and I thought I was having an easy time with him. Every fight, I try to improve and get better and one thing I wanted to do in this fight is work better behind my jab and punish (Baker) with body shots. When I had him hurt, I stayed focused with continued with the jab. I didn’t go crazy. He wasn’t fighting back and I knew I hurt him with a straight right. I think I looked good. I won on national TV and I deserve a big fight. I want Sergey Kovalev, Jean Pascal, Adonis Stevenson. I think I deserve a title shot. I know I can compete with anyone at 175.

“Kovalez is the champion right now. I respect him. I think he is a good fighter, but it’s a fight I would love to have and I think I can beat him.”

Baker, of course, disagreed with the stoppage.

“I felt like it was stopped too soon but it’s done now and all I can do is go back to the gym and work harder and come back stronger next time,” he said. “I commend Edwin and today I guess the better man won. My activity level wasn’t high enough that’s all. I’m a champion either way it goes, it’s time to get back in the gym.”

Another local favorite, Framingham’s Danny O’Connor (26-2, 10 KOs) was determined to put on a show close to home and he delivered in a big way, stopping Chris Gilbert (13-2, 10 KOs) in the fifth round. O’Connor knocked Gilbert down in rounds two and three before getting the stoppage in round five.