Badou Jack and James DeGale will meet on Saturday night at the Barclays Center, Brooklyn, in an IBF/WBC super middleweight title unification bout (live on Showtime in the U.S. at 9:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. PT and in the U.K .at 1:30 a.m).
The pair will also vie for the vacant RING magazine championship in an evenly-poised fight between two talented technicians.
Jack (20-1-2, 12 knockouts) was born in Sweden to a Gambian father and Swedish mother. He represented Gambia at the 2008 Olympics, losing in the opening round. He enjoyed a solid amateur career, taking part in around 150 contests before turning pro in 2009.
In his third pro fight, he was spotted by former lineal heavyweight champion Shannon Briggs, who was attending the event and was impressed, allowing Jack the opportunity to sign with his now-defunct promotion. Jack then moved to DiBella Entertainment and Warriors Boxing Promotions before impressing Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a gym session. Mayweather then bought him out of his contract and brought him onboard Mayweather Promotions.
All was going well until Jack was stunningly stopped in one round by Derek Edwards in February of 2014. To the now 33-year-old’s credit, while he was widely written off, he regrouped, rebounded and won the WBC strap three fights later and has successfully defended it twice.
The London-born DeGale (23-1, 14 KOs), also fought at the ’08 Beijing Olympics, in which he won gold. After turning pro amid much fanfare, he initially flattered to deceive. Once he found his groove, he started to look like a potential star, stopping vastly more experienced Paul Smith for the British title in just his ninth fight.
He lost to amateur nemesis George Groves but rebounded to win the European title, which he retained twice. In May of 2015, DeGale dropped and bested Andre Dirrell; since then, like Jack, he’s defended twice.
It will be interesting to see how their respective styles mesh. DeGale appears the more naturally talented; however, he tends to fight to the level of his opposition and has seen peaks and valleys in recent fights, at times, boxing exceptionally well and then seemingly getting bored and switching off, doing just enough to win. Jack has bounced back very well from his lone pro loss and employs a very good jab and is confident in his ability, relaxing and looking very much at home in the ring. That trait alone seemed to help win the close battle against common opponent Groves.
Both men have four mutual opponents. DeGale lost to Groves (MD 12) while Jack beat Groves (SD 12). DeGale easily stopped Marco Antonio Periban (TKO 3), while Jack drew against Periban (MD 10). DeGale struggled with Rogelio Medina (UD 12), while Jack stopped the Mexican (TKO 6). Lastly, DeGale outpointed Lucian Bute (UD 12) and Jack drew (MD 12) aaginst the Canadian-based Romanian.
Online gambling group bet365.com lists DeGale as a 1/3 (-300) favorite while Jack is priced at 12/5 (+240).
RingTV.com polled 20 boxing insiders for their picks:
Eric Bottjer, Roc Nation Sports matchmaker
James DeGale PTS 12 Badou Jack: DeGale should win a decision. He’s got better credentials as an amateur and has slightly better opposition as a pro, with slightly more impressive performances. Also, despite the criticism, (trainer Jim) McDonnell receives in the U.K., DeGale has the better corner in this fight. My question is: How bad does he want it? He (and Jack) are not consistent, other than in keeping some of their matches close. Neither seems to have a fourth gear. An impressive win by either here leads to (IBF/WBA/WBC middleweight titleholder Gennady) “GGG” (Golovkin). Does DeGale really WANT that? All that said, DeGale seems to have grown as a boxer and a man – I don’t see Jack doing anything better than DeGale.
Lucian Bute, former IBF super middleweight titlist and mutual opponent
James DeGale PTS 12 Badou Jack: (It will be) a strategic fight. Both fighters will be very cautious and not risk too much in there. I think it will go the decision and I believe DeGale will come out the winner in a close one but it might end up a draw.
Robert Diaz, Golden Boy matchmaker
Badou Jack PTS 12 James DeGale: Very good fight with two champions wanting to win. Jack is a kid who has come a long way and you can never count (him) out. I Really see this as a close fight and rounds going back and forth. DeGale goes in as the favorite but I think Badou must be the aggressor and shorten the distance to be successful. I believe he will do just that and win a close decision.
Kathy Duva, Main Events CEO
James DeGale to beat Badou Jack: A very close fight. I will give the edge to DeGale but just because I think he has had more experience on the big stage. It should be interesting.
Jeffrey Freeman, KO Digest/TheSweetScience.com
James DeGale TKO 8 Badou Jack: Since winning his IBF super middleweight world championship in Boston in 2015, James DeGale has experienced a significant drop off in career momentum. It’s time to get some of that mojo back in Brooklyn at the expense of WBC titlist Badou Jack. Neither boxer here packs super-powered punches but it is DeGale who puts his combinations together better and who takes the harder shots without folding. After a tentative start, DeGale will find his openings as Jack’s attack technique gets more and more sloppy. When that happens, Jack will be walking into more punches than he’s avoiding and the referee will stop the fight in the eighth.
Joe Gallagher, trainer of Callum Smith
James DeGale PTS 12 Badou Jack: I think it’s a very good fight. You’ve got an improving champion in Badou Jack. When people say, “When fighters win a belt, they improve.” I think that’s been the case with Badou Jack. I think he’s been improving with every fight. With James DeGale, he hit the summit with a great win over (Andre) Dirrell, winning the world title but, then, I just don’t think he’s been motivated or hasn’t performed to his best his last couple of performances. Then going into this fight, whether Badou Jack continues them improvements remains to be seen or James DeGale, as I feel, has got his mojo back and a big unification fight and the chance to win the WBC belt, it makes me feel we’re going to see the best James DeGale we’ve seen. I fancy James DeGale. I think Badou Jack is a very solid fighter but I just think James DeGale, if he’s on top of his game, I think he’ll have too much movement, too much variety but, if it isn’t the best James DeGale, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Badou Jack pushing him really close but when push comes to shove, James DeGale to win on points.
Sean Gibbons, Gilberto Ramirez adviser and Zanfer matchmaker
James DeGale PTS 12 Badou Jack: DeGale by decision. It’s a very difficult style matchup. You need to press DeGale to beat him. Jack is a stand-up boxer, not going to get the job done.
Tom Gray, RingTV.com
Badou Jack SD 12 James DeGale: I might be in the minority but I really like Jack in this fight. He has excellent balance, great shot selection, adept defense and he carries some pop. The America-based Swede has been grossly underestimated during his championship run but just keeps turning in the results. Forget the Lucian Bute draw, which was a clear win. DeGale is a superb fighter but he switches off, at times, and leaves gaps. If he does that in this fight, then my logic is that Jack, as a Floyd Mayweather fighter, with what amounts to home advantage, will edge him on a decision.
Lee Groves, RingTV.com
James DeGale PTS 12 Badou Jack: A true 50/50 fight, in which many scenarios are in play. Neither has been active as of late – this is Jack’s third fight since September 2015 and DeGale’s third since November 2015 – and neither will own a home ring advantage in Brooklyn. DeGale has done a better job of maintaining a more even pace in recent fights, while Jack’s jabbing and body punching, while still good, has waned a bit lately. I believe two factors will carry DeGale over the finish line: He is the faster starter and he owns the better shot-for-shot power.
Norm Frauenheim, The Ring/15rounds.com
James DeGale UD 12 Badou Jack: DeGale’s well-traveled resume suggests he knows plenty about distance. Going it. Managing it. Using it. In his first New York fight, DeGale, a self-proclaimed road warrior, figures to do all three against Badou Jack for the 168-pound title. DeGale has a one-inch advantage in reach, despite giving away an inch in height to the 6-foot-1 Jack, whose solid jab could be a factor early. But stubborn patience is integral to going the distance and DeGale has more than enough of that and more in an overall skill set that figures to wear down Jack in the late rounds for a one-sided decision.
Tom Loeffler, Managing Director of K2 Promotions, which promotes IBF/WBA/WBC middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin
James DeGale PTS 12 Badou Jack: My pick is DeGale by close decision. Either way, the winner would make a good future opponent for GGG.
Jolene Mizzone, Main Events matchmaker
Badou Jack D 12 James DeGale: I am going with a draw on this one! This, to me, is a 50/50 fight, which we need more of. I think they have both fought similar competition. Both each had the same amount of time off; both don’t have that one-punch knockout power. With one being a southpaw and the other orthodox may make for a very slow-moving fight and hard fight to score but I hope I am wrong and we see fireworks, which could also happen if both have the mindset to go into to the ring with something to prove.
Diego M. Morilla, TheSweetScience.com, ThePrizefighters.com
James DeGale KO 10 Badou Jack: On paper, this is an intriguing unification bout between once-beaten solid champs but DeGale has had a more solid career, better results against common opponents and it just feels like it is the perfect time for him to turn up the heat and make it to the next level. It will be interesting to see who takes the initiative in the bout, since there is so much at stake for both of them and their contrasting stances will probably result in an awkward early going but I believe DeGale will earn enough confidence in the second half of the bout to go out and try for the stoppage or else he will settle for a solid points win.
Marty Mulcahey, UCNlive.com
James DeGale to beat Badou Jack: Not an easy choice as Badou Jack has gotten the most out of his ability, while James DeGale has gotten by on his natural ability. That small extra edge in speed and reflexes from DeGale should consistently beat Jack to the punch, who has been scrapping by with split or majority decision wins in his last three outings. To be fair, DeGale has been no great shakes in his last couple fights but seems to have mastered the art of rising to whatever level is needed to get a win. DeGale has shown a better chin as well and a knockdown should seal this fight after the seventh round for DeGale, who may even get a championship rounds stoppage.
Gilberto Ramirez, WBO super middleweight titleholder
James DeGale PTS 12 Badou Jack: I believe James DeGale will win the fight by decision over Badou Jack because he has very good footwork and better skills. He’s sharper and, all the time, he’s moving to surprise his opponents. Jack is a very strong fighter but I think he stands in front too much. It doesn’t matter who wins, to me, because I’ll beat them both, anytime, any place.
John J. Raspanti, Maxboxing.com, Ringside Boxing Show, Doghouseboxing.com
James DeGale UD 12 Badou Jack: I give DeGale the edge in this contest. His lone loss was to George Groves five years ago. He’s a better fighter now. His victories over Andre Dirrell and Lucian Bute were impressive. Jack’s knockout loss in 2014 to unheralded Derek Edwards shocked many. He quickly rebounded, capturing the WBC super middleweight title from Anthony Dirrell a year later. Jack is a solid professional with pretty good power. DeGale appears to have more talent and less flaws. He’ll use his advantage in hand speed to win a 12-round unanimous decision.
Salvador Rodríguez, ESPN Desportes
James DeGale PTS 12 Badou Jack: I believe that James DeGale should be the favorite but, for some reason, I think Jack going to give him the best fight ever (but DeGale) could win by points in 12.
Callum Smith, WBC No. 1 contender and mandatory challenger to the winner
James DeGale to beat Badou Jack: I think it’s a good competitive fight. I think a lot of people are talking about that fight and the (Carl) Frampton-(Leo) Santa Cruz fight. The best in these weights are starting to fight each other; champions are fighting champions. In my eyes, that’s what boxing has been lacking recently. There’s four world champions in a weight but it’s good to know who the number one in the division is and the only way to do that is fight each other, so I think it’s a good fight. Recent performances, you could say it’s 50/50. Jack has improved a lot since he’s become a champion. When he first won it, he was known as a weak champion but he’s got some very good wins and his performances are getting better each time. DeGale is DeGale; he looks very good in parts and switches off in parts and a lot of his fights he wins close on points, whereas, early on, he looks like he’s going to run away with it. He sort of lets (his opponents) become closer than they should have been; he puts it down to lack of motivation. I think we’ll see if that’s the case in this fight. I think this could or should bring the best out in both fighters and I think, if that’s the case, I’ll side with DeGale.
I think one thing Jack is good at is he’s patient; he sticks to a game plan. He doesn’t become reckless. He doesn’t rush in. He sticks to what he’s worked on in camp. I think DeGale will look good early on. I think he’ll win a few of the early rounds but I think Jack will keep pressing and pressing and I think, sooner or later, he’s gonna start landing and, if DeGale fades like he has in a lot of his other fights, then it does become interesting. I think it could be relatively close but I just think the best DeGale will beat the best Badou Jack. If DeGale underperforms, then Jack’s in with a very good shout. But if DeGale can’t motivate himself for a unification fight, then he’s not going to motivate himself for anyone. I think we’re gonna see a better version of James DeGale this time and I think it’s enough for him to come away with the win.
Dominic Verdin, RingTV.com
James DeGale PTS 12 Badou Jack: James DeGale is, without a doubt, the much more accomplished prizefighter over his foe Jack. However, we the fight fans will be in for a treat. Both men have something to prove and that’s to show the world who is the best at 168. There are a lot of questions regarding Jack’s chin. DeGale will be looking to test Jack’s whiskers early in the fight. Jack is a very strong and imposing super middleweight; however, DeGale is simply on a whole other level. We could get a dogfight if DeGale chooses to approach the fight in that manner. Jack will have his moments but DeGale will take home a competitive and decisive decision.
Hector Zapari, trainer of WBO super middleweight titlist Gilberto Ramirez
James DeGale PTS 12 Badou Jack: It will be a very good, even fight. Both of them have very good boxing levels and skills. Jack, every time, is looking better in the ring. He is strong and has power. If Jack starts to put pressure on DeGale from the first round, like “Porky” Medina did, I go for Jack but if he starts slow and lets DeGale do his game plan, he will be beat by DeGale by decision. The British fighter is sharp and tricky. Gilberto is more powerful, sharper and with more skills than both fighters. “Zurdo” would beat both of them Zurdo is the number one (fighter) in the super middleweight division and we are just waiting for (Top Rank Promotions CEO) Bob Arum to get the best fights and prove he is the best promoter on the planet and, for sure, will make it happen. I pick DeGale by points.
Final tally: 17-2-1 in favor of James DeGale to win Saturday’s super middleweight unification match against Badou Jack.
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