By Matt Bevan (@MBevs68)
James DeGale created British boxing history, as he became the first Olympic gold medallist to win a world title after he overcame a strong comeback from Andre Dirrell to claim the IBF super-middleweight crown in Boston.
DeGale (now 21-1, 14KO’s) had his man down twice in the second and looked certain to graduate to world champion status at the Agganis Arena on the Boston University campus. However, he came close to throwing it all away, as Dirrell (who falls to 24-2, 16KO’s) mounted a stirring comeback in the mid to late rounds.
But, “Chunky” held on to continue Britain’s superb record in the super-middleweight division, adding his name to some illustrious names including Joe Calzaghe, Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank.
Headlining “Premier Boxing Champions” latest card, DeGale took the first round, before a stunning second round which saw Dirrell take two trips to the canvas. Dirrell looked well on his way to taking the round, leaving DeGale with a cut, until a sharp left flattened him. He was down again as “Chunky” went in for the kill, however he clung on in full survival mode.
DeGale continued his forward march in the third, with Dirrell still not all there, and he had him in trouble once again in the fourth, after a switch to orthodox by Dirrell, with a solid right.
Dirrell was doing nothing at this point and it looked a foregone conclusion that DeGale would cruise to the title, however Andre’s nickname, “The Resurrected” began to ring true, as he finally found a way into the fight.
He uncorked some counters and worked behind his jab to take the fifth, and despite taking the sixth, the fight began to swing away from DeGale. We’re used to seeing a slick, stylish mover in Dirrell, but suddenly he took the centre of the ring and went straight at “Chunky”.
DeGale seemed to think the fight was in the bag and took his foot off the gas, handing Dirrell the next four rounds and a way right back into the fight. Finally, DeGale sensed he was on the verge of throwing all his hard work away, taking the last two rounds to take a close decision.
Thankfully for the Londoner, the judges agreed with two scoring it 114-112 in DeGale’s favour, although the Canadian judge had a nightmare giving it 117-109, another ridiculous scorecard that needs explaining, to hand DeGale his world title and his piece of history.
“Chunky” will now look to defend his new belt at home in London, before a potential monster rematch with George Groves, who beat him in 2011, and could well become a world champion later this year when he takes on WBC king Badou Jack.
However he will always be the first British Olympic champion to win a world title in the professional ranks.
There was also news for Irish fight fans on the card, as Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan smashed Melvin Betancourt to pieces inside two rounds. O’Sullivan will now be targeting a shot at one of the world middleweight titles, even mentioning Gennady Golovkin after the fight.by