James DeGale – What’s Next?

7EED82E4-4FA0-49C6-9627-B85FC070D4F6By Jake Collins (@MelancholyFolly)

If you found yourself in a certain bar in East London over the weekend, you could have treated the new IBF Super Middleweight World champion to a drink. Regrettably, it seems the newly crowned Caleb Truax was given a bottle of London Pride, which is a largely forgettable drink. Fortunately his performance in the ring wasn’t as profligate as his drink choice. Truax pulled off one of the upsets of the year when he took a decision over James DeGale. A deserved decision, at that. Truax was pressing forward relentlessly the entire fight and did some damage to DeGale in the 5th. The jubilation shown at the winning announcement was testament to the effort put in by the American. He deserved that belt and his story is a wonderful addition to boxing folklore. But what of the defeated James DeGale? Why dd he unravel? What is his next move?

We’ve seen both the good and the bad from DeGale numerous times in the past. By the 2nd round in the Truax fight things didn’t really look right. He was reluctant to throw, too easily bullied onto the ropes and just lacked invention. He lacked menace, too. Sure, later on in the fight he won some rounds back but that shouldn’t have taken being pasted for half the fight to happen. He looked void of ideas and unable to fight with the speed and voracity he once could. In previous fights we have seen inactivity during rounds make things difficult for DeGale. And when you think of it, a loss shouldn’t be such a huge shock given recent outings. I think most of us thought he lost to Badou Jack and the Medina fight was also much closer than it ought to have been. Truth be told, outside of the occasional moments, DeGale has been ‘scraping by’ for years.

Let’s give him some respite here though. He IS coming back from a damaging injury and I think the Jack fight took a lot out of him. How much? Well, he truthfully looked shot last Saturday evening. Personally I think Badou Jack has finished what we know of DeGale but I think we need to see another outing from him to truly establish that as fact. Realistically (with the most available respect to Truax), I think DeGale was lucky he wasn’t in against a more vicious fighter. If he fought like that against Callum Smith, David Benavidez, Gennady Golovkin or – can’t believe I’m saying this – even Eubank Jr, he would have taken a lot more damage than what Caleb Truax could put onto him.

If we assume the injury was the issue then we have two situations. Either, it’ll likely never heal fully and this shell of DeGale is what we will be left with for the remainder of his career. Alternatively, he should take a short break away and then come back clandestine on an undercard against a lesser guy over 10 rounds. Try to build from there. If you can’t, then we know that DeGale is done at the top level. Rebuilding is something I’ve always felt has helped George Groves. Generally when losing he has dropped down a level and built back up. I understand that’s what DeGale was supposed to do here but there is room for some caveats in that performance. It’s also possible that Truax was just so hyped for the fight he raised his game to a new level. That’s likely true but even so a Truax at a new high should still be handled by DeGale.

At his best DeGale is a very tricky fighter and capable of world class performances. All too often, he can be found on the ropes and being followed by rumours of ‘not living the life’. It’s a pity. 2018 will tell us if there is really a James DeGale left but the indications from the weekend were at best troubling and at worst finalising.

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