“I just believe it’s his destiny to be champion,” said former two-time world super-featherweight challenger and trainer Jim McDonnell, of his charge James DeGale(20-1, 14KO’s),
McDonnell spoke with a representative of EsNewsBoxing about the latest movements at the summit of the super-middleweight division where DeGale currently sits atop the rankings for the IBF, whose belt is now vacant having been relinquished by Carl Froch after he was told to face DeGale as his mandatory challenger just before the new year.
Froch’s unwillingness to face DeGale, who had doggedly pursued him in an effort to dethrone an all-time English great, caused great frustration for McDonnell and the rest of the team as they were forced to wait and see how their man would finally acquire his shot at a world title.
“It would have been great for Carl Froch to have vacated the title a long time ago and said ‘listen, let DeGale get on with his trip, good luck to him, I’m doing my trip’, and James probably would have already been world champion by now. They’d have made that in his last fight in Liverpool.”
With Froch now officially out of the picture, Andre Dirrell and Gilberto Ramirez make up the top three positions for the IBF with a fight against either a possibility for DeGale, and McDonnell gave a brief assessment of the two.
“They’re both little tricksters; they’re both difficult to get sparring partners for as well; they’re both tall southpaws, with Dirrell a little bit of switch work in there.”
Both sound like nightmares in terms of a style match-up for most fighters, but McDonnell believes that his man is the one to be wary of and feels that many a top name in the division have made a point of circumnavigating DeGale and his own tricky style, something that has been augmented with notable power in recent outings.
“I don’t think people are rushing to fight James DeGale, to be honest. You got Dirrell, you had Carl Froch, you’ve had George Groves, even Kessler. All them fights that have been mentioned for the not-too-distant-future, and for one reason or another they haven’t happened. But hopefully now it looks like Dirrell who’s number two for the IBF.”
Seeing as he is currently on a wave of career-best performances, McDonnell was then asked to comment on what he feels has been DeGale’s best performance up to this point.
“I think the Periban one was exceptional. The Gonzalez one was like a great showcase on a big stage, and when he fought Dave ‘Boy’ Green. And for me, when he boxed up in Liverpool against Paul Smith, I think really that’s right up there as well, that was an exceptional performance over twelve rounds [it was scheduled for twelve but DeGale got a ninth round stoppage] in front of a hostile crowd in his ninth professional contest, never done twelve rounds [before that].”
High praise that is to be expected from DeGale’s trainer, but that doesn’t undermine its validity. In just twenty-one pro bouts, DeGale has accumulated a wealth of experience and added a ruggedness to his pretty skills during his time fighting on smaller shows when under contract to the Hennessey Sports promotional team.
Now he is under the spotlight at Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Sports, and has been able to fight in front of much larger audiences like he did against Brandon Gonzalez last year at Wembley Stadium on the undercard of Froch-Groves II. He must have been dreaming of nights like that because ever since the switch he has looked better than ever, and with his newfound power will present ever more problems for prospective future opponents.