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Mission accomplished for DeGale


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http://static.boxrec.com/wiki/9/99/Degale400.jpgBy Mark Turley: It was the night for Harlesden’s James ‘Chunky’ DeGale (17-1) to prove he truly deserves a place among the World super middleweight elite. He did so with a convincing win over Florida’s Dyah Davis, although his critics will no doubt gather fuel from his performance to further their arguments.

The fight was billed on promotional posters as a ‘World Championship’, which in modern boxing terms, it was, of sorts, with DeGale’s WBC Silver Belt being contested. Yet nobody in DeGale’s team talked of the importance of defending the belt in the build up. All the discussion focused on how a conclusive victory would manoeuvre ‘Chunky’ into contention for a genuine world title challenge next year. The fight was held at Glow, in the Bluewater shopping centre, a somewhat characterless venue that holds 3000 when full. However rumours circulated that only 1500 tickets had been sold and the back of the hall did appear sparsely populated.

Despite that, DeGale’s reception was noisy enough, emerging to air-horns and chants of “Chunky! Chunky!” while his 32 year old challenger waited for him stoically. The first session was very much one of feeling out, for both fighters, with DeGale (12st) taking centre ring, landing southpaw jabs and the occasional left hook while Davis (11st 13lb 2oz) measured the distance and attempted counters, which largely missed their target. Chunky appeared to be moving more freely than in recent bouts and his challenger found him an elusive target. For the first six rounds DeGale’s footwork, head movement and general ringcraft left the man from Florida nonplussed. At times, Chunky’s judgement was breathtakingly perfect. When Davis tried to step in and throw the right, DeGale would roll his left shoulder and deflect the shot or avoid it by inches. He would then circle left and right, landing with jabs until he saw an opportunity to step in and land with eyecatching flurries and combinations. Davis had no answer.

The fight become more competitive in the 7th. Realising he was losing heavily the American began to throw more leather and took the round. In the 8th, with DeGale coasting a little bit, he was suddenly caught with a crisp right which drew claret from his nose. Unable to breathe properly, Chunky fought the last two minutes wide eyed, mouth hanging open, with blood all over his chin, like a zombie version of himself. Instead of controlling the action with movement and jab as before, he looked ragged, lunging and missing. Davis’ corner were visibly animated after the session and there were murmurs in the crowd that DeGale had lost concentration again.

With the blood stemmed however, DeGale looked more himself again in the 9th. Both fighters landed with hurtful looking hooks but by the end, the confidence Davis had found in the 8th had drained away. Chunky’s superior hand speed saw the American receive a nick on the top of his nose and he walked back to his corner heavily. DeGale had weathered the storm.

The last three were all comfortable rounds for the Harlesden man, his elusive footwork and rapier hands in evidence again. Davis looked increasingly beleaguered and there was perhaps a feeling that if DeGale had forced the issue, he may have stopped his opponent. He preferred to assert his superiority through showboating - circling, shuffling, popping out cheeky shots and making faces. He had beaten the forlorn American all-ends-up and his last round display brought the crowd to their feet.

Canadian referee Mike Griffin guided the two fighters to centre ring for the formality of the announcement. All three judges, Robin Del Pierre (France), Mark Green (UK) and Ian John-Lewis (UK) pleasingly scored the fight 118-110 for DeGale, a very fair reflection of proceedings.

There will be those who will point out that WBC Champion, Sakio Bika stopped Davis and DeGale couldn’t. There will be others who will dwell on the fact that DeGale seemed to take his foot off the gas in the middle rounds and allowed his challenger back into a fight that had appeared previously one-sided. Such comments however, would be unfair and unnecessary. In fighting Davis, a seasoned, well schooled professional in the last-chance-saloon for glory, DeGale had plenty to contend with. He may not have quite won every round, which should come as no surprise - Dyah Davis is nobody’s mug. Yet Chunky beat him so comprehensively as to be able to play with him by the end. The trickery and clowning may not please everyone, but if DeGale had gone gung-ho for a stoppage and been caught himself, those same critics would vociferously deride him, for recklessness. At this stage of his career, DeGale did all that was necessary.

“I had a six month break,” said a relaxed DeGale afterwards. “Davis has been in with some good quality. I’m not fully pleased with my performance, I could still feel my knee injury a bit, but I moved much better. In the middle rounds I switched off a bit, but Davis wasn’t thowing much. He was waiting to counter and I didn’t want to walk onto one. I want to fight for a world title now. I don’t care which champion, Ward, Bika, Froch, I’m not fussed.”

DeGale’s promoter, Mick Hennessy, confirmed that next up for Chunky should be a WBC eliminator with the Mexican, Marco Antonio Periban, possibly in February, on the Haye v Fury undercard. The relationship between promoter and fighter looked a little strained as they faced the media. While Hennessy talked, DeGale leaned away or read texts on his phone. Not once did the two speak directly to each other or make eye contact. If, as seems to be expected however, Hennessy can deliver a title fight for James in 2014, the future for both may be Chunky after all.

Undercard report to follow.




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