By Vinny “Glory Days” Lucci
OK sports fans let’s get ready to step back into the ring for the much-anticipated fistic mayhem of 2017. First up is the title unification between Super middleweight champions James DeGale and Badou Jack on January 14th when they both put their titles on the line in Brooklyn New York at the Barclays Center and televised live on Sky Sports. Both champions have been working off the same career time frame winning titles in 2015 and both making two successful defenses. These two cats are quite evenly matched beyond that so fans are urged not to miss this one.
DeGale won the IBF title with a decision win over Andre Dirrell in Boston Mass. He made one defense against Lucian Bute before years end, and followed it with one defense this past year against Rogelio Medina. Badou captured the WBC belt from Anthony Dirrell in Chicago Ill. He also made one defense in ’15 against George Groves the one time conqueror of DeGale and then in his one defense this past year escaped with a draw against Lucian Bute. According to Showtime this fight was held up during a long negotiations process which left both champions rusty throughout the second half of last year. Both fighters are perfectly balanced at 168 and based on recent activity and title reigns, this looks to go the distance.
James stands 6’ tall with a wingspan of 74”. The Brit fights out of the southpaw stance making this fight an added problem for Badou to solve. His record stands at 23-1, 14 KO’s. His moniker “Chunky” is a childhood nickname that won’t add credence to this bout. Badou hails from Sweden, and his tag of the “Ripper” may also be misleading while still being a catchy slogan on his robe. He stands an inch taller than his rival but his reach is an inch shorter. Fighting orthodox he’ll need to get his lead right foot inside of DeGale’s lead left.
While both are evenly matched down the line the old adage will come into play; styles make fights. Badou is a more cautious stalker with outstanding balance who paws his way into the pocket with sleepy jabs until an opportunity presents itself. Then he fires a stiff one/two combo while holding his ground and resets with another salvo if first one showed any effects. What makes him a difficult foe to beat is he is well trained in maintaining a tight defense while in the pocket and heated exchanges. His right leg is always on the ball of his foot to spring his weight into his punches which fools the eye into thinking he is merely a flat footed fighter. His arsenal is impressive and unpredictable as he will strike with either hand from any range if he feels an opening peaks on his radar. While he may pack equal power in both hands, it’s his inside right cross that is most difficult to defend against.
DeGale has faster hand speed and subsequently throws more combos. If I had to toss a quarter my eyes tell me that Jack owns the heavier hands but DeGale has more snap on his punches. James is a constant fluid wave of motion who attacks and retreats from all angles. His combos are more likened to a five and six punch overture from both sides, upstairs and down. If he has a fault, it’s forgetting to tuck his chin to his chest in the midst of those confident combinations where you can see him lining up shots the way Minnesota Fats would line up his table. Sometimes he backs out of pocket with his guard down as he ventures to change angles.
What to look for:
Neither fighter will be in search of steam room to make the scales the day before. Both will be eager to showcase their talents and defend their belts in hopes of reaching a wider audience and bigger payday come the spring. The odds are on James at -300 with Badou posting at -250. As their level of competition rose in past two years the KO percentage dropped on both boxers. With George Groves owning a WBA version of the belt there is another big match waiting just around the bend and both combatants must focus on this bout first or jeopardize making unnecessary mistakes under pressure. Can Jack walk through DeGale’s speed and punch output while landing his own jab and setting up his own offense? Will he be able to capitalize on James’s sometimes exposed chin? ….and who exactly owns the better chin?
In a very close match this one is DeGale’s to lose. That is to say some difficult fights you look to whether the storm when it rises and just secure your “W.” This is that kind of fight. James has the hand speed and punch count from lead right side that should invest nicely in taking enough rounds to win an entertaining fight and hard fought decision. He cannot afford to get careless and dropped giving Badou momentum. If he focuses on his repel from pocket as much as his forward domination, he will be victorious.
Happy New Year to our readers.
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