As soon as Floyd Mayweather, JR. spoke and said he was the most skilful boxer that Britain possesses now, there was a courting going on. We, of course, in the UK knew that this was the case but the love affair we have with this pugilist is a strange one.
You see, in the UK, we do not like to be told what to like. At times, the best that walk amongst us go unheralded. We want them to do more than be the best in our islands. We often push them away so that they can prove to others what we shall later claim we knew all along – that they were the best outside of our kingdom.
To that end the weekend proved that the heart, previously missing, the depths previously unplumbed and the skills always believed in finally combined to provide the USA and the rest of the world with one message: James DeGale, 23-1-1, 14 KO’s, is THE man.
He was agonizingly one slip of the feet away from a WBC title to put alongside his IBF title and the Ring magazine lineal title for all to bow and scrape and see DeGale as the guy we knew he was – the best.
Mayweather’s praise was the precursor for an attempt to lure DeGale away from his current promoter, Matchroom and Eddie Hearn and take him semi permanently stateside. DeGale was demur and declined. Oh, Mr Mayweather we have forced our boxer to capture a title abroad, defend it abroad and try and capture more abroad, now we just want him home. You see DeGale’s future lies in the hands of a British promoter and this is because the fights that he wants and the fights that will pay are in the UK.
The massive paydays are all this side of the Atlantic and over here Mayweather aint such a big gun.
Firstly, for DeGale is the prospect of taking the guy who is number 1 for the WBC in Callum Smith, 22-0, 17 KO’s. Described as the giraffe of the 4 fighting Smith brothers, Callum is the next big thing in super middleweights from the UK. He is a tall lad and many believe that his time at super middleweight is limited. It shall not be too long before he is competing, like Badou Jack will be, at light heavyweight. Smith is a real prospect and has won titles in the first round as there is nobody who can keep up with the guy. He may be as tall as a giraffe but he hits like a bear. Smith will fight for the WBC title next and once Jack, as expected, vacates it could be against Anthony Dirrell; should he win, a unification bout in the UK would be massive.
Next could be a rematch with the only guy to beat DeGale professionally – albeit by split decision – George Groves, 25-3, 18 KO’s. If the fight at the weekend showed anything it is that Groves is a world level operator. Jack just beat him by split decision in 2015 and we had all expected that Groves would walk that fight. Jack proved in the early hours of Sunday morning UK time that he is a fantastic boxer and fighter. What adds to this fight is the fact that DeGale and Groves do NOT get on. It would be a true grudge match and one that could fill a stadium if it was put back on the table. Groves looks like he is going to be going down the WBA route and take on Fedor Chudinov; should he win, a unification bout in the UK would be massive.
Of course, the one kingpin in his own ring is one Chris Eubank, JR., 23-1, 18 KO’s. Straight after the fight on Sunday morning, Junior was bating DeGale on Twitter. Both he and his father had been doing it before the fight so this was simply a continuation of a war of words that makes very little financial sense outside of the Eubank ring and circle. Junior is next fighting for the IBO title (RSR doesn’t recognize this title) which he believes shall catapult him into contention for a unification fight with someone; should he win the IBO title, a unification fight is simply … unlikely.
There is also the pull of coming home for DeGale. He has been a warrior on the road for long enough. He has nothing left to prove apart from how big a draw he could be at home. The fight on Saturday night/Sunday morning was a proud time for British boxing. After the disappointment of trying to dethrone GGG and Canelo, we got a British fighter who was at the top of his game and the top of his tree, fighting against a guy who was his equal and he matched him. Truth be told we all thought DeGale would win. Had he not been put on his butt in the final round we would have been proven correct. Bizarrely the away fighter would then have robbed the home fighter but between the decision to move to light heavy by Jack to the post fight rant from Mayweather, there was plenty to write about regarding this as an event.
A rematch would be great but it simply is not going to happen. Jack is on his way up in weight and DeGale has his sights set on other things – principally in the UK, I believe. We knew he was good, we hoped he was this good and now we know how good he is, watch us try and knock him down again. It’s the British way…Contact the Feature Writers