Its been nine years since Joe Calzaghe relinquished his Super Middleweight lineal title. Over two years since his successor, Andre Ward, was effectively stripped. Two years since Ward’s de-facto replacement, Carl Froch, hung them up.
In Froch’s abdication there was no immediate stand out inheritor of the 168lb crown.
It has taken two years for Boxing’s equivalent of Darwin’s theory of natural selection to clear the horizon. The winner of Saturday night’s IBF and WBC unification between James DeGale (23-1) and Badou Jack (20-1-2) in Brooklyn will be universally recognised as ‘the man’ at 168lbs.
For although BoxRec and our own power rankings* do not recognise this as a lineal title fight, most agree the winner possesses the most significant and deep resume of any fighter at Super-Middleweight.
DeGale and Jack have followed similar paths to get here. Both had long and at times successful – DeGale’s yielding an Olympic Gold Medal – amateur careers. Both suffered setbacks whilst on the rise. Both have resurrected and thrived in spite of those setbacks.
Some fans see such a similarity of fortunes and excitedly sign off tweets with #50-50fight.
Don’t be so hasty.
The bookmakers are seeing this as 70/30 DeGale. The line hasn’t moved an inch since it opened (DeGale still available at 2/5) so the public agree. We see it marginally different.
The trap would be to fall into the 50/50 rhetoric that abounds. But in fact, DeGale should be a slightly larger favorite than both the public and bookmakers think he is.
DeGale’s one blemish came at the hands of his bugbear, George Groves. In a fight that the vast majority of press-row thought he had won.
He’s since become the master of doing just enough.
In all of his three previous fights (Medina, Bute, Dirrell) DeGale has won 6 unanimous rounds (rounds where all three judges are in agreement) each time. In comparison, Badou Jack has won three, five and four unanimous rounds in his fights against Bute, Groves and Dirrell. Meaning that the judges collectively believed that all three of those fights Jack could have easily been on the wrong end of the decision.
In a fight where the consensus think it will be close, nuance will play a big role. DeGale’s versatility and singularity could be his calling card.
It’s a fight of conservative pragmatism vs radical dynamism.
DeGale’s ability to switch and to do so naturally – not when experimenting or bored – is unique. His movement and style looks unorthodox but it allows him to fight aggressively or passively at his will.
Jack’s style is contrastingly orthodox: Straight lined and predictable but at an advanced level.
The dilemma when faced with preparation for an unorthodox fighter is one Jack is familiar with. In his last fight he faced Lucian Bute. His frenetic, southpaw dance is not replicated. But this particular occasion it was performed by an aging dancer (even with medical enhancement) and Jack struggled.
DeGale is hitting his prime and his high ring IQ enables him to fight reactionary too. Jack had one riddle to unravel versus Bute. If he’s able to unravel one versus DeGale he’ll most likely be faced with another.
I like DeGale to win at 2/5 (the KO is a possibility owing to Jack stoppages at pro and amateur level).
In the main under-card bout, Jose Pedraza defends his IBF Super Featherweight title against rising precocious youngster Gervonta Davis.
Davis demanded this. His team delivered.
Based upon his pro resume it seems this is highly premature. His short amateur career offers very little more in way of optimism. Golden Gloves titles are not the hallowed ground of great fighters they once were.
But, Jose Pedraza is not the inspiring sort either. His best wins – Stephen Smith, Andrey Klimov and Edner Cherry – came against conventional up and down fighters.
Many thought he lost versus the veteran Edner Cherry and Stephen Smith arguably won 6 Rounds against him.
We project this fight as 69-31 Pedraza. Much of this is owing to his established pedigree. There’s too much unknown about Davis to take a punt at 10/11.
7u on Jose Pedraza to win @ 21/20 (+105).
I won’t waste much copy on Erislandy Lara versus Yuri Foreman. Frankly, it clutters up this piece.
It’s a disgraceful mismatch. We project it as 98-2 Lara. If I was a bookmaker I wouldn’t even take action on Lara.
James DeGale 9u to win @ 1.4 (-250)
Jose Pedraza 7u to win @ 21/20 (+105)
*BoxRec has James DeGale as No.4 and Badou Jack No.8. Our own Power Rankings have DeGale at 3 and Badou Jack at 4.
FOR FUTURE PROJECTIONS, THOUGHTS, INSIGHT AND GENERAL BOXING CHIT-CHAT FOLLOW US ON TWITTER @RICHBOXINGBETS