Andre Ward vs. James DeGale: A Fight Worth Making

Andre Ward vs. James DeGale

“He’s probably in front of any fighter I’ve signed. Even Naz [Prince Naseem Hamed]” Frank Warren in 2010.

[DeGale] is the most natural switch hitter I have ever seen. The closest I’ve ever seen to this is Marvin Hagler – but James is smootherJim McDonnell

DeGale turned professional in the aftermath of Olympic gold at middleweight in Beijing in 2008 – joining the likes of historical greats László Papp (1948), Floyd Patterson (1952) & Michael Spinks (1976). DeGale is trained by Jim McDonnell who as a professional beat Barry McGuigan & took the African greats Azumah Nelson & Brian Mitchell into the 12th & the distance respectively. James also retains the advisory services of that great boxing publicist & agent of Nigel Benn fame, Ambrose Mendy.

The perfect storm of characters, skills & competencies to take the post-Super 6 super middleweight division by storm… so why hasn’t this happened? Why wasn’t DeGale even mentioned as a viable opponent for Andre Ward as he struggled to find one TV networks would be vaguely interested in showing?

The answer is partially a result of the uniquely insulated vacuum under which international & world level fighters operate in the United Kingdom. There are currently two promotional superpowers – DeGale is no longer promoted by either. James himself is openly condescending of the efforts of his current promotional team.

Don’t give me the stick (for the level of my opponents) – give Mick Hennessey the stick – no pressure, Mick.James DeGale 

The answer is partially as a result of what I term the Mayweather Effect – a fighter, any fighter, is somehow disproportionately more sell-able to Joe Public – the armchair, instant expert – when they have an “0” on their record. Thus a loss, any loss, even a bogus loss – as suffered by DeGale in his bout with George Groves in 2011 has derailed his progress in an entirely disproportionate manner. Jim Watt, ringside Sky Commentator, had DeGale vs. Groves 115-114 for DeGale. The majority of observers felt the Olympic gold medallist had done enough – visibly staggering Groves in the 9th round & landing the more hurtful blows.

The answer is partially as a result of poor match-making & a schizophrenic progression curve that had DeGale fighting a guy with a record of 7-12-2 in his 10th fight at 174lbs (!) & then a fellow undefeated champion in a unification bout in his 11th bout.

The answer is partially due to myopic thinking on the part of promoters at the time of DeGale’s controversial 11th professional outing. Unification bouts in your 11th fight are more easily explained as a money grab by a cash strapped promoter than a career steering job of any rational validity. All well & good for Groves whose “win” paved the way for the upcoming $645,000.00 pay-day against Super 6 losing finalist Carl Froch but it is harshly & unfairly a turn of fate that has capsized DeGale’s world aspirations between 2011 & the current time.

The difference between Ward vs. Froch 2 (apart from most people being able to predict the outcome fairly easily beforehand) & a Ward vs. DeGale match up is, critically, DeGale would jump at the chance to fight in America whilst Froch would insist on his bid for revenge taking place in the United Kingdom. If a Carl Froch two years closer to his prime had no answer to Andre Ward most in the US anyway would be reluctant to believe that Froch vintage 2014 would fare any better against a guy yet further into his prime.

Ward vs. DeGale would be a match-up of Olympic Champions; it would offer both fighters the opportunity to gain critical acclaim against a skilled, highly respected opponent & it short circuits the frankly laughable situation of having a conquered Froch hold all of the promotional cards in the upper echelons of the division – insisting on the location for any rematch being in the UK whilst Andre Ward is forced to desperately seek for remotely sell-able alternatives.

The aftermath of almost any set of variations or permutations of results for a Froch-Groves & Ward-DeGale set of clashes is almost universally appetizing… Wins for Froch & Ward make Froch-DeGale sell-able; wins for Groves & Ward make Froch-DeGale & Ward-Groves & subsequently one hopes DeGale-Groves 2 all marketable; & so on… a win for DeGale vs. Ward would blow the division wide open all over again.

By stepping up to elite world level DeGale will also buck the trend of UK fighters who stay at home for all but their final handful of fights & could render him an actual international following outside of drunken budget holiday makers.

Born: February 3, 1986 (age 27), London
Height: 1.84 m

alias ‘Chunky’

Division: Super middleweight

Notable winsPaul Smith (then 29-1) by 9th Round TKO; Piotr Wilczewski (then 29-1); Fulgencio Zuniga (then 25-6-1) & Dyah Davis (then 22-3-1).

Achievements & Belts held:

WBC Silver super middleweight title (2 defences)

WBA International super middleweight title (won in 7th professional fight)

BBBofC British super middleweight title (won in 9th professional fight)

WBO Inter-Continental super middleweight title (won in 12th professional fight)

EBU (European) super middleweight title (won in 12th professional bout)

ABA middleweight champion in 2005 & 2006

Amateur record: 79–16

Olympic Gold Medallist at middleweight in Beijing in 2008

Defeated Mohamed Hikal (Egypt) 13-4
Defeated Shawn Estrada (United States) 11-5
Defeated Bakhtiyar Artayev (Kazakhstan) 8-3
Defeated Darren Sutherland (Ireland) 10-3
Defeated Emilio Correa Jr. (Cuba) 16-14

DeGale was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2009.