Photo Credit: Suzanne Teresa/Premier Boxing Champions
BOSTON, Massachusetts — James Degale became the first British Olympic medalist to win a world title yesterday by scoring two knockdowns to defeat Andre Dirrell by unanimous decision (114-112 twice, 117-109) at the Agganis Arena. This was a crossroads fight for two fighters desperately seeking to live up to their perceived world-class potential. Despite an uneven performance, Degale proved to be the one wanted it more.
TAKING CONTROL: Degale drew first blood by scoring two big knockdowns in round two. They came in the last minute via a counter overhand left, and later a barrage on the ropes that forced Dirrell to his knees. This 10-7 round proved to be crucial on two scorecards as Degale’s activity severely dropped in the second half of the fight. Although Dirrell never appeared to seriously hurt him, Degale’s putrid punch output allowed Dirrell to take the majaority of these rounds on sheer activity.
CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND AWAKENING: Finally sensing the bout was slipping away, Degale woke up in the 11th and 12th stanzas. While the former was close, Degale’s closed the final minute strong and appeared fresher and more aggressive in the 12th. Despite the one dubious card for him by Alan Davis (117-109), Degale’s late rally sealed the deal on his first title win.
NEW BUSINESS: Sporting his new IBF belt, Degale was ecstatic and also looking forward to more elite competition.
“I am speechless. In my whole career, what I have been building up to is winning a world title and I have finally done it,” said Degale. “It is an unbelievable feeling. I have made history; I am the first British Olympic Gold medalist to become a world champion.
I am back now and injury free. I will take on any super middleweight in the world. There is no other super middleweight in the world who will beat me. I am hard to beat when I am at my best.”
Dirrell was livid at the decision.
“They said I ran from Carl Froch and they took that fight from me,” he fumed. “He ran tonight and they gave it to him. All he did was run, no way I lost this fight.”
Degale has star power in the UK and can look at a domestic showdown with the likes of an Arthur Abraham, or eye a unification with the winner of Badou Jack vs. George Groves.
As for Dirrell, his career continues to be a massive disappointment. It’s amazing to consider in a modern era where you have four major titles per division, Dirrell has gone 10 years without winning anything.
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ TKO3 CRAIG BAKER: Edwin Rodriguez was in complete control but got the benefit of a quick stoppage in his third round TKO over Craig Baker. Rodriguez’s powerful right hand drove Baker against the ropes. Baker continued to take shots, but had his guard up and was rolling with the punches as the ref called it.