IBF Super-Middleweight Eliminator.
|James DeGale Vs Brandon Gonzales|
Whilst all the talk over the last few months and especially the last week has been about the Froch Vs Groves fight, there is another super middleweight fight this weekend at Wembley which is possibly just as important for the fighters involved.
DeGale Vs Gonzales is an IBF eliminator for the right to fight the winner of Froch Vs Groves and is a very intriguing fight indeed.
James DeGale is the former Groves victim who has had an up and down pro career since winning Gold at middleweight at the Bejing Olympics. His career record stands at 18 wins (12 by KO) with 1 loss (against Groves in 2011). Since his defeat to Groves he has gone about his business quietly and effectively, without any of the brash arrogance that he had displayed previously and is now rightly in amongst the best super middleweights in the world (ranked 8 by BoxRec). Saturday night could be a defining night for him and may well lead to a chance of avenging his defeat to Groves.
DeGale's opponent is Brandon Gonzales.The very self confident American is trained by Virgil Hunter who is also the trainer of possibly the best super middleweight in the world - Andre Ward. His record is very similiar to DeGales with 18 wins (10 by KO) and 1 draw and he is ranked 13 in the world by BoxRec.
With most of the world seemingly (according to Sky) interested in the headline fight it is easy to have missed the needle that has been shown by both DeGale and Gonzales camps to each other.
James DeGale told Sky Sports -
"He [Gonzales] is very good fighter unbeaten and he's confident. He really thinks he's going to win, but the telling factor in this fight is going to be the distance, the rounds, This guy has never had a scheduled 12-rounder. He's never been 12 rounds and in fights - I've watched his last couple of fights - he dies. A good five rounds he has and he dies. I've had about nine scheduled 12-rounders. I've been 12 rounds five times, that's in you. You don't get fit for 12 rounds over a 10-week camp. It takes years. That's what is going to be the telling factor in this fight."
Virgil Hunter responded to that with - “You went 12 rounds with guys that extended you 12 rounds. These are B league guys that are extending you 12 rounds, Should they have been around after 12 rounds? Considering your pedigree, considering how much you think of yourself?”
An astute response from Hunter. Is DeGale as good as he thinks he is? Can he really challenge at the very, very top level?
Eddie Hearn thinks there is a huge amount of pressure on DeGale -
“There’s a lot of pressure on him [DeGale], because he has to perform well, that’s a difficult ask because really it should be about winning, but when you’re at this level and at this kind of platform, you want to do it in style and make a statement. And that’s what I think he’s preparing himself to do. James DeGale is a real fight for Froch, so there’s no reason why we couldn’t take that fight. Froch Vs DeGale will be another huge fight in British boxing.”
DeGale can't see anything other than a win and is already looking to the future, perhaps a big mistake - “I’m in the mandatory position to fight the winner [Froch Vs Groves]. It’s not about if they have to fight me; they’ve got to fight me, so I’m in a fantastic position. So whoever wins, they’ll have to fight me within 120 days.”
On Saturday night the time for all the talking will be over and we will see which of these two very good fighters is ready to step up the very elite level of the 168lbs division.
Is DeGale as good as he thinks? Possibly not. I think he believes he would beat Andre Ward if he was fighting him on Saturday, which he might one day, however not yet. Is he ready to challenge at the very, very top level? One day certainly. The fight against Gonzales will give a big indication - to both fighters - of the current level and what the future may possibly hold.
This is certainly going to be a very good technical fight, perhaps even better than the headline fight. A second loss on DeGale's record could be the beginning of the end. A first loss for Gonzales in his first "big" fight will certainly change his future path, if indeed there will be one.
As always the difference between an also ran and a challenger is a very fine line - on Saturday one of these two will cross that line.
I wish them both well...