Draw declared for Badou Jack, James DeGale unifier

R.L. Woodson

Cinephile, audiophile, and avid sports fan. I am the creator and host of the Pay Me No Mind sports and entertainment podcast found on TalkLoudRadio.
I podcast and write to cope with my continuing struggle to play guitar.

BROOKLYN –  WBC World super middleweight champion Badou Jack (20-1-3, 12 KOs) and IBF World super middleweight champion James DeGale (23-1-1, 14 KOs) fought to a questionable draw Saturday night at Barclay’s Center. The battle for supremacy at the 168-pound division featured 12-rounds of arduous action which was bookended by a pair of knock downs by each fighter – Jack’s was scored in the crucial championship 12th round.

Unfortunately (or fortunately) for both warriors, judge Glenn Feldman scored the fight 114-112 for DeGale while judges Julie Lederman and Steve Weisfeld both tallied cards of 113-113 – to reach a majority draw decision. After the decision was announced a large group amongst the crowd of 10,000-plus were heard chanting “Badou Jack, Badou Jack”, and promoter Floyd Mayweather Jr. concurred.

From the outset of the fight DeGale displayed his noted athleticism and flashy hand speed as he quickly went to work with his eye-catching combination punching. Jack, historically known as a slow starter, circled with DeGale shooting to the body from behind his tight guard. The action remained at the center of the ring, and DeGale started looking to capitalize on his straight left hand with lunging attacks off of great foot work. In the final portion of the first round he succeeded. DeGale slipped under a Jack right hand to catch the Sweden-born champion with a sharp left for the fight’s first knock down.

Jack quickly got back to his feet, the action resumed and DeGale surged forward for a big finish, but failed to land anything else significant.

DeGale continued circling to left in round-two maintaining the best distance suited for his attack, but often moving before Jack could set his feet to rip off his vaunted body attack. Jack started to time the southpaw’s constant movement better, mixing in some solid shots when the action did move inside.

Notwithstanding the straight left that scored the knock down, a lot of DeGale’s punches over the first third of the fight landed on Jack’s guard finding his gloves up top and arms underneath. Jack connected to DeGale’s sternum with a fully extended right hand at 1:30 in the third round, landing one of his most effective punches to that point of the fight. He followed that shot up with a solid right uppercut as he began to cement an advantage in the inside fighting. DeGale’s hand speed was still apparent but becoming less problematic.

In the earlier part of the middle rounds DeGale continued looking for openings for his combinations. Jack’s offense stayed straighter and more compact with his punches. In an attempt to maximize his strengths – fluid and varied flurries from outside – DeGale stepped back and lowered both hands to his side to invite more activity from Jack. Jack remained patient and devoted to the style of fighting that was beginning to offset the deficit created by the two-point advantage from the round-one knock down.

In the sixth round Jack landed another of his signature ripping body shots to DeGale and finally trapped the brash Brit in the ropes looking for his first knock down of the fight. The crowd’s excitement grew, but the slick DeGale remained calm and eluded many of the powerful shots.

Momentum shifted back and forth between both fighters in the middle rounds, and DeGale scored with a right uppercut that jarred Badou’s guard and snapped back his head in the final thirty seconds of round-seven. Over the first half of the fight DeGale picked up his intensity near the :30 mark after a couple of different whistles from ringside could be heard. The effectiveness of these outbursts gradually declined over the second half of the fight as both fatigue set in and the fight’s punishment mounted.

Early in round-eight Jack responded with a crisp one-two combination as DeGale backed away in a rare straight line, and the 33-year old added a left uppercut that knocked out DeGale’s mouthpiece. The fight started to favor Jack strongly during the inside fighting. DeGale opted to fight inside after not being as successful as he’d like to be from the outside due to Jack’s improved defensive tactics, and despite a punishing attach from Jack in the round DeGale snuck in another uppercut – once again near the :30 mark.

Jack’s brutal work in round-eight compelled referee Arthur Mercante Jr. to halt the action briefly so DeGale could be examined by the ringside physician. Later in the round after the action resumed, DeGale spit out his mouthpiece after being caught with a left hook from Jack. Mercante Jr. allowed the fight to continue as the fight’s pace rarely slowed down enough for a stoppage so the mouthpiece could be cleaned off and reinserted, but when the action was stopped the corner was warned that a penalty would be assessed with repeated occurrences.

Amazingly, at this point in the fight the world-class caliber action never relented and it became increasingly difficult to score definitively for either fighter. In the tenth round DeGale stood Jack up with a short left hand after being motioned to fight by Jack, a pair of right hooks also found their mark near the round’s final minute. In the first of the championship rounds Jack landed a crashing left hook at the 1:00 mark.

As the bout entered the 12th and final round, both fighters looked capable of finishing strong, but DeGale was dealing with a cut under his right eye. The injury never appeared to become a distraction. Both fighters opened the round with their respective styles of attack from the previous 11 rounds, but DeGale’s footwork understandably lacked its same sharpness. Jack’s guard was still intact, but at times DeGale was more successful in punching around his gloves.

With the end of the fight looming and the stakes raised to their highest point, Jack connected with a left hand and a right hook that sent DeGale staggering backwards before falling to the canvas. This was the first knock down in DeGale’s professional career. The Brit beat the count and after ensuring DeGale was able to continue Mercante Jr. motioned the two champions to resume fighting. Blood started to flow heavily down the right side of DeGale’s face, simultaneously Jack surged in firing away with a flurry of punches to secure a knockout.

DeGale ate some of the shots while managing to slip some of Jack’s big punches. Amid the heated onslaught DeGale’s mouthpiece once again made its way to the canvas near :30 to go, but as Mercante picked it up the fierce action appeared to preclude him from stopping the fight at such a critical juncture. More importantly, no points were deducted from DeGale.

As the fight moved into its final moments and Jack appeared to seize full control of the fight, DeGale stormed back again to land a pair of thudding right hooks around the time the 10-second warning was signaled. Both men made it through the final bell, Jack’s face showing a hint of joy from his strong performance in the final round – perhaps some amazement at DeGale’s final group of punches. Mercante Jr. grabbed both men and brought them together as Jack and DeGale both fittingly raised their gloves to symbolize victory to the raucous crowd. The moment was a stark contrast to Jack’s facial expression several minutes later after hearing the Lederman and Weisfeld cards being read aloud.

Both fighters exerted an inconceivable amount of resilience, discipline and self-determination in their respective attempts to unify the world titles. The majority draw possibly impacted Jack far greater as he received similar decisions in championship bouts in 2015 with Anthony Dirrell and again with Lucian Bute in 2016. To make possibly resolving the matter even more complicated, Jack and Mayweather Promotions president Floyd Mayweather Jr. both advised Showtime’s Jim Gray that the immediate plans for Jack involved moving up to the light heavyweight division.

A good-spirited and respectful DeGale joined Gray for his post-fight analysis, and the Brit confidently stated that despite losing at least one tooth, he was still pretty and easily out-boxed Jack to win the fight. He also pleaded with the dejected Jack and Mayweather Jr. to work out the details with his promoter, Eddie Hearns, to set up a rematch.

Ostensibly decisions mean a great deal in the sport of boxing. Questionable or errant decisions hinder future potential earnings for fighters and their extended teams. In this regard, a draw is better than a loss on an emerging superstar’s record. However, while other professional sports immediately decide a victor with overtime periods, penalty kicks, or extra innings in the sport of boxing, fighters and fans are at the mercy of individuals who don’t wear fighting trunks who engage in activity outside the lines to ultimately reach a decisive winner. There is no 13th round. There aren’t any booth reviews to potentially overturn a controversial call. Mouthpiece takes on a far different meaning.

Deciding to ignore what’s naturally going on with Jack’s body is an extremely detrimental decision, but perhaps doing so and accepting a rematch at 168-pounds will prove to be Jack’s best option after reviewing his immediate prospects at 175-pounds. After all, a thrilling victory in a legendary rematch has traditionally been the cornerstone in the lasting legacy of most of boxing’s all-time greats. At age 33 a second fight with DeGale for Badou Jack represents a great chance to check off an important box on his résumé.

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R.L. Woodson

Cinephile, audiophile, and avid sports fan. I am the creator and host of the Pay Me No Mind sports and entertainment podcast found on TalkLoudRadio. I podcast and write to cope with my continuing struggle to play guitar.

R.L. Woodson

Cinephile, audiophile, and avid sports fan. I am the creator and host of the Pay Me No Mind sports and entertainment podcast found on TalkLoudRadio. I podcast and write to cope with my continuing struggle to play guitar.

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