DeGale gunning for historic world championship triumph over Dirrell
James DeGale will soon enter Boston’s Agganis Arena aiming to make boxing history in his bout with Andre Dirrell, as the 29-year-old attempts to become the first British Olympic gold medallist to win a world title.
The Harlesden-born southpaw can finally complete what many others have failed to do in the past and hold both a gold medal and world title belt, with Chris Finnegan having come closest so far in 1972 when he was eventually knocked out by Bob Foster in the 14th round when he fought for the WBC and WBA light-heavyweight titles.
‘Chunky’ DeGale’s latest bid for boxing history will take place in the early hours of Sunday morning, when he comes face-to-face with 31-year-old Dirrell, whose only career defeat came to Carl Froch in 2009, and ironically it’s ‘the Cobra’s’ recently vacated IBF super-middleweight title the pair will be fighting for.
DeGale became an Olympic champion during the 2008 Beijing games, and is extremely driven towards earning a historic night in the United States (7/2 with Coral for KO or TKO win), but believes his own talent will hinder any further chances if he comes up short.
“It’s a chance that I can’t let slip,” stated DeGale. “People aren’t going to give me opportunities again, because I’m too good.
“No one is going to fight me for a voluntary defence so I’ve got to take this chance.”
Audley Harrison was the last British fighter to attempt this historic feat, but was clinically knocked out by David Haye when he challenged for his fellow Brit’s WBA heavyweight title in 2010, and DeGale is determined to go one step further against Dirrell.
“History is going to be made, I’m telling you. I’ve trained too hard, I’ve come too far in my career to fail now. It would mean everything to me,” he continued.
“I keep saying it’s time to make history and to be the first British Olympic gold medallist to win a world title is going to be special.”
Both fighters have lost just once in their careers to date, with DeGale having suffered his only setback in 21 professional bouts against George Groves in 2011, but his next opposition is being spurred on by a shock title loss within his family and is 15/8 win a points decision.
Dirrell’s younger brother Anthony was recently deposed as WBC super-middleweight champion in Chicago, despite being the overwhelming favourite to retain the title, but his stunning defeat to Badou Jack is inspiring the older sibling towards victory against DeGale.
“I feel great, I feel like a champion, I’ve worked my butt off and I’m ready to go.”
The American, nicknamed ‘the Matrix’, has an Olympic medal of his own, having received bronze during the 2004 Athens games, but he failed in his only other world title shot in 2009 when he was overcome by Froch when they fought for the WBC crown in Nottingham.
“Yes it hurt [Froch defeat]. For anybody naturally it would. I know all my talents, I know what I possess and not being able to perform was just like being locked up,” continued Dirrell.
“It was like I had the handcuffs on. I had all this talent but no opportunity to do anything about it. I know I’m pound-for-pound and this year I will prove it.
“I wouldn’t say I’m a different fighter these days. To change my whole style up would be pretty much impossible for any fighter to do. What I did was critique my style, make it better, make it sharper and bring a stronger mental aspect of it. I’m a more seasoned fighter now.”
Watch DeGale get taunted by Dirrell’s brother during a live media workout with his trainer.