Thoughts from ‘The Brain’: James DeGale: The future’s bright, the future’s chunky

By Martin ‘The Brain’ Potter of the Boxing Clever Podcast: Picture the scene: It’s 2013, Las Vegas, across the ring from each other stand two former Olympic gold medallists, separated at birth by the Atlantic, but twins in boxing talent. In the red corner stands the worlds number one Super Middleweight, undefeated world champion and Super Six winner, American Andre ‘SOG’ Ward. In the blue corner stands Britain’s undefeated WBO Super Middleweight champion, James ‘Chunky’ DeGale

Although this scenario might appear unrealistic to some, I honestly believe that James DeGale has the talent and ability to allow him to compete against the very best in the world within the next two years. I have watched DeGale’s progress as a professional fighter with interest, and like any great amateur who turns pro it is always intriguing to see how they adapt.

DeGale was up against it on his debut in Birmingham in 2009, as he was booed to the ring before he had even thrown a punch for pay. It seemed that some ‘fans’ had taken against ‘Chunky’, presumably due to his perceived arrogance and cockiness (or maybe just because of his cr*p entry music!). It didn’t help that fellow debutants, Frankie Gavin – the hometown favourite, and Billy Joe-Saunders – a popular fighter of travelling stock, both won by stoppage, whilst DeGale got an easy, if somewhat cautious, points victory.

From that point onwards however DeGale’s career has taken off, leaving the aforementioned Gavin and Saunders firmly in his slipstream. Nine fights, nine wins, seven stoppages and a gradual ramping up in quality of opposition, culminated in a superb stoppage win over the far more experienced British Champion Paul Smith. Prior to the Smith fight, I knew that DeGale was good, very good in fact, and I had tipped him to win. However even I was shocked by just how dominant he was, as he made Smith, 29-1 at the time, look like the nine fight novice. What was most impressive was DeGale’s control of the fight, the way he was able to spin Smith and unload rapid, accurate combinations, whilst taking little back in return.

The problem that DeGale faces now is; what does he do next? Although he has only had nine fights, it seems clear to me that he is simply too good for domestic level. On the flip side pitching him in at world level would still be a huge gamble because he has only had nine fights. The obvious next fight, the one that has been much talked about, is a domestic dust up with Commonwealth Champion and former amateur rival George Groves. A year ago, or even six months ago, I would have found this fight hard to call. Not now.

Groves (or the ‘ugly ginger kid’ as DeGale is fond of calling him) has stagnated in his last two bouts. After an uninspiring win on a big Vegas undercard last July, Groves was almost KO’d on the undercard of Haye-Harrison in November. Credit must go the George because he fought back gamely to score the KO himself against previously unbeaten Scot, Kenny Anderson, in a barnburner of a fight. Yet I just can’t see how Groves, who seems too reliant on trying to put his opponent’s lights out, can pull out a victory against the version of DeGale that mastered Smith.

If a fight with Groves comes off, although I think DeGale will win and win big, it will have the ‘bad blood’ backdrop and will do big business in the UK, which can only be a good thing for the sport. After that I see DeGale going on to European honours and perhaps testing himself against fringe world level fighters towards the end of 2011, before going for world honours in 2012. The WBO belt is the natural one for DeGale to go for first as it is a favoured option of his promoter Frank Warren and would allow him to avoid the big guns such as Froch and Ward, as he dips his toe into world title waters.

DeGale’s style as fighter, awkward yet highly skilled, hands down yet hard to hit and rapid of hand and foot, means that even at this stage he would pose questions for the best in the division, including Ward, Froch and Bute. I don’t think he could beat these fighters yet, he doesn’t have enough rounds under his belt, which is why I think he should continue the gradual build up in opposition, but come 2013 DeGale will be ready for anyone.

The plan is simple: In 2011 consolidate, in 2012 get a belt, in 2013 take over the world! George Groves, Carl Froch, Andre Ward, and Lucian Bute – You have been warned, James DeGale is coming – The future’s bright, the future’s chunky…. Just change the entrance music.

For more opinions from ‘The Brain’ listen to the Boxing Clever Podcast, available on iTunes or at or you can e mail me at

Article posted on 17.01.2011

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