In case you missed it, (16-1) underdog Caleb “Golden” Truax 29-3-2 (18KO), pulled off the biggest upset of the year when he whipped IBF world super middleweight champion James “Chunky” DeGale 23-2-1 (14KO). Not only was Caleb facing an uphill battle as the underdog, but he had to do it in the champ’s backyard, the Copper Box Arena, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Hackney Wick, London, UK.
DeGale was coming off of an eleven month layoff, recovering from the physical damage inflicted on him by Badou Jack, plus shoulder surgery. Still, no one, except his family and friends, thought Caleb stood much of a chance. The thinking was Caleb was nothing more than a good club fighter. He had a few chances to break into the big time, but came up short against guys like Jermain Taylor, Daniel Jacobs and Anthony Dirrell. He was just another Minnesotan with what seemed to be dashed dreams.
Caleb must have felt like Rodney Dangerfield, who used to famously say, “I don’t get no respect”. The odds, reportedly, were 16-1, and it’s still doubtful many were willing to lay down their hard earned money. But, Caleb and two of his team, Tom Halstad, and Ron Lyke, felt they had a realistic shot at pulling off an upset. Trying to out box DeGale wasn’t in their plan. Instead, as was apparent, they devised a slow cooker type action, gradually tenderizing the champ.
Caleb pounded the body, moving in close and keeping his punches short and straight. When DeGale stepped to his left, Caleb slid in and to his right. When DeGale moved to his right, Caleb moved in and to his left. Much of the time Caleb positioned himself slightly to DeGale’s right side, his body at an angle keeping the target smaller to avoid counters. He did a good job managing distance.
As fans know, a pitter patter attack won’t get the win, and usually it excites no one, especially the judges. But, proper use of different speeds and power can be very effective. If your glove is in front of the opponent’s eyes, it’s pretty hard for him to see well enough to counter punch. So, Caleb not only doubled his jab, he also doubled up and more with his right hands. Once he got into a rhythm, he was able to increase the power, enough so that DeGale’s face started to show a visual record of how well Caleb’s plan was working.
An unwritten rule in boxing is the title must be taken from the champ. There has to be a decisive victory, with no doubt left in the judges mind. That should always be a goal in the challenger’s mind. Saturday in Hackney Wick, UK, the little known fighter from the Anoka Coon Rapids (ACR) gym in Minnesota had more than a hurdle to jump. It was more like a pole vault.
However, In the fifth round, Caleb cleared that cross bar. He and his team felt it, even before the final bell clanged. All the judges had to do was look at DeGale’s face and body. He was bruised and battered with blood oozing out of his swollen mouth and nose. That made it easier, but not that easy for judge Dave Parris. He scored it a draw 114-114. Thankfully for Caleb, the other two scored it in his favor 115-112 and 116-112. What a feeling it must have been for Caleb to hear the words, “the winner and new world champion!”
Caleb fought smart and hammered his way to the top of the heap. Appreciation is yet to come. Even back home, Minnesota’s fight fans have to be roused out of their stupor. You can’t blame them. They’ve been disappointed so many times. Many stopped paying attention, and why not. We’ve had contenders, but for a world champ you have to go way back a couple of generations to days of middleweight champ Mike O’Dowd.
Maybe Caleb’s win isn’t on the level of Douglas vs Tyson, or Braddock over Baer, but unquestionably it warrants more attention than the scant mention it has received so far. The few blogs that even mention the contest almost exclusively talk about DeGale, and his longer lay off, surgery, etc. Obviously, those facts need to be addressed, but as the old saying goes, there’s two sides to every fight. DeGale didn’t just walk into the ring and fall down. Caleb wasn’t just handed the IBF world super middleweight title.
It was a good fight, plenty of action, and lot’s of leather thrown. DeGale showed a lot of skill, initially keeping Caleb off balance and unable to land any hard punches. However, Caleb didn’t plod after him like some straight ahead bozo. He gradually closed the distance, all the while using head movement and a tight guard. His punch out point increased, and he started to find more openings. Maybe “he created more openings” is a better way to describe his attack.
DeGale’s corner wanted him to avoid getting trapped on the ropes, and they wanted him to throw uppercuts. Caleb continued to make DeGale’s plan difficult. He cut off the ring. He positioned himself well making it tough for DeGale to counter, especially an uppercut. The fight was really won in the fifth round with Caleb’s onslaught. He landed hard straight shots and uppercuts. DeGale was in bad shape. From then on, it was Caleb’s fight; although, DeGale still made a fight of it and showed a true champion’s heart. But, he was a mess!
Now, as Caleb pointed out, all those big fights DeGale had planned for are now Caleb’s. This humble University of Minnesota grad, fighting out of the ACR Gym in Minnesota, can take some much deserved time off, not to heal up, but to stir up a little interest back home in the Twin Cities and the good old USA. Get as much ink and air time as you can, Caleb. You deserve it. Congratulations Champ!