According to ESPN.com’s UK outlet, rising prospect and 2008 Olympic gold medalist James “Chunky” DeGale will return to the ring on Oct. 13 to defend his European super middleweight boxing title against Hadillah Mohoumadi of France.
DeGale (12-1, 9 KO) was last seen in April when he defended his European title against the rugged and bullish Cristian Sanavia in four clinical rounds. Given that he has fought only once in 2012, DeGale’s ring return is long overdue, and now that he has split with Frank Warren and signed with Hennessy Sports, DeGale is looking to rebuild his career’s momentum.
According to the above-cited ESPN article, Hennessy has deal with Channel 5 and promotes the likes of Tyson Fury, all of which should be appealing to DeGale. Television exposure and promotional security will hopefully ensure that DeGale remains active and moves from European to world level.
DeGale’s talent is unquestioned, and his only career defeat was to bitter rival George Groves in a controversial fight. While a rematch is unavoidable and would do big business in the UK, DeGale must first reassert his dominance over continental competition that might not, at first, offer marquee names.
Mohoumadi (13-2-1, 9 KO) is such a case, and it seems likely that DeGale will have little difficulty disposing of an opponent who has lost both times he has truly stepped up in class. Most notably, Mohoumadi lost an eight-round decision to the aforementioned Sanavia, whom DeGale thoroughly dominated.
Having won the French super middleweight title two fights ago, Mohoumadi appears to have solid power and has not been stopped in either of his defeats. That said, he is ultimately a weak challenger for a European title, which is only excusable due to DeGale’s sporadic activity and need build towards a more significant fight.
Given that the Mohoumadi fight will likely provide DeGale the platform to look sharp and work on new aspects of his craft, let’s breakdown DeGale’s last performance against Sanavia—a former European champion and world titlist—in terms of what he did well and where he can improve based on notes taken during Chunky’s last fight.
Things to Work on
DeGale had a massive height advantage of four to five inches, which should have allowed the taller man to control range with a strong jab. While DeGale did use a stiff jab from both an orthodox and southpaw stance—sometimes even doubling and tripling the punch—he too often allowed Sanavia to back him up.
Fighting with his back to the ropes proved dangerous for DeGale, as Sanavia’s best chance to do damage was on the inside by bullying his way forward and trapping the former British Olympian.
To DeGale’s credit, he did show class on the ropes by slipping punches and taking a number of blows on his (usually) well-placed guard. Nevertheless, seeing the diminutive Italian back up the athletically superior DeGale was somewhat disconcerting.
There is no need for someone of DeGale’s skill to move backward and fight off the ropes. What got DeGale in trouble was trying to slip punches with his lead hand at his waist as he pulled back. Sanavia was able to hit Chunky with a few solid left hands when DeGale dropped his right, and the Italian was perhaps robbed of a clean, flash knockdown when DeGale was tagged and clung to the ropes for support.
Though he was not hurt, DeGale wants to avoid taking a chance like that with a world-class fighter who punches harder than Sanavia.
Also, DeGale’s constant switching from southpaw to orthodox seemed little more than posturing to prove he could do it, and he would have been better served sticking to his natural southpaw stance and keeping a high guard.
Things to Like
In less than four full rounds of fighting, DeGale showed measured commitment to body punching, and his digging hooks proved especially effective. He often finished combinations with crisp body shots, and there was a consistent effort to vary his offensive output.
Another weapon DeGale used was his uppercut. As Sanavia moved forward with little head movement, DeGale was able to time his opponent with step-back uppercuts that often stopped Sanavia dead in his tracks. DeGale would have been better served using the uppercut to try to time Sanavia more regularly over the first three rounds.
DeGale will likely be able to get away with lapses in concentration against the likes of Mohoumadi, but correcting certain fundamental breakdowns for fights against more naturally gifted opponents is advisable.
DeGale has an abundance of talent and a marketable name, and after one or two defenses of his European title, he should be ready for a significant, world-level fight.