After shoulder surgery in June, James Degale made his comeback in December in what was supposed to be a routine defence of his IBF super-middleweight title against Caleb Truax. However, Truax didn’t read the script, as he took a majority decision win in what was one of the biggest upsets in boxing last year. It was a deserved win, as the unfancied American outworked and outhustled the Londoner over the 12 rounds. Four months later, the pair get ready to do it all over again, as they meet in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
For Truax, 29-3-2 (18), last year was the culmination of one of boxing’s more heartwarming stories. Taking up boxing in college, he turned professional in order to pay off his student loan. Having fully paid for his degree, he became a world champion at the second time of asking with a career-best showing at the Copper Box, something which looked highly improbable after stoppage losses to Danny Jacobs and Anthony Dirrell. Now, his reward is another big payday, and a debut in boxing’s capital of the world. Can he produce the same level of performance to retain his belt and keep the fairytale alive?
For Degale, 23-2-1 (14), this fight represents perhaps his last chance to get back among the elite at 168lbs. Win, and the possibility of another grudge match with old rival George Groves, or fellow WBSS finalist Callum Smith is still on. Lose, and he may have reached a dead end in his career. Possibly with this in mind, Degale recently added former light-welterweight and welterweight champion Paulie Malignaggi to his training camp in addition to long-time head trainer Jim McDonnell.
The question of what condition his shoulder is in will be key. In December, despite Degale saying otherwise going into the fight, it was clear that he was not at 100%. He was unable to throw the jab with any real conviction, and therefore could not discourage the relentless Truax, who bullied him on the ropes for much of the fight. However, four months on, will his shoulder be in better condition?
If DeGale’s shoulder is in better condition than last time, it could be enough to see him to edge a decision win on Saturday. However, at 32, and having been in a number of tough fights, ‘Chunky’ is no spring chicken anymore. Have we seen the best of James Degale, or is there more to come from the former Olympic champion? A close DeGale unanimous decision is the most likely outcome on Saturday. The four months to recuperate may prove just enough for DeGale to seal the win here.