He was ten, and thought it a good idea to try his hand at boxing. James DeGale walked into a North London Gym, and a coach there took a look at him.
He was tagged “Chunky,” immediately, and the nickname stuck, while he advanced as an amateur, won a gold medal for England (2008) and advanced to being on the cusp of winning a world championship, at 168 pounds.”I was chubby, yeah,” the 20-1 (14 Kos) hitter told me, “but basically, I was fat and the trainer didn't want to be rude to me.”
Many US fight fans haven't seen Chunky, whose sole loss came to a 12-0 George Groves in 2012, doing his thing. They will be coming cold to the TV or the arena in Boston where the Brit, who checked in from Miami, before trekking to Beantown in the AM, will be facing Andre Dirrell (24-1 with 16 KOs; age 31). So I asked him to give me a self-scouting report…
A 29-year-old boxer who switches stances, he told me. “I show a little bit of everything,” he stated. “But don't underestimate me, when I have to get down and dirty I will.” His strongest hand is his right, he reports, and he feels basically as comfortable fighting righty or lefty. Chunky thinks highly of the Michiganer Dirrell, telling me that he thinks he and the US man have similar styles. He believes with so much on the line and with both men being so confident, the styles will mesh nicely, however, on a scrap which is part of the PBC series, and will run on NBC (4:30 PM ET) in the US. (And on SKY, in prime-time, in the UK).
“Dirrell is very, very good and has a good pedigree and his record speaks for itself. He's a tall southpaw, he can switch, he's similar to me. But I've seen weaknesses, faults.”
Such as he incurred brain damage in a 2010 fight vs. Arthur Abraham and took time off to heal up…”Yep, that's a weird one, he had that long layoff. And his last four opponents haven't been world class, guys not near me, he's jumping up in class, from glorified journeyman to a former gold medallist!”
DeGale told me he's quite well known in the UK, with a “love him or hate him” persona. I told him that seems maybe a bit strange, he seems pleasant to me. I told him I see the same thing with Amir Khan. What's up with that? “I'm like Marmite,” he said. “It's weird, the fight fans there can be a bit weird sometimes. But I got my fans, and the fans there come together, and will back me fully when I come back to England with that world title. It's been like a dream for me, to fight in America for a world title. My prediction? I'm obviously gonna win,” he said, not in a brash or too cocky way, “and I want to be the first gold winner to win a world title. If I have to box I will, if I have to fight, I will. I think Dirrell thinks it'll be a boxing match…I don't think it is. I think he struggles with inside work, when it gets hard. I don't think he likes it like that, and maybe I have to rough him up.”
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