I always like to pay special attention to unification bouts. In a perfect world, any young fighter with an alphabet-soup belt would make it his priority to pursue every other fighter in the division who lays claim to a title. If you are going to call yourself the world champion, your pride should push you to fight anybody else who is saying the same for himself.
That is what we will see this weekend in Brooklyn, when IBF super middleweight champion James DeGale of England battles Swedens Badou Jack, the WBC’s recognized champ. The winner of this fight will not exactly sit uncontested at the top of the division–to do that, he will need to take on WBO titlist Gilberto Ramirez.
But if either man can unify the IBF and WBC trinkets, he will significantly raise his stature in the sport.
I am inclined to favor DeGale, who won his belt in May 2015, when he knocked down long-time contender Andre Dirrell twice in Round 2, and held him off late to win by unanimous decision. He has looked very good in defenses against Lucian Bute and Rogelio Medina. DeGale was an Olympic gold medalist. He lost a close split decision to George Groves in 2011, but over the past three years, he has consistently put up the best performances in the division.
Badou Jack took a shocking Round 1 KO against Derek Edwards in February 2014. But he has rebounded since and won the WBC super middleweight title from Andre Dirrell’s brother Anthony in April 2015. In September of that year, he defeated Groves by split decision. I actually don’t think that fight was as close as the cards. While I picked Groves to win ahead of time, I thought Jack’s body work clearly gave him a majority of rounds.
Jack did not look his sharpest against Bute in his sole 2016 fight, last April in D.C. I am picking DeGale to prevail in this fight, but it is worth noting that I am 0-2 this last two times I have picked against Jack.