Last Saturday night, Showtime broadcast a double bill from Washington D.C., with both WBC super middleweight champ Badou Jack and IBF title-holder James DeGale defending their belts. The path should be set now for a unification fight at 168 pounds later this year.
DeGale defeated tough Mexican challenger Rogelio “Porky” Medina by unanimous decision. At 27, Medina is a classic example of a Mexican School of Hardknocks graduate, a fighter who turned pro as a teenager, was never protected, and developed into a contender while swimming way over his head. His breakout fight was an upset stoppage of J’Leon Love in August 2014. Against DeGale, he worked at a furious pace, but the champion threw the far more accurate and effective punches.
Still, it was not DeGale’s finest performance. I thought he could have saved himself a lot of trouble by getting busier with the jab.
Badou Jack defended his strap against former champion Lucian Bute, who lost a tough fight to DeGale last year. Jack put in outstanding work to Bute’s body, but the old veteran fought at a furious pace in the final two rounds and managed to earn a majority draw. Frankly, I think that’s pretty shabby scoring by two of the three judges. I had Jack escaping with eight rounds, even with Bute taking the final two.
Either way, Jack and DeGale should face off later in the year. The 168-pound division is suddenly emerging as an exciting one in 2016. Last month, Gilberto Ramirez looked like a potential star when he easily defeated WBO champion Arthur Abraham on the Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley undercard.
The fourth belt in the division belongs to former middleweight champion Felix Sturm, who managed to lift the WBA strap off from Fedor Chudinov with a majority decision last February in Germany. I don’t necessarily expect that veteran will ever leave his comfortable home country to get in the mix in the division. But the three young champions–Ramirez, DeGale and Jack–should now be circling each other like sharks waiting to attack.