James DeGale will look to unify the super-middleweight division on Saturday night (14 January) when he takes on Badou Jack with the IBF and WBC titles on the line at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn, New York.
How to watch
It will be another late night for UK viewers; ring walks for Jack vs DeGale are expected at approximately 3am UK time in the early hours of Sunday. Sky Sports 1 will be providing live coverage of the card, with the broadcast beginning at 2am.
Having started on the same path together, James DeGale and Badou Jack meet again at the top. At the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, the little-known amateurs began their journey, with DeGale going onto become the first British boxer in 40 years to win middleweight gold. Jack, born in Stockholm, opted to represent Gambia where his father was born and was selected as his nation's flag bearer. While DeGale triumphed, he was eliminated at the first round.
Having sometimes perhaps flattered to deceive, it took Jack's 2014 defeat to Derek Edwards for him to truly rally and begin making serious waves in the middleweight division. Victories over Jason Escalera and Francisco Sierra saw him rise up the WBC rankings, earning a title shot against Anthony Dirrell in April 2015, securing his first world title with a relatively comfortable majority decision.
After putting another nail in George Groves' world title aspirations in September 2015 in convincingly outpointing the Briton, Jack was unlucky to have to settle for a draw in his third title defence against the weathered Lucian Bute. But it was a performance that may make you wonder if there is something missing, or if he has reached his peak.
There could be limitations for DeGale to expose. The Londoner is one of the slickest operators in his weight with his unorthodox style problematic for anyone looking to halt him. After his controversial 2011 defeat to Groves – a man who has been intrinsically linked with the careers of both these fighters – DeGale's career stalled, meandering through fights without the consistent backing of a single promoter.
After stopping Brandon Gonzales in 2014, he was firmly back on track, dismissing Marco Antonio Periban in three rounds before taking the IBF crown from Andre Dirrell – brother of Anthony, the man Jack dethroned. An impressive defence against the tireless Bute was followed by a somewhat lacklustre one against Rogelio Medina, a performance that encouraged Jack to take this fight, according to DeGale himself. While that performance fell short, DeGale's skillset should ensure a frustrating night for Jack.
What they said:
James DeGale: "I've taken it to another level in camp and am feeling great, you're going to see that on fight night.
"I'm not thinking that I'm too good for Jack, but the way I've been in sparring and training, it's all gone right for me.
"I need to be fully focused and concentrate for 12 rounds and then I will be the unified champ. I can't switch off. If I think for any moment that I can lay on the ropes or take rounds off then I will lose.
Badou Jack: "I rate him as a great fighter. His herky-jerky style might not be so pretty, but he's an Olympic gold medallist. He's gone to people's home towns and deserves more credit than he gets, because he is a great fighter. [via Sky Sports]
"I want him to be in the best possible shape so we can put up a great fight for the fans and after the fight I don't want to hear no excuses." [via Sky Sports]
Badou Jack: 23 fights, 20 wins (12 via knockout) one loss, two draws
- (D) Lucian Bute – majority decision – April 2016
- (W) George Groves – split decision – September 2015
- (W) Anthony Dirrell – majority decision – April 2015
James DeGale: 24 fights, 23 wins (14 via knockout), one loss
- (W) Rogelio Medina – unanimous decision – April 2016
- (W) Lucian Bute – unanimous decision – November 2015
- (W) Andre Dirrell – unanimous decision – May 2015
Providing he doesn't get stuck in second gear as he did against Medina, DeGale might just be too slick, too sharp and too smart for Jack. A victory for 'Chunky' via unanimous decision.
Odds [via Betfair]
Jack win – 5/2
DeGale win – 2/5
Draw – 25/1