James DeGale Beats Andre Dirrell In Surprisingly Good Fight

James DeGale and Andre Dirrell waged a close battle Saturday on NBC — and it was actually a battle, contrary to our expectations of a hunt-and-peck affair — and DeGale came out on top by decision, despite visiting from the U.K. and taking on the “house” fighter.

The two super middleweights took turns being totally sloppy, which was both to their discredit and made the bout better than it deserved to be. A great many of the rounds were close and difficult to score, save the 2nd, when DeGale, capitalizing on Dirrell’s aggression following an exchange that gave Dirrell confidence, dropped him twice.

For a while longer, Dirrell couldn’t get out of the way of DeGale’s overhand left, partially because he spent so much of the fight backing up with his hands down. Perhaps Dirrell making a living off his reflexes was coming back to bite him here, because he showed no sign of even knowing how to defend himself, and he has slowed some.

But toward the middle rounds, and definitely in the later ones, Dirrell tightened up and got smartly aggressive, just as DeGale began to slow. DeGale might’ve won the 11th or 12th, but the rounds after the 6th belonged to Dirrell.

I scored it a draw; two judges scored it 114-112 for DeGale, and a third, apparently sipping on a heroin Slurpee between rounds, scored it 117-109 for DeGale. Either guy could’ve won; nobody won it 117-109.

DeGale gets a very nice win here, yet the quality of the win is mitigated by his middle/late round fade. Dirrell suffers his second loss, but demonstrated some grit we weren’t sure he had with his middle/late round surge. Both remain in the mix in the top 10 of the 168-pound ranks, slightly damaged and slightly elevated at the same time. Perhaps this victory gets DeGale closer to a shot at Carl Froch, but Froch these days seems to be looking to Gennady Golovkin, so the future’s wide open for both of Saturday’s combatants.

(photo: James DeGale, via @premierboxing)

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.