By Steven Donnell
Well, what a way to kick off the year. We were promised a big night by Floyd Mayweather and Eddie Hearn and we weren’t disappointed.
In the main event, Badou Jack took on James DeGale for the IBF and WBC super-middleweight titles. In my preview I had picked DeGale, saying he would have to much skill for Jack, and as the fight started that’s how it looked like it would turn out. DeGale started quickly and was moving well in the opening round against a cautious looking Jack. Going into the last 30 seconds of the round DeGale sent Jack to the ground with a well-timed overhand left which caught Jack offguard. Even though Jack was up quickly and didn’t look hurt, it was a wake-up call that he was going to have to slow DeGale down.
Regaining his composure in the second round, Jack then started to turn the screw by the third, landing some nice body shots which would pay back in dividends towards the end of the bout. Going into the middle rounds it was Jack who was really establishing himself and his body shots landing with great power and accuracy which was noticeably taking the wind out of DeGale. When DeGale was landing, most of his work seemed to be coming off Jack’s gloves and arms. DeGale seemed to be taking a lot of shots flush which was snapping his head back whilst only landing tapping jabs in return.
Before this fight I had said I think that DeGale could get to Jack on the inside but it was Jack who looked the better and landing big shots on the inside. In round nine, DeGale had to try and stop this onslaught from Jack and DeGale did show his class with a big round but although he was landing more, the quality of Jack’s work was far superior. This late rally from DeGale set us up for a nail biting finish, even though Jack had dominated most of the fight, that knockdown in the first round could prove to be the difference on the cards.
As both came out their respective corners for the final session it was clear that DeGale was a spent force. His face was in a hell of a mess and his legs looked heavy – in contrast Jack, as ever, showed no signs of slowing. After trading some early blows you could see that Jack had lost respect for any power DeGale had and was ready to lay it on him. Jack’s hard work paid off, sending DeGale to the canvas and as DeGale got up you could see he needed the bell. James had nothing left to give and was in survival mode as the relentless Jack went looking for the KO. The end bell came with both going toe-to-toe in the middle of the ring and what a fight this was from start to finish.
For me there was only one winner. The tempo, quality and accuracy of Jack’s work was far better than DeGale’s and when the judges scored it a majority draw I couldn’t help but feel for Badou Jack.
It was a close fight but for me Jack was the clear winner
As a starter before the main course we had Jose Pedraza vs. Gervonta Davis for the IBF super-featherweight title, in a fight I had been intrigued by as it was my first time seeing Davis after hearing he was a top prospect. Against Pedraza he was testing himself at a whole new level – refreshing for a lad of just 22.
Right from round one Davis looked to settle quickly, also sending a warning shot to Pedraza with a beautiful uppercut, thrown as a clear intention that he had came to win the fight. As the early rounds went by anytime Pedraza tried to get his jab working he would be caught by Davis, backing him up, Pedraza just couldn’t read these awkward shots from Gervonta.
It looked as if Pedraza was trying to let Davis gas himself out -which for me was crazy- letting the youngster build up an early lead, whilst landing some big shots of his own. By round four Davis was still unloading and obviously trying to finish this one early but by now Pedraza was having his success landing on Davis’ body while also posturing at every opportunity, trying to get under Davis skin.
At the halfway mark it looked as if Pedraza had sussed out that he could get to Davis on the inside and even had some success there. But it didn’t take the talented youngster long to work things out and he really shook Pedraza up with a beautiful left hook to the body, followed another to the head, and by now Pedraza must have known this was slipping away. The victory came for Davis in the seventh round. By this point there was very little coming back from Pedraza.
Davis was ruthless with his bodyshots then switching to the head with unbelievable accuracy and it all eventually became too much as Davis sent Pedraza to the canvas, through the ropes and although he made it to his feet the ref has seen enough. What a performance from this lad and what a way to announce yourself to the world. On this evidence there is plenty to come from Gervonta Davis and I can’t wait to see him in action again.
Listen to top analysis of the card in this week’s Boxing Asylum podcast
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Image Credit: Boxingsphere (via YouTube)