Former Olympic gold medalist James DeGale pounded out at a unanimous-decision win over American Dyah Davis in a 12-round super middleweight attraction in Kent, England, and moved himself closer to a projected world title shot in 2014.
All three judges scored the bout 118-110.
DeGale, THE RING’s No. 10 at 168 pounds, got off to a fast start and had reasonable success out of his southpaw stance in the opening six rounds. The action did switch momentarily when Davis, son of 1976 Olympic gold medalist Howard Davis, burst his opponent’s nose with a right hand, but the former amateur standout regained his foothold to close out decisively.
Both men were tight in Round 1, although DeGale took the lead and sent a clear message of intent with one memorable combination. Davis (22-4-1, 10 knockouts) will never be regaled as a power puncher, but he is defensively adept and made the Londoner work hard for the openings he located.
In the second the British star unveiled his ability to switch hit and landed a brilliant left hook from the orthodox stance, which stunned Davis. At this point the American veteran was finding it difficult to counter effectively and appeared open but, as he has in previous fights, DeGale smothered his own work and lost the opportunity to follow up.
DeGale elected to let Davis take the lead in the third and fourth and utilized his defensive prowess. Sometimes this looked impressive, as he effortlessly let Davis’ shots to miss by centimeters but quite often, when he attempted to counter, the shots were telegraphed and inaccurate.
By contrast, the fifth was a fantastic session for DeGale, who can produce real quality when the moment moves him. He timed Davis perfectly and exploded on the counter, backing his man off with a sustained volley to head and body. The American, who had sparred with Andre Dirrell in training, relied on his nine years of professional experience to survive, but another jolting straight right from the orthodox stance caught him flush as the home crowd erupted.
There was more eye-catching defense from DeGale in the sixth and seventh, but one sensed that he was now in sparring mode. The sudden drop in activity seemed to energize Davis, who decided to become a bit more ambitious, and the Brit was perhaps guilty of being a touch lethargic by the midway point.
Still, the issue with drifting, in a fight where you have a clear advantage, is that it allows your opponent to get brave, and Davis was encouraged enough to land his best shot of the fight in Round 8. A straight right hand immediately drew blood from DeGale’s nose and the 27-year-old seemed short on ideas as Davis backed him up continuously.
The American retained the momentum in Round 9 and his punches were sharp and accurate. DeGale lacked energy, appeared distracted, and almost bored at this point in the contest, although he was not in physical distress. That said, the crowd was silent and flashes of genius were in short supply.
The action changed in an eye blink in Round 10. At the urging of his trainer, Jim McDonnell, DeGale opened up and smashed home a thumping left hand from the southpaw stance, which landed with an audible thud and wobbled Davis to his boots. Any chance the American had to turn the fight around vanished as DeGale retained his focus and began scoring at will.
Single shots and two-punch combinations came thick and fast from DeGale in the closing two sessions, although he could have done without some misplaced showboating in the closing moments of the fight.
DeGale (17-1, 11 KOs) is undoubtedly one of the most talented fighters in Britain. The Londoner’s sole loss to countryman George Groves, who outpointed him in May 2011, and his unsportsmanlike behavior prior to that fight, made him somewhat of a pariah, but he has returned to title contention on merit and promises to fulfill his potential.
“Some of it was nice tonight, but I’m not completely pleased, to be honest,” said DeGale. “I don’t care who is next, all I want is my chance and once I get that chance I will grab it with both hands. Nobody has seen the best of me yet.”
Carl Froch and Groves collide in Manchester for the former’s IBF super middleweight title on Nov. 23. If the champion triumphs he will likely target bigger game, but if Groves springs the upset then a rematch with DeGale would do huge business based on the bad blood which has existed between both men for years.
Still, the more likely scenario for DeGale, in early 2014, is a final eliminator against Mexican Marco Antonio Periban, who recently dropped a majority decision to new WBC titlist Sakio Bika. Either way the former Olympian has shown that he is now ready for a step up in class and is eager to make a move.
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing