Live on Sky Sports 1 from 20:00 on Saturday, Britain’s James DeGale takes on slick American Andre Dirrell in a battle of Olympians with the vacant IBF world super-middleweight title at stake.
Dirrell: 24-1 (16 KO) Pro Record
Nicknamed ‘The Matrix,’ 31-year-old Andre Dirrell was born in Flint, Michigan, USA, and is a national amateur championship winner at middleweight in his native country. A standout prospect, Dirrell competed in the 2004 Olympic Games, winning a bronze medal after losing to current WBA world middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin in the semi-finals.
Making his pro debut in 2005, southpaw switch-hitter Dirrell amassed an 18-0 record before being entered into the ‘Super Six’ boxing tournament that was devised to match the best super-middleweight fighters together and eventually unify the world titles in the division.
Losing a close, split decision to Carl Froch, Dirrell then easily outboxed former middleweight champion Arthur Abraham before slipping on the canvas and getting hit whilst down on one knee to earn a disqualification victory. Dirrell was adjudged, by many, to have ‘made a meal’ of the incident, rolling around on the ground after a delayed reaction like football (or soccer) players often do in an attempt to get their opponents penalised.
Refusing to fight his friend, eventual tournament winner and current WBA super-middleweight boss Andre Ward, Dirrell claimed neurological problems derived from the Abraham bout and took twenty-one months out of the sport.
Defeating Darryl Cunningham via a second round KO on his return, Dirrell then took another break from boxing, making his return in February 2013 to best Michael Gbenga on points. Surprise, surprise, the Matrix then waited until August 2014 until he fought again, with Vladine Biosse knocked out in five rounds.
Some consistency then followed as Dirrell beat Nick Brinson and Derek Edwards in a four month period to set up this clash with DeGale for the IBF strap vacated by Carl Froch.
DeGale: 20-1 (14 KO) Pro Record
Born in London, England, southpaw switch-hitter James De Gale is 29-years-of-age and an Olympic Gold medallist after winning the middleweight division in Beijing 2008, which later earned him an M.B.E (Member of the order of the British Empire). Compiling an overall amateur record of 79-16, DeGale signed with promoter Frank Warren in late 2008 and made his debut in 2009.
Defeating Paul Smith for the British super-middleweight title in December 2010, and Alpay Cobal in between, De Gale then faced fellow Englishman George Groves – a man who’d beaten him in the amateurs and was a hated rival.
Losing a close points decision to Groves, DeGale rebounded by defeating Polish boxer Piotr Wilczewski on points to win the EBU (European Boxing Union) super-middleweight title in late 2011.
Long since nicknamed ‘Chunky,’ DeGale won his next seven bouts before facing undefeated American contender Brandon Gonzales in an IBF title eliminator, with the then champion Carl Froch obliged to fight the winner.
DeGale impressively took Gonzales out in the fourth round, but Froch – a man who, as an up-and-comer, complained that former undisputed super-middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe wouldn’t fight him when the Welsh fighter was at the end of his career – opted to vacate his title rather than face DeGale.
Most recently, in a warm-up fight, DeGale impressively KO’d Mexican Marco Antonio Periban – a fighter who’d never been stopped and was a world title challenger – in the third round of their November 2014 bout.
Dirrell v DeGale Betting
Dirrell is offered around 21/20, DeGale is available at even money and you can bet on a draw at 22/1. In terms of method of victory, Dirrell is priced around 4/1 to win by KO/TKO or DQ or 2/1 to win on points, while DeGale is also 4/1 to win by KO/TKO/DQ or 2/1 to win on points.
The Dirrell v DeGale Betting Verdict
Dirrell has fought at a higher level of competition and therefore gets the nod in experience, but he’s had mental issues and has largely been inactive over the past few years, fighting just five times since his defeat of Arthur Abraham in 2010.
DeGale, on the other hand, is the up-and-coming fighter getting his first world title shot, but he was cleverly beaten by George Groves and I think that Dirrell is a better boxer in comparison to ‘St George.’
DeGale impressed when stopping Periban and has improved since his solitary defeat, though, but he hasn’t boxed anyone notable really and could be outfoxed again. He’s also the away fighter, which – as anyone who follows boxing will know – can make a big difference if the bout goes the distance.
All in all, this is a ‘pick em’ fight and with each boxer priced up around even money to win, there’s no real advantage to bettors in the bout winner market. Now, since both Dirrell and DeGale are southpaws, pretty good defensively and therefore hard to hit, the most likely outcome and sensible bet to take is for the bout to last the distance.
After all, there are no KO/TKO losses between Dirrell and DeGale, neither carries a big punch and, as they say in boxing, styles make fights – and two cagey lefties, who also like to switch-hit, should not make for great viewing and a knockout finish. Indeed, if Carl Froch didn’t come close to stopping Dirrell in their fight, why should DeGale?
However, the price about a full twelve-round contest is a mere 1/2 and whilst I think it’s the right option, I don’t like to bet at such prices, even if it is, in betting terms, ‘value.’ Of course, it’s your choice as the reader, but I’m going with a small bet on a draw at 22/1 instead.
It’s only a small bet and probably won’t win, but if the bout plays out as expected, the judges are going to have a hard time deciding who wins and maybe DeGale is perceived to have done enough to get the verdict, but a draw is announced so the home fighter’s big-time promoter can save his man for another day – well, the rematch.
Worth a small punt: Draw at 22/1
Of course, whether you do or don’t opt for a wager, have a great weekend and feel free to contact me on Twitter via @JCLaLiga if you have any questions or feedback.