The super middleweight unification fight between world titleholders James DeGale and Badou Jack, the two best at 168 pounds, is viewed by many as a 50-50 contest as they battle for division supremacy on Saturday night (Showtime, 9:30 p.m. ET with preliminaries on Showtime Extreme beginning at 7 p.m. ET/PT) at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, in the first major bout of 2017.
One of the ways to glean insight into any particular matchup is to examine results against common opponents, if there are any. It doesn’t always mean much but at the very least it makes for good conversation.
In the case of Sweden’s Jack (20-1-2, 12 KOs), 33, who lives in Las Vegas, and England’s DeGale (23-1, 14 KOs), 30, they have four common opponents, all of whom represented solid opposition at the time they met.
On the same card in Washington, D.C., in April, they each fought an opponent the other guy had already faced. In the main event, Jack retained his title by dubious draw against Lucian Bute (who tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug after the bout) in a fight virtually everyone thought Jack won. In the co-feature, DeGale outpointed mandatory challenger Rogelio “Porky” Medina in a less-than-impressive performance.
In DeGale’s previous fight, in November 2015, he turned back a very tough challenge from Bute in a hard-fought unanimous decision to retain his belt on Bute’s turf in Quebec City. In 2013, Medina was competitive with Jack before Jack eventually knocked him out in the sixth round of a nontitle fight.
DeGale and Jack have also both boxed perennial contender George Groves and former fringe contender Marco Antonio Periban.
In September 2015, Jack made his first defense against Groves, dropping him in the first round and winning a split decision in a fight most thought Jack clearly won. In 2011, in a heavily-hyped fight against his former amateur rival, DeGale suffered his only pro defeat, a majority decision loss to Groves in a very close fight for the British and Commonwealth title. Many thought DeGale deserved a close decision.
"I don't care about old fights, if he went 12 rounds with this guy and this guy. Me and DeGale have to fight, so whatever happened in the past, it don't matter." Badou Jack
In 2014, in the fight before DeGale won his belt, he blasted out Periban in the third round. In 2013, Jack was held to a 10-round draw by Periban.
So what, if anything, can we take from those results?
“I don't care about old fights, if he went 12 rounds with this guy and this guy,” Jack said on a recent conference call he shared with DeGale to talk to boxing media about the fight. “Me and DeGale have to fight, so whatever happened in the past, it don't matter.”
DeGale responded directly to Jack: “You went life and death with Periban. Life and death. I knocked him out in three rounds. That don't mean nothing right now. It's me and you, baby."
Neither man said he is putting much stock in the results they have against common opponents, but each addressed them.
Jack’s view: “My fight with Bute wasn't a draw, plus he was on steroids when we fought. So, I mean Bute said it himself that my fight with him was one I won clearly. George Groves, that was a long time ago when James fought him. I fought him two years ago. Medina, I knocked him out but you can say Medina probably was in better shape when he fought DeGale. Because he probably had a longer time to prepare because it was a title fight. Periban maybe -- yes -- he was in better shape for my fight. That was also a controversial draw. That's why it's an interesting fight. We've got a lot of common opponents. But come fight night it'll be a brand-new fight.”
"You went life and death with Periban. Life and death. I knocked him out in three rounds. That don't mean nothing right now. It's me and you, baby." James DeGale
DeGale’s perspective: “Right, so let's go through mine. When I boxed Bute, yes, I absolutely battered him for six rounds. Battered him. Well I battered him for the whole fight, yes. And then Badou Jack boxed Lucian Bute and it came out he was on drugs. Do you really think Lucian Bute wasn't on performing-enhancing drugs when he boxed me? Of course, he was, don't be stupid. Did you see the way he finished the fight? Did you see how strong he was? Had a lot -- listen -- any fighter fatigues in a 12-round fight. Did you see how strong he finished it? Constantly on me. Badou Jack knows but I absolutely battered Lucian Bute, right?
“Who else is there? There's Periban. He had life and death with Periban. I knocked him out in three rounds. OK, he could say he wasn't in good shape. It don't matter, I still hit him, I still dropped him and he got knocked out and (Jack) had life and death (with him). George Groves, I was a nine-fight novice. I was immature, I was young, I wasn't experience, I was terrible. It was all wrong. And it was still (close). Badou Jack boxed well in that fight and once again that was a close fight with him. And Medina? Oh man, that guy, like, literally before I went in I was like this guy shouldn't even last four rounds with me. But I nearly come unstuck because he was fit and he pushed me. He was strong, he was big, so yes, styles make fights. As Badou Jack says, when we get in there it's me and him. The best fighting the best, whoever comes out is the champ. That's it.”