Boxing weekend review: James DeGale wins Euro title
We look back at the best of the weekend's boxing, including James DeGale's defeat of Piotr Wilczewski
Boxer of the weekend
James DeGale. Five months after his first professional loss to George Groves, the Olympic gold medallist made his comeback against once defeated European champion, Piotr Wilczewski in Liverpool on Saturday night. Against arguably his hardest opponent to date, DeGale exhibited all of his strengths and weaknesses as he edged a majority decision, the judges’ cards reading 114-114, 113-115, 113-115. The Londoner, as has come to be expected, used his good footwork and fast reflexes to hit his Polish opponent with quick flurries. However, DeGale was also naive, had defensive frailties and once again showed an unwillingness to change tactics. Yet DeGale made these mistakes, suffered a cut and took a massive right hand, which pierced his ear drum, and still managed to prevail. The man known as “Chunky” dealt with the adversity and showed that he can battle to victory despite things not going his way. Wilczewski was a very tough champion and punished DeGale more than any other opponent, but the Pole was unable to cope with the Britons’ superior fitness. With this victory, DeGale’s accomplishments must be put into perspective; in just 12 professional fights he has won the British and European titles despite suffering a loss last time out, there are few British boxers who have ever accomplished so much, so soon.
Fight of the weekend
Nathan Cleverly v Toney Bellew. The two rivals faced each other in Bellew’s home town of Liverpool on Saturday night and competed ferociously for the 12 rounds. Bellew implemented an effective double jab in the early rounds which caught Cleverly by surprise and made it difficult for the Welshman to initiate his own game plan. However, Cleverly was effective up close and was able to wear Bellew down with sapping body shots and powerful right uppercuts. The middle rounds remained much the same, both fighters evenly matched, making it difficult to determine who was the winning the rounds. Cleverly was throwing more punches, but Bellew was landing the heavier blows. By the end of the eighth round Bellew was tiring and Cleverly began to make his superior fitness show, outpunching his opponent and looking lighter on his feet. Bellew remained defiant until the end, still landing heavy blows at times, most notably in the tenth when he rattled Cleverly with two huge right hands, however, the champion recovered well and never looked in too much trouble. By the 12th round Cleverly was landing almost at will with swinging left and right hooks and seemed in no doubt that he was victorious when the final bell rang. The contest was very entertaining and had the home fans chanting throughout. A rematch is already being suggested.
Knockout of the weekend
Antonio DeMarco. On Saturday night in Las Vegas Antonio DeMarco lost almost every round going into the 11th in his lightweight bout against Jorge Linares for the vacant WBC title. However, the contender managed to stay in the fight and was able to slowly wear down his opponent with relentless pressure. He was also greatly aided by the massive cut Linares sustained early on in the bout. By the 11th round DeMarco was continually firing powerful blows to his opponents head; Linares’ face was covered in blood and he eventually stopped retaliating late in the round, forcing the referee to stop the fight and handing DeMarco the victory. This technical knockout was not a one-punch KO that fans love so much, rather it was impressive because it showed the brutality of boxing. Linares was just over three minutes away from becoming a two weight world title holder, but instead DeMarco beat him into submission. Bouts like these can make the sport popular, a seemingly inevitable result being snatched away late in the fight. If only more people were watching.
Decision of the weekend
Paying for pay-per-view. British fight fans recently have been able to watch some of America’s most heavily publicised fights for free (if they are already paying for Sky Sports), namely Mayweather v Ortiz and Hopkins v Dawson. However, US citizens had to pay up to $60 for each fight. When you consider that for around $120 dollars they have witnessed less than six rounds of action, it is not hard to imagine why boxing is now strictly a secondary sport in America. Until all fans are able to watch boxers fight on a regular basis without paying extortionate fees, the sport has no chance of growing its fan base. Sadly, apart from Mick Hennessey, boxing’s biggest promoters show little interest in growing the sport through domestic television. Hennessey’s last fight shown on British terrestrial TV, the heavyweight bout between Tyson Fury and Dereck Chisora was watched by over 2.6m viewers, more than any pay-per-view fight in history. From this alone it is evident that a lot of people still enjoy watching boxing, but they are not willing to hand over huge amounts of money every time. If boxing is to have a long term future, it needs to reach a wider audience more frequently, terrestrial TV can be a part of the solution.