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Showtime boxing preview: Jack vs Bute, DeGale vs Medina

Badou Jack and James DeGale make title defenses tomorrow night on Showtime.

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Tomorrow night at 10 pm EDT on Showtime, a super middleweight doubleheader will serve as a mini-tournament, with two world titles on the line and the winners likely to square off by the end of 2016.

In the main event, Badou Jack defends the WBC title against a former titleholder in Lucian Bute, who may be getting his last crack at a belt. In the co-feature, James DeGale defends the IBF belt against mandatory challenger Rogelio Medina.

Here's a look at both matchups.

Badou Jack vs Lucian Bute

Showtime Championship Boxing Washington DC Landmark Shoot

Badou Jack

Record: 20-1-1 (12 KO) ... Streak: W4 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 8-1-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 6'1" / 73" ... Age: 32

Thoughts: There was a point not too long ago that Badou Jack looked like a busted prospect. He was never really as impressive as he was supposed to be. That started back in 2012, when he had to scrape past Alexander Brand in an eight round split decision. We know now that Brand is a decent and difficult fighter, but still, it was not a good sign.

In 2013, he went to a 10-round draw with Marco Antonio Periban. Again, a decent opponent, but Jack was supposed to be a possible star. In 2014, he was knocked out in the first round by Derek Edwards. If you had written Jack off then, no one would have blamed you.

But since that fight, he's come back strong, winning four in a row over Jason Escalera, Francisco Sierra, and most importantly, Anthony Dirrell and George Groves. Against Dirrell, he won the WBC super middleweight title by majority decision. Against Groves, he retained it by split decision.

Neither of those fights made Jack look like a star, really, but he's at worst a pretty good fighter, one who has rebounded nicely from what could have been a career-burying setback. I still struggle to see him as truly elite, and in this matchup, my head says Jack, but my gut is kind of leaning the other way. It sort of feels like a title run destined to be short, and always has.

Lucian Bute

Record: 32-3 (25 KO) ... Streak: L1 ... Last 5: 2-3 ... Last 10: 7-3 ... Stance: Southpaw ... Height/Reach: 6'1½" / 72" ... Age: 36

Thoughts: Bute looked pretty good last November, when he dropped a decision to James DeGale. In fact, it was probably the best he'd looked in a fight since 2011, when he wiped out Jean-Paul Mendy in four rounds. Even his follow-up win over Glen Johnson, a shutout decision, was a sort of listless performance, some blaming it on the fact that Bute and Johnson were friends and not looking to do any real damage.

Bute's last five fights have been a mixed bag at best. He was absolutely trucked by Carl Froch in May 2012, came back a bit over five months later to struggle past Denis Grachev, then was gone for 14 months before a loss to Jean Pascal in January 2014. He easily beat Andrea di Luisa in August of last year, following a 19 month layoff, then lost to DeGale. While his performance was pretty admirable, he did lose, and clearly so. And against his last three "top level" opponents, Bute is 0-3.

In fact, if you look back over Bute's career, there are a lot of holes to be poked in his record. While at one time he was considered the second-best super middleweight in the world behind Mikkel Kessler and then behind Andre Ward, maybe he really wasn't. The Super Six World Boxing Classic separated the wheat from the chaff within its own ranks, and Bute didn't have to deal with fighting those guys since he was outside of the tournament. While they were all banging around with one another, Bute was fighting Librado Andrade, Edison Miranda, Jesse Brinkley, Brian Magee, Jean-Paul Mendy, and Glen Johnson. The best wins in his career are probably Andrade, Magee, and Sakio Bika. And he's certainly not getting any younger.

But if Bute can fight at the level he did against DeGale, he can win this fight. It won't be easy, but Jack is -- as Bute himself has said -- frankly just not quite as good as DeGale, or at least that's how I see it.

Matchup Grade: B-. On paper, this might only deserve a C or C+. Bute is 2-3 in his last five, hasn't beaten someone even considered a contender since 2011 (a washed-up Glen Johnson), and Jack would be the best win of his career, and that coming at age 36 seems unlikely. But styles make fights, and I think this one is more dangerous for Jack than the on-paper matchup might suggest. Bute's southpaw power, especially on his body shots, could be a problem. And again: if he fights as well as he did against DeGale, he's got a real shot at the win here. Jack is working on two straight solid wins, but neither were easy for him.

James DeGale vs Rogelio Medina

Showtime Championship Boxing Washington DC Landmark Shoot

James DeGale

Record: 22-1 (14 KO) ... Streak: W12 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Southpaw ... Height/Reach: 6'0" / 74" ... Age: 30

Thoughts: DeGale might be the best super middleweight in the world today. I had him ranked No. 1 at the end of 2015, and the only argument then was Arthur Abraham. Since Abraham was shut down by longer, taller, younger Gilberto Ramirez, I don't see a great argument right now for anyone else. Well, maybe for Ramirez, I guess.

In his last four fights in particular, DeGale, a 2008 Olympic gold medalist, seems to have really come into his own. His 2011 loss to rival George Groves in a prospect versus prospect showdown is behind him, and so are the somewhat uninspired performances that followed for a bit, against the likes of Piotr Wilczewski, Hadillah Mohoumadi, Fulgencio Zuniga, Dyah Davis, and Gevorg Khatchikian. In each of those fights, DeGale showed his talent in spurts, but also felt at times like a fighter going through the motions.

Once he signed with Matchroom Boxing, things picked up. DeGale smashed Brandon Gonzales in four rounds, stopped Marco Antonio Periban in three rounds, then beat Andre Dirrell for the vacant IBF title, and defended successfully against Lucian Bute on the road in Montreal. These last two years have been really good for DeGale, and he looks like the fighter he was hyped to be coming out of Beijing.

Rogelio Medina

Record: 36-6 (30 KO) ... Streak: W4 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 6-4 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 6'1" / N/A ... Age: 27

Thoughts: Rogelio Medina is the IBF mandatory challenger. He would not be here otherwise. He frankly does not deserve this title shot. But he's got it. DeGale was originally supposed to face mandatory challenger Jose Uzcategui, who upset Julius Jackson in an eliminator last October. But Uzcategui pulled out with an illness. So here's Medina, and it still counts as a mandatory, because he's rated No. 3 by the IBF.

Why is Medina, a fighter whose career has been as mediocre as it has been, rated No. 3? Due mostly to a 2014 upset knockout of J'Leon Love, who was being pushed by Mayweather Promotions, getting lots of TV dates, and being marketed as a contender. Love's career has been a lot like Badou Jack's, only without the significant turnaround and notable wins following his stunning knockout loss.

Since beating love, "Porky" Medina has won three more fights, against Ernesto Aboyte (0-21-2 coming in), Luis Acevedo (24-15-5), and Samuel Miller (29-10), all by early stoppage. In his last four fights, he's not gone past the third round, and that dates back a couple years now. The last time he went over three rounds, he lost a 10-round split decision to Jonathan Gonzalez in May 2014. He also has losses to Badou Jack (TKO-6, 2013), Marcos Reyes (MD-12, 2013), Jose Uzcategui (UD-10, 2013), and Gilberto Ramirez (TKO-6, 2010). The good news is none of those guys are bad fighters. The bad news is that past Love, Medina's best win was probably against Jose Pinzon back in 2012.

Matchup Grade: D+. Yeah, it's a mandatory. And a bad one. DeGale says he's levels above Medina, and he's almost certainly right. Medina's only hope is to catch DeGale with a bomb and finish him off, most likely doing so early in the fight. The longer it goes, the more DeGale's many advantages are going to pile up and start doing real damage.

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