James DeGale is fully convinced that he’s an underappreciated fighter. He’s also not shy about using that chip on his shoulder as motivation to prove all naysayers wrong, hoping to become Britain’s top fighter ahead of popular figures like Carl Frampton and Anthony Joshua.
And for DeGale, his next step to universal recognition is beating WBC super middleweight titlist Badou Jack on Jan. 14 in a title unification match. Leading into the big upcoming fight, DeGale tells ESPN:
"I would say it would make me No. 1, to unify the titles in New York, it doesn't get better than that," DeGale told ESPN. "It would make me top of the pile after becoming Olympic gold medalist, then becoming the first Olympic gold medalist form Britain to become a world champion and then making another bit of history by becoming the first super-middleweight who has gone across the pond and unified the division.
"Hopefully I will get the respect I deserve after beating Jack and people will realise what an achievement it is."
To that end, DeGale believes his current situation is akin to Joe Calzaghe as he prepared to take on Jeff Lacy in 2006. Although Calzaghe has already been a world champion leading into that fight, he hadn’t yet received all the acclaim since there were still doubts about his body of work.
DeGale believes that a win here, combined with his Olympic gold medal, will erase all hesitation about his stature as a top-flight champion. But even if it does, would that make him more popular than either Frampton or Joshua?