Record: 23-1-1 (14 KO) ... Streak: D1 ... Last 5: 4-0-1 ... Last 10: 9-0-1 ... Stance: Southpaw ... Height/Reach: 6’0" / 74" ... Age: 31
Thoughts: Back in January, DeGale, the IBF super middleweight titleholder, wanted to prove he was the best 168-pound fighter in the sport. He locked horns with WBC champion Badou Jack in Brooklyn, a Showtime-televised main event.
It was a hell of a good fight, something sort of forgotten by this late stage in the year, with DeGale starting fast, dropping Jack in the opening round. Jack came back to drop DeGale in the 12th. It was a legitimately close fight, with two judges scoring it even at 115-113, and one for DeGale, 114-112. I had it for Jack, 114-112. There was plenty to debate, but nobody was robbed of a clear victory.
It was also a much better performance for DeGale than his prior bout, an April 2016 win over Rogelio “Porky” Medina, where DeGale got wide cards that didn’t reflect how competitive Medina was with him. Styles make fights, and Medina gave DeGale a tough one. The good thing to see was DeGale showing up looking better and more focused the next time out.
Of course, the big news for DeGale after the fight was that he’d need shoulder surgery to fix an injury he reportedly suffered in the weeks leading up to the showdown with Jack. That kept him out until now.
It’s likely we could see a little ring rust from DeGale, a little early caution, and a desire to “get some rounds.” But as soon as he feels fully comfortable, he will hopefully look like the DeGale of old. Andre Ward left for 175 and has since retired, Badou Jack’s gone up to light heavyweight now, too, and the super middleweight division has had some turnover at the top. DeGale is one of the top fighters for the moment, along with rival George Groves, Zurdo Ramirez, and Chris Eubank Jr.
Record: 28-3-2 (18 KO) ... Streak: W2 ... Last 5: 3-2 ... Last 10: 7-2-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 6’0" / 75" ... Age: 34
Thoughts: A veteran fighter out of Osseo, Minnesota, Caleb Truax has been in with good fighters in the past, and, well, he’s lost to them.
Truax has value in the ring, though. He’s generally been a crafty guy, a smart fighter it’s tough to get to, though we didn’t see that in his last loss, a TKO-1 defeat at the hands of Anthony Dirrell in April 2016. But his other two losses — a decision against Jermain Taylor in 2012 and a TKO-12 against Daniel Jacobs in 2015 — he was able to hang around, and he gave Taylor a scare with a ninth round knockdown.
Truax is here because he’s not particularly dangerous. He’s got a decent KO percentage, but he’s not really a big puncher. He’s a good opponent for someone like DeGale recovering from injury. He’s good enough to give DeGale rounds, but not so good he should be a threat to actually win. Of course, that’s been said a lot of times, and you don’t really know until you know, when it’s over.
Matchup Grade: C-. I can’t be too down on the matchup, DeGale hasn’t fought in almost a year and they want to see where he’s at in a real fight. And I don’t expect it to be a true stinker, even if it’s not a Fight of the Year candidate or anything, either. DeGale should win, and hopefully move on to bigger fights again.
- Lee Selby vs Eduardo Ramirez: Selby (25-1, 9 KO) is the defending IBF featherweight titleholder, but it hasn’t really been a year to remember for him. Early in the year, a fight with Jonathan Barros was scuppered, leaving Selby to schedule a March non-title fight with Andoni Gago to keep busy. The Barros fight came around again in July, with Selby winning handily, as expected. Selby has called out for big fights — Carl Frampton has been a particular target — but they have not materialized. Still, he can’t look past this one. Ramirez (20-0-3, 7 KO) doesn’t leap off the page on you if you look at his record, but he fought well in a draw with Leduan Barthelemy in September, a fight he easily could have won. Selby’s goal is big fights in 2018, but if he takes Ramirez lightly, he could be in for a rude awakening. The Mexican can fight. Matchup Grade: C+
- Anthony Yarde vs Nikola Sjekloca: Yarde (13-0, 12 KO) is a very intriguing 175-pound prospect, a power puncher who has ripped through his opposition thus far. Sjekloca (32-4-1, 11 KO) is the right sort of next step for him, a veteran fighter, durable, never been stopped, and coming in off of a draw against former super middleweight titleholder Robert Stieglitz in March. Sjekloca is 39 and at the end of his career, and Yarde may well bomb him out in short order, too, but Yarde is being given a test here. If he passes, his prospect status is further legitimized. Matchup Grade: C