It's make or break for DeGale
May, 29, 2014
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com
AP Photo/Gareth Fuller/PA WireJames DeGale enters Saturday's bout with Brandon Gonzales on the verge of a world title shot.The big fight Saturday in London is the much-anticipated rematch between unified super middleweight titlist Carl Froch and British countryman George Groves. A crowd of some 80,000 is expected at Wembley Stadium.
But while Froch and Groves take center stage (in a fight that HBO will televise live in the United States at 4 p.m. ET), there is a highly significant fight on the undercard (no U.S. television) that will have an impact on the winner of the main event.
Super middleweight contender James DeGale, a 2008 British Olympic gold medalist, squares off with Brandon Gonzales in a final elimination bout. The winner will become a mandatory challenger for the Froch-Groves II winner.
Certainly if the winner is DeGale, a showdown with either Froch or Groves would be huge in Great Britain.
DeGale's only loss came by majority decision against Groves, his amateur rival, in a British and Commonwealth title bout in 2011. Since then, the 28-year-old DeGale (18-1, 12 KOs), a southpaw, has won eight fights in a row, including winning the European title (which he has vacated) and an 11th-round knockout of Gevorg Khatchikian in his most recent fight March 1.
Even with the winning streak, DeGale said he was growing disillusioned with boxing after being unable to get major fights and having issues with promoter Mick Hennessy, with whom he eventually parted ways.
But DeGale said that after a talk with his mother he has his mojo back as he heads into the eliminator with Gonzales (18-0-1, 10 KOs), 30, of Sacramento, California.
"I'm a whole new person, I'm the real James DeGale now," he said. "I haven't felt like this since the first time I started boxing as a pro. A couple of months back I was in a difficult situation and there was a period where I was thinking, 'I'm going to give up.' I had three months last autumn when I was doing the sums, and talking to my parents about leaving the sport. I really was deeply depressed about it all.
"Boxing has been my life since I was 11 years old and it was all I knew. I have invested in a couple of properties from the money I have earned in boxing as a professional and I wondered if it was time to walk away. I was horrible to be around, always moaning, depressed. Then my mum said to me, 'Stop being stupid, everything's going to work out right,' and I just snapped out of it. Now I'm just a whole new person, loving life and loving boxing."
DeGale believes that the fight with Gonzales is make or break for him.
"If I win this fight I get the winner of Froch and Groves and I'm making it, and if I lose, where do I go? I'm back to rebuilding," DeGale said. "So this is win or bust really. I just have to win this fight, have to. Brandon Gonzales is no joke. He's unbeaten, he has a good trainer in Virgil Hunter and mixes in the gym with Andre Ward and Amir Khan. He's serious and I've taken him that way.
"I've watched a lot of footage of him and I'm feeling good about the fight. I'm injury-free and mentally I am in a good place. I'm happy. They say that a happy fighter is a good fighter, I believe that and I think you will see that."