Dan Rafael: Brandon Gonzales

It's make or break for DeGale

May, 29, 2014
Davis-DeGaleAP 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."

Gonzales signs with Shaw

April, 3, 2014
 Thomas Oosthuizen, Brandon Gonzales Will Hart/K2 Promotions Brandon Gonzales, right, who fought to a 2013 draw with Thomas Oosthuizen, has a new promoter.
Super middleweight Brandon Gonzales, who likely will face British contender James DeGale in a title elimination bout, signed with promoter Gary Shaw on Thursday.

Gonzales (18-0-1, 10 KOs), 29, of Sacramento, Calif., had previously been ordered to participate in an eliminator against Maxim Vlasov, but the fight never happened because Gonzales had other promoters claiming that he was under contract. According to Shaw, those issues have been resolved, allowing him to sign with Shaw.

His biggest fight came last June, but he fought to a draw on HBO against the favored Thomas Oosthuizen. He came back from the draw to outpoint Jonathan Nelson in November on the undercard of stablemate Andre Ward's super middleweight title defense against Edwin Rodriguez.

"I know Gary can deliver the big fight," Gonzales said. "All I want is an opportunity to accomplish my goal of becoming a word champion. I've worked my way up the rankings by winning tough fights and now I'm ranked No. 3 by the IBF. I feel the urgency to take my career to the next level and that's why I signed with Gary Shaw. Together I know we can do big things."

Shaw said getting Gonzales a major fight is a priority; he is in position to become a mandatory challenger for the winner of the May 31 rematch fight between titleholder Carl Froch and George Groves.

"Brandon Gonzales is a fighter with a lot of heart and talent and I'm happy he's part of the GSP family now," Shaw said. "He's highly ranked and a nice win will get him in position to fight for a world title. I look forward to Gonzales being in some big fights. He's a tremendous individual who I have a lot of respect for because he has come up the hard way, winning fights without the support that most contenders have on the way up."
First, former junior welterweight titlist Kendall Holt pulled out of a June 22 "Friday Night Fights" main event against Josesito Lopez because he refused to fight outdoors at the Soboba Casino in San Jacinto, Calif.

Then, with Holt out, Lopez was free to accept a June 23 Showtime fight against Victor Ortiz for far more money than he would have made against Holt.

It also left ESPN2/ESPN3 without a main event, but promoter Dan Goossen quickly filled the card with a new main, which he announced Friday: Bakersfield, Calif., junior welterweight Mike Dallas Jr. (18-2-1, 7 KOs), who has been featured several times on FNF, against Javier Castro (27-4, 22 KOs) of Mexico.

"Another hometown favorite will go down on June 22," Castro said. "Dallas will not be able to withstand my knockout power."

Dallas, however, is confident thanks to his recent pairing with 2011 trainer of the year Virgil Hunter.

"I feel a lot smarter and aware of what needs to be done as the fight progresses since being with the zen master," Dallas said of Hunter. "I believe with this confidence, things are going to keep getting better. Castro has power, but it's nothing new to me, I'll be ready to show some pop, too."

Super middleweight prospect Brandon Gonzales (15-0-1, 10 KOs) -- also trained by Hunter -- will appear in the co-feature. This will be Gonzales' first fight since October. He was supposed to fight in January, but suffered a hamstring injury.

"I'm very excited to get back in the ring," Gonzales said. "The time away has built up a hunger inside of me. At this point, we're completely past the injury; it was a sprain in my hamstring.

"I tried to train on it, but as soon as it started to mess with my boxing, we knew there was nothing I could do. I stayed off of it for four or five weeks and rehabbed it properly. It was unfortunate that it happened when it did, but it was a good thing that it's given me more time to mesh with Virgil and continue working and improving on everything, so I'm definitely expecting to put forth a good performance this time out."