James 'Chunky' DeGale has the opportunity to make boxing history this Saturday at the Agganis Arena in Boston, USA, by becoming the first British Olympic gold medalist to win a world title.
The Harlesden resident has been knocking on the door for a shot at professional gold for a while now and finally has his chance in fighting for the vacant IBF strap, although his opponent is by no means a pushover.
The slick American southpaw Andre Dirrell has a record of 24-1-0 with 16 victories coming by way of knock-out; his only defeat in the pro ranks was a contentious split decision to Carl Froch in the 'Cobra's' home town.
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The 31-year-old 2004 bronze medalist was at one stage largely inactive due to suffering neurological damage in a 2010 fight with Arthur Abraham, where the current WBO champion hit Dirrell in the head illegally (Dirrell slipped and was on one knee) but the Michigan man appears in prime health and condition now having fought three times last year.
This fight is regarded as one of the first genuine 50/50 world title fights of the year as both fighters are southpaws who have extremely good evasive movement and fast hands. The 2008 Beijing Olympic gold medalist has claimed the British and European Super Middleweight titles in the professionals, with the 29-year-old's sole defeat a 2011 split decision to George Groves.
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These 168Ib fighters are both hungry for their first world title, with DeGale admitting he is obsessed with making history and Dirrell looking to carry the family name back into the championship mix following his brother Anthony's recent WBC title loss in his defence against Badou Jack.
Other fighters in the mix
The return of Andre Ward has added to the excitement of the division, as he'll fight for the first time in almost two years when he takes on Paul Smith next month. Froch appears unsure as to what he will do with his future, admitting the loss inflicted on Julio Cesar Chavez Jr has ended a dream Vegas fight that the Nottingham man so desperately wanted.
There have been suggestions that Froch is interested in a Gennady Golovkin fight, but he's already stated the DeGale bout does not interest him.
Back to DeGale
Come the weekend two former olympians will finally get their chance in the limelight, head-lining for a world title. Dirrell has beat the likes of Curtis Stevens, Abraham and recently Dereck Edwards, whilst DeGale can boast a victory over Paul Smith and was impressive in stopping Brandon Gonzalez and Marco Antonio Periban last year.
It appears this may be a contest where the smallest differences can play a part in who will win the world title. Dirrell is the home fighter and has boxed more rounds, but his rival this Saturday has a higher knock-out percentage and travels well, having won his gold medal in China.
The fantastic bond the Londoner has with his trainer Jim McDonnell, the new lease of life under promoter Eddie Hearn and the claim that for the first time in a long while he is 'injury-free' are all factors that might be enough for DeGale to make history on Saturday night.
Boxing fans what do you think? Will DeGale take gold come the weekend? Let us know your thoughts in the comments box below.