James DeGale told us he was finally healthy, injury free and able to perform on the level we’d hoped to see from him since he first turned pro six years ago.
On the evidence of this bout perhaps injuries aren’t the only thing holding DeGale back.
On paper (and Youtube footage) Gevorg Khatchikian appeared to be an accomadating opponent to showcase DeGale. Despite a 20-0 record there was very little depth there with his best victory being over an equally untested prospect who went on to lose five of the seven bouts he’s had since. Limited, slow and somewhat crude he never appeared to offer much of a threat to DeGale.
But he certainly had his moments. DeGale started the bout confidently, walking forward behind his jab, trying to counter the Armenian’s own punches and then hit the body when the pair came close. But in the second round he appeared to get overconfident, walking forward and throwing single shots as if he was looking for a spectacular one punch knockout. Khatchikian may not have been fluid or technical but he was willing, game and more than once he caught DeGale flush with right hands as DeGale’s defences failed him. The seventh round saw him land land a hard uppercut that went straight through DeGale’s defences and immediately followed up with an overhand right that staggered DeGale. Khatchikian wasn’t able to really follow up but DeGale as clearly hurt.
In May 2011 two of British boxing’s biggest hopes had what amounted to a domestic superfight. In one corner stood James Degale, Olympic Champion, brash, cocky, some would say arrogant, undefeated as a professional, promoted by the leading force in British boxing. In the other stood George Groves, likewise an amateur star (if not quite to the same degree), likewise cocky (if not quite so brash) and likewise undefeated as a professional. But most of all he held an amateur win over DeGale… a win DeGale bitterly wanted to prove was a fluke, was bad amateur judging, did not accurately represent the pairs true talent.
Over 12 tense, close rounds the two played cat and mouse, darting in and out, countering, moving. It was not a classic matchup, it was not a “war” in truth it was barely even one for the purists. It is not a bout I’d watch again with any great pleasure. And after those 12 rounds Groves was declared the winner.
The two had come into the bout in roughly the same position. DeGale obviously had the additional name value that being an Olympic champion brings but otherwise the pair were close. DeGale was 10-0, Groves was 12-0. Both had come to the top of the mountain domestically, DeGale with his win over Paul Smith and Groves with his victory over Kenny Anderson. The seemingly inevitable result of Groves’ win should have been his elevation. While DeGale was unlikely to fade away you’d think now, nearly two years later, that Groves would be far ahead. When DeGale left Warren and descended into promotional hell and Groves entered the Warren stable it only reinforced that view.
Things haven’t quite turned out that way…