James DeGale vs Andre Dirrell: British champion can return a winner from new land of opportunity

America is not the hostile territory it once was for our champions and contenders, who now seem to win there more often than they lose

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The Independent Online

Thankfully, the days are gone when British boxers who travelled to the United States either got mugged in the ring by American opponents or robbed outside it by the judges. America is not the hostile territory it once was for our champions and contenders, who now seem to win there more often than they lose.

Years ago defeat was the norm for Brits who made the journey, such as the middleweight champions Randolph Turpin and Terry Downes who won their titles here but came back from the US as losers after their respective return bouts against Sugar Ray Robinson and Paul Pender.

Not any more. Nigel Benn, Lloyd Honeyghan, Ken Buchanan, Naseem Hamed, Lennox Lewis, Chris Eubank, Carl Froch, Kirkland Laing and Danny Williams (the London heavyweight who brought down the curtain on Mike Tyson’s career in Louisville) have all won there; Joe Calzaghe did so twice, against Roy Jones Jnr and Bernard Hopkins.

Last year Kell Brook took the IBF welterweight title from US holder Shawn Porter in Carson, California, on a majority decision. Ironically, two American judges scored in his favour while an imported British judge called it a draw. Similarly, last weekend in Texas Doncaster’s Jamie McDonnell claimed a close points victory when defending his WBA bantamweight title against Japan’s Tomoki Kameda, despite suffering a third round knock-down. No anti-British bias there.

Nowadays British fighters seem to get a fairer deal from the judges in America than they often do elsewhere, especially Germany.

All of which should be of some comfort to James DeGale, who has had to travel to Boston (scene of Downes’ defeat 53 years ago) to challenge Michigan’s Andre Dirrell on Saturday for the IBF super-middleweight title Froch has vacated.

The only jinx that should concern him is that no British Olympic champion has ever progressed to a world professional title. That medal seems more like a millstone.

I always prefer to have home advantage but the Americans blew his British promoters out of the water with a $3.1m (£2m) bid from Warriors Boxing, who represent Dirrell, the purse being split 50-50 between the fighters.

Dirrell, a rare American medallist in recent Olympics, winning bronze at Athens 2004, did not relish coming to the UK, as he remains convinced he got the rough end of a split decision against Froch in the Cobra’s Nottingham backyard in 2009.

Yet this is a winnable fight for DeGale if he uses his nous and the right tactics. He has to pressure this guy, a fellow southpaw who likes to switch-hit. He can’t stand back and try to pick him off as he used to do. He has to make all the running.

DeGale has looked good in his last couple of fights and he has the incentive, and the ability, to turn this British expedition into a Boston glee party.


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