Boxing: DeGale to follow Khan and find new direction

Champ falls short of expectations after being outfoxed by unorthodox Booth

As James DeGale ruminates on the shock loss of his British super-middleweight title and unbeaten record to the Commonwealth champion George Groves, a psychogically shattering setback bruising his ego more than his features, he will find scant consolation in being reminded of a similarly close and controversial verdict 40 years ago.

It was the night the late Sir Henry Cooper similarly claimed he was robbed in what proved his valedictory appearance against Joe Bugner at Wembley, angrily surrendering his long-held British and European titles. The referee, Harry Gibbs, a fellow Cockney, gave it to Bugner after 15 rounds by the narrowest of margins, causing the 37-year-old Cooper to protest as the hand was raised of an opponent 16 years his junior. "I thought I nicked it, 'Arry." "Sorry, Henry," Gibbs retorted. "Champions don't nick nuffin'."

Therein lies the lesson for DeGale. Had he fought like a champion, punching positively instead of pussyfooting until the last four rounds, he surely would have got the nod against the bitter rival whose back-foot strategy was masterfully orchestrated from his corner by coach Adam Booth, a one-time university lecturer in physiology who says that those in the boxing establishment who deride his unorthodoxy "can go fuck themselves".

It was Booth who mapped out the hit-and-hop-it tactics by which David Haye defied the lumbering giant Nicolay Valuev. He never wavered in his belief that the eminently likeable, eloquent Groves would again have the Olympic champion's number, as in their amateur encounter.

With an early return ruled out by the Boxing Board – "What does he want, the best of five?" asks Groves – the future for "that ginger kid" is clearer than for DeGale, who seemed to allow himself to be eaten up by his intense dislike of his opponent and now needs to embark on a charm offensive to win back the fans.

Admitting that he is not yet the finished article, Groves wisely will seek a European title fight before pursuing his global aspirations, while 25-year-old DeGale must resurrect his career in similar fashion to erstwhile stablemate Amir Khan .

It will be a familar route: first a relatively easy touch, then probably an opponent of fading international stature in the mould of Marco Antonio Barrera, the legend who became Khan's stepping stone to a world title. Khan also changed his trainer, eventually ending up with the estimable Freddie Roach.

DeGale may need to think on similar lines, and bring a strategist into his corner instead of or alongside the former Euro champion Jim McDonnell, a great conditioner but outfoxed tactically by Booth. DeGale will be back, but he may need a Mr Motivator to boot him up the backside.

That is also the view of Britain's supreme super-middleweight, the WBC champion Carl Froch, who defends his title against the veteran Glen Johnson in Atlantic City next Saturday. As he trained in New York for his Super Six semi-final, Froch echoed the thoughts of many in the fight fraternity. "I'm chuffed for George," he told me. "I'm pleased he won. DeGale didn't dominate as a champion should.

"He fought the wrong fight. Maybe this will be a reality check. I don't really have any advice other than that he should change his trainer. He didn't seem prepared right mentally. With a different trainer he might have gone in with a more positive attitude. Where was the fire in his belly?"

Nottingham's Cobra says he has never been better prepared by his mentor, Robert McCracken – who is also Britain's Olympic coach – for his duel with one of the ring's most seasoned and slippery customers. Jamaican-born Johnson may be 42 but as the 46-year-old Bernard Hopkins showed last week when he beat Froch victim Jean Pascal to become the oldest man ever to win a world title, age is not necessarily a barrier in boxing.

Johnson has fought 67 times, losing 14, but he can still make the best look bad. "I would be stupid to stand in front of him and have a tear-up," says Froch. "I've been involved in my fair share of brawls, but I'm not looking to do that this time. It will be hit and not get hit, a boxing masterclass."

A clinical fighter who can box and bang, though he holds his hands rather low, Froch's profile – like a few of his fights – has lacked passion. Perhaps not any more; now under new management at Barry Hearn's Matchroom, he finally has exposure on Sky. Froch should win and go on to contest the series final against the classy US Olympian Andre Ward, but it may not be a cakewalk on the Boardwalk.

And he must remember: champions don't nick nuffin' – especially a Brit in the United States.

Froch v Johnson is live from 10.30pm on Sky Sports 1 & Sky Sports HD1

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value

Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
Life and Style
food + drink
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas