Under the bright lights of Vegas James DeGale has a huge opportunity to win back his belt and right a wrong in his rematch with mild American Caleb Truax.
But for the hardcore boxing heads the main fight of the night is the unification bout between mercurial Cuban Erislandy Lara and American powerhouse Jarrett Hurd.
DeGale has duped us before and I am afraid he might do it again. The Olympic gold medallist is always in tip-top shape, he’s fully focused and he’s going to prove he’s Number 1 – until he puts in a stinking performance and the excuses start flowing.
The comeback bout in December after shoulder surgey was a classic example. DeGale claimed he was back to his best and he was ready to collect all the remaining titles until he suffered an upset loss to Truax and informed the world he’d rushed his recovery.
‘Chunky’s’ fitness wasn’t there, his power was nonexistent and his reflexes, the thing he really relies on, were dull. Truax turned in his typical performance of toughness, work rate and unremarkable skill and power.
After that bout a lot of people called DeGale a ‘shot’ fighter but the Londoner’s lingo has convinced Paddy to install him as a 1/4 front-runner for this one.
It is possible that at 32 years of age DeGale is ring-worn. He’s had tough fights against super middleweight champions George Groves, Badou Jack and Lucien Bute, and he’s battled to victories against leading contenders Andre Dirrell and Piotr Wilczewski.
To freshen things up the Brit has brought in knowledgable former two-weight champ Paulie Malignaggi as his assistant trainer. The ‘Magic Man’ will feed the ego more than push the conditioning and it’s questionable that’s what DeGale needs.
If you believe the defeat to Truax has added even more miles to DeGale’s clock then take the huge 14/1 for the Minnesotan to win in rounds 7-12. If you’re in the camp that thinks DeGale is fully fit now and his class will show then back the Brit at 17/2 to win in rounds 1-6. I’m on the fence.
Most boxing fans at Las Vegas’ Hard Rock Hotel won’t be there to see a quiet American against a cocky Englishman on Saturday night. Most will be there to see if a rising East Coast fighter can dethrone the super welterweight king.
Lara has been at the top for more than three years and he only lost to Canelo Alvarez by a paper-thin split decision in 2014. Hurd is busy, big and powerful, and in possession of one of the alphabet titles. This test will determine if the American is at elite level.
If you only had the stats to judge these fighters you would make Hurd a huge favourite. ‘Swift’ is unbeaten, he’s won his last seven by stoppage, he’s four inches taller than Lara and at 27 he’s almost eight years younger.
The Cuban is slick and resourceful and I can see this fight being tight all the way until the final bell. The draw at 19/1 is tempting again but my pick is for the younger man to edge it on the judges’ cards.