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‘Chunky’ James DeGale Poised to Take Over 168-pound class

James DeGale
Photo Courtesy of AP

Boxers generally adopt fearsome nicknames – phrases that denote speed, strength and or viciousness.

Tommy “The Hit Man” Hearns. Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran. Wladimir “Dr. Steelhammer” Klitschko.

IBF super-middleweight champion James DeGale has gone in a different direction, adopting “Chunky” as his preferred sobriquet. He received the nickname when he first learned to box as a kid, and although it certainly no longer fits, he is happy to keep it.

DeGale won a gold medal for Great Britain in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.  He beat Cuban Emilio Correa in the final by two points – the same number deducted from Correa for biting DeGale on the shoulder in the first round.

DeGale turned pro early in 2009; after 23 pro fights, he has become the biggest star in the 168-pound weight class. After a lopsided unanimous-decision win over former champion Lucien Bute last weekend, DeGale is now the No. 2 contender to the linear title vacated by Andre Ward.

Bute was not expected to be much of a threat to DeGale, having lost his last two big fights to Carl Froch and Jean Pascal. He turned the back the clock, though, looking more like the fighter who had been a major factor in the rvision from 2007-12.

“I said Lucian Bute is a world-class fighter. But I’m young, fresh and peaking now. I’m ready for the best in the world,” DeGale said after the fight (h/t Skysports). “All credit to Lucian Bute. He’s a great champion and, believe me, he will be back.”

With the linear belt vacant after Ward’s move to light heavyweight, DeGale could try to pick it up by fighting the No. 1 contender, Arthur Abraham. In November, Abraham won an exciting split decision over another Englishman, Martin Murray and a rematch appears likely.

That has set DeGale’s sights on No. 5 contender and WBC champion Badou Jack. Little-known Derek Edwards knocked out the Swede in the first round in February 2014, but Jack quickly revived his career and won a majority decision over undefeated Anthony Dirrell in April of this year to win his alphabet belt.

In September, Jack successfully defended his title with a split-decision win over George Groves – a result that had to disappoint DeGale’s camp. Groves is the only fighter with a professional victory over DeGale – a majority decision back in 2011 – and if he had taken the belt from Jack, it would have set up a storybook unification rematch between the pair.

DeGale called Jack out after the Bute fight, calling for a unification match in the spring, but Jack is also investigating a defense against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., who brings international name recognition without posing nearly as much threat as DeGale.

That does not leave any obvious fight for DeGale, although he could go after one of the the Dirrell brothers. He won his own title by beating Andre Dirrell in a decent fight, but beating Anthony – who barely lost to Jack – would increase his claim at the vacant title. It would be a risky fight, though, and he will probably take a relatively low-key matchup in the spring and then go after Abraham or Jack later in 2016.

Kimura stuns Guevara for linear junior-flyweight title

In a fight that did not get much attention in the United States, Yu Kimura upset linear 108-pound champion Pedro Guevara with a split-decision victory Saturday in Japan.

The 32-year-old Kimura is a cult hero in his home country, because after a 4-1-1 start to his career, he decided that being a full-time boxer was not the lifestyle he wanted. He took a job at a trading company, and now only trains after work.

“I thought it would be difficult to become a good boxer under the environment I was in,” he said to The Japan News after beating Guevara.

He was right. Since going part-time in 2008, Kimura is 14-1, with his only loss coming to the current WBA champion, Ryoichi Taguchi. Taguchi is scheduled to defend his title in one of Japan’s traditional New Year’s Eve shows, but a 2016 rematch for the WBA, WBC and linear belts seems like an obvious plan.

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