Sadam Ali W12 Miguel Cotto
Jeff Horn W12 Manny Pacquiao
Caleb Truax W12 James DeGale
Tony Bellew W12 David Haye
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai W12 Roman Gonzalez
Winner: Caleb Truax W12 James DeGale
He claimed he was the best super middleweight in the world. Even after an eleven month layoff to recover from surgery on his shoulder and reconstruction of the bridge of his mouth, James DeGale was confident that he would defeat Caleb Truax. After all, this was just a tune-up fight, something to keep the champion busy, a soft touch after his brutal war against Badou Jack.
In fact, heading into the match it seemed like DeGale was hardly thinking of Truax. He acknowledged his opponent was a solid fighter, but in the lead up to the fight, DeGale talked more about how he wanted to face the winner of the upcoming match between Chris Eurbank Jr. and George Groves. Now all James DeGale is thinking about is a rematch with the man who was, at minimum, a seven-to-one underdog to defeat him and take his IBF title belt.
After a carefully fought first two rounds, it became clear that Truax was beginning to cut off the ring. In round three, a flat-footed DeGale began covering up on the ropes, and Truax ended the fourth round with a left hook to the head.
It was in the fifth round that Truax defined himself and asserted his dominance. In a beautiful performance, Truax sent DeGale against the corner post with a solid right and followed up with a vicious combination of hooks and uppercuts that left DeGale momentarily bobbling in place. “Chunky” was able to get away from his opponent, but Truax continued his measured pursuit. Bleeding from the mouth, DeGale spent the rest of the round protecting himself and occasionally counter-punching.
DeGale had his moments during the next round, but his slapping jab seemed to be devoid of power. In the seventh round, however, DeGale attempted to take the fight back to the center of the ring. But Truax remained undeterred and kept coming forward. Bruised and bleeding, DeGale looked like he was almost wasted.
But in the ninth round, the former Olympic Gold medalist and four-time world champion seemed to finally realize what was at stake, and he brought the fight to the Minnesota native. It was his best round thus far. It looked like there was a chance that he might regain the momentum.
“Go out and do what you came here to do,” Traux’s trainer told him after round nine. And despite a surge from DeGale, Truax took control once again by the end of round ten, often punching through DeGale’s guard. DeGale managed to get Truax against the ropes in the eleventh, landing a combination of power punches, but Truax could not be stopped. Crowding, punching, moving forward, he continued to get the better of DeGale.
DeGale tried to assert himself in the final round, but it was mostly for show. Before the round was over, Truax held his hands up in triumph—much to the displeasure of DeGale’s hometown crowd.
At the sound of the last bell, Truax dropped to his knees. He knew he had given his all, perhaps the best performance of his career. He may have been the less dynamic fighter, but he was persistent beyond belief. And when the judge’s scores were read, it was Truax who claimed the IBF World Super Middleweight belt in 2017’s Upset Of The Year. — B. A. Cass