By Chris Williamson
The homecoming turned sour for defending IBF super middleweight champion James Degale as rank American outsider Caleb Truax won a deserved majority decision here at London’s Copper Box arena.
It was a strangely subdued performance from the offset from ‘Chunky’ who nevertheless narrowly took the opening two rounds. Truax noticeably gained confidence in the third as DeGale missed wildly and the left side of his face began to swell.
A London crowd who’d waited a long time to cheer DeGale as champion chanted his name as he threw a hard left-right combination to the challenger’s body, but Traux continued pressing and hurt the champion towards the end of the fourth.
The defending champion was in all kinds of trouble in the fifth as a right hook then uppercut landed with DeGale trapped in a corner and left him reeling. DeGale motioned to his corner as though his nose was seriously injured, probably broken.
DeGale regrouped somewhat in the sixth, but the uncomfortable, strange demeanour continued and on my card this was another round for the visitor.
A couple of flashy combinations from the champion in the seventh had a forced look and little was coming naturally. As DeGale walked back to his corner after a listless eighth he sat looking utterly forlorn.
The ninth was quieter with neither man really earning the round, before DeGale was warned for the use off his head in the tenth as Truax again pressured the champion into a corner, landing repeatedly.
The challenger was basic but effective, walking forward in straight lines, landing with the jab and most punishingly the straight right hand, the classic punch against a southpaw.
DeGale hurt the challenger with a straight left in the twelfth but simply didn’t have the energy to capitalise. Truax raised his hands with around thirty seconds left. On the bell the challenger sunk to his knees, surely the new champion. A majority decision confirmed Truax as deserving new champion.
Degale is now 24-2-1 and was having his first fight after eleven months out of the ring. It now looks as though the gruelling draw in his last fight against Badou Jack in Brooklyn might have done lasting damage and he faces a tough road back.
For the 34-year old Truax’s, whose losses have all come against top class opposition in Jermaine Taylor, Anthony Dirrell and Danny Jacobs, he can now look forward to lucrative defences as champion in one of boxing’s glamour divisions.
DeGale was shocked by the loss.
“I can’t believe that. I boxed at a high level for the past two and a half years. We’ll go back to the drawing board. We’ll have to sort things out in camp. I’ve got to change things. I thought I won it, but I’ll have to look back on it. He was coming forward, I’ll have to go back and sort out things,” DeGale said.
“If I’m being honest, I probably rushed back [after shoulder surgery]. I got the operation in June, and it was, like... maybe I should’ve waited until next year. There’s no pain but it’s not flowing. I’ll have to go back. I’m so upset, but I’ll have to go back and sort things.”