By Ben Jacobs
“I had James winning the fight by three rounds, and I’ve watched the fight back a few times.”
The words of Jim McDonnell, once a world title challenger himself and the man who has guided James DeGale’s career since he turned professional in 2009. The former European featherweight champion is adamant that his charge was the winner in last week’s spectacular unification contest against Badou Jack. One judge saw the Londoner as the victor by a score of 114-112 while the other two saw a draw at 113-113. While reflecting back on the hugely entertaining contest, McDonnell gave BoxingScene.com a behind-the-scenes look at the fight from his perspective.
“On the night, close to the action you can’t get a realistic view. I had so much going on in that corner, I was multi-tasking,” McDonnell detailed.
“I had the gumshield issue, I was told when we got in the ring by one of Mayweather’s team that only the chief second could get in the ring, they tried to ban the corner. I had a head count when I looked across the ring and there was Mayweather and four or five other dudes all in his corner. The referee said to me, ‘Everyone else out apart from you.’ I told the ref that wasn’t going to happen. How does that work?
“Then James starting interacting with the referee and I didn’t want that as he had to concentrate on what was about to happen in the first round. It’s all mind games and tricks.
“One of the things that I need to double check is that I was told that Mayweather was checking the scorecards off the judges in between rounds, to me that’s illegal. But he was trying to say to Badou Jack after one of the rounds, ‘Man, you’re one down, you gotta’ win the next round.’
“So, I’m thinking, you’re on a Mayweather bill in America, against an American-based fighter with three American judges. James DeGale showed great mental strength and he won that fight for me.”
While McDonnell was content with DeGale’s performance in many ways, he also conceded there were areas in which he could have done better.
“I said to James before the fight that any close round they would give to Badou Jack to keep the fight close. James did things that we didn’t want him to do, getting involved with the referee at the start of the fight. Also, he didn’t use his jab enough for me which in sparring he did and was brilliant.
“James dropped Jack at exactly the same time he dropped [Andre] Dirrell. I thought if he gets him in trouble he could stop him. But I looked at my watch and thought shit, there’s not enough time. Jack was badly dazed and he could have got the job done in the first round. He showed a lot of maturity, experience and done the rounds well. But he moved into the right hand too often and he agreed with me that he didn’t use his jab enough. Overall, he deserved to come back with his belt.”
In terms of the last round, ‘Chunky’ visited the canvas for the first time in his professional career. The only previous time that he had been badly hurt was against Piotr Wilczewski back in 2011.
“The first thing you do is look at the clock and then survival, but here’s the thing, and he said this to me after. If you look at my fight with Azumah Nelson, when I get dropped in the fifth round, when James got up, it was like watching a replay of what I did, except I grabbed his leg. I knew he was okay. He took the count and then walked behind the referee, he locked him up and took a break before taking more shots.
“I’ve dealt with that before with myself and he had it in his DNA and knew what to do. I told him before what to do if he ever got hurt. The top fighters when they get nailed are clever, they know what to do. It was the first time he’d been down in his career and he was calm, took his time and knew what to do. He’d only ever been down once as an amateur against Darren Sutherland.”