Petra Kirsch – Gelsenkirchen
Arthur Abraham retained possession of the WBO European super middleweight title on Saturday, March 31 as he outpointed Piotr Wilczewski at the Sparkassen-Arena in Kiel, Germany. It took Abraham six rounds to get comfortable with the contest as he was foiled by the challenger’s fight-controlling jab yet, in round seven, a bizarre point deduction turned the tie to Abraham’s favour and his power began to pay dividends.
Official verdict: Arthur wins unanimous decision (118-109, 118-109, 119-109).
Having given Britain’s gold medal winning boxer from the Beijing Olympics, James DeGale, all kinds of trouble in a battling 12-rounder last year, Piotr Wilczewski bounced back from the close defeat to edge Geard Ajetovic on points in Poland. He was the underdog against Arthur Abraham on Saturday evening, but came with a warning from DeGale himself… if Abraham didn’t flex his powerful muscle like he did as a middleweight and knock him out in the first third, then his evening would prove long, arduous and hard fought.
Abraham – looking to exert himself in a 168lb weight class that had, thus far, gotten the better of him whenever he was in with the elite – boxed tentatively in the opening round aside from one punch that forced Wilczewski into an immediate clinch. The sole shot, though, was not enough to offset the work-rate, pressure and ring generalship that the Pole had enjoyed throughout the near entirety of the first set of threes.
What was problematic with Wilczewski’s come-forward nature, was that, in the second round, he showed he was prone to walking into Abraham’s straight rights, as well as his orthodox jabs. Piotr would vary the jab, to the brainbox and the midsection, but there was a clear differential in terms of power, with Abraham the mightier.
Boxing from range, Wilczewski managed to control part of the round by using his jab, however, as soon as he took a moment to pause, Abraham lunged in and struck his opponent with a combination of clubbing punches. The far busier fighter, Wilczewski continued his pressuring style into the fourth but, with Abraham fighting in his adopted boxing nation and, considering his moments of eye-catching aggressiveness, the scorecards at ringside could be split as to whom got the nod in such rounds: Abraham’s brief, but undeniable strength and power, or Wilczewski’s jab and constant fists.
In the fifth, Wilczewski caught Abraham with a flush crunch to the jaw but, moments into the sixth, the Armenia-born 32-year-old came out firing as if buoyed following instruction that carried a sense of urgency from his corner. Wilczewski shot his jab from waist-level and, while it was a reliable asset in Germany against King Arthur, the positioning lended itself to being open to receiving a hook shot – something Abraham all too willingly landed at the contest’s midway stage.
In the seventh, the signature move of flurrying fast with aggression but only in sporadic moments, was one in which Abraham employed. The first, involved a number of hooking shots to the body (with the bulk of the power deflated as it primarily connected with Wilczewski’s arms), however, Piotr was unable to negate the strength as he neglected the jab and so Abraham combo’d, repeatedly, to the head, all the way to the chime of the ring bell which concluded a hellacious round for the home fighter.
Moments before the end of play in round seven, Wilczewski was deducted a point yet it was unclear what exactly the referee saw. That same referee, though, was unable to use that vision to spot a very obvious left hook to the testicles that Wilczewski was forced to accept.
In the final third of the fight, Abraham appeared to have broken and beaten Wilczewski as the pendulum had swung firmly in his favour, Wilczewski had felt the full whack of Arthur’s power and, as a consequence, was breathing heavily and the primary factor that had won him rounds earlier in combat – his work-rate – had declined, rapidly.
Wilczewski was ran ragged in the championship rounds, particularly in the dying moments of the 11th round, when he fought on unsteady legs, was wobbled repeatedly from Abraham’s left hooks and was lucky to not get pulled from the fight by the referee following a royal bombardment from the former middleweight ruler. He was allowed to continue… and earned his deserved pay by hearing the final bell three minutes later.
Abraham slugged his way to victory, but only after some hairy moments in the fight’s first half. The point deduction was not fair, the victory was deserved, but the margin was not. However, with the win, Abraham – who could see himself thrust into a super middleweight world title shot against the winner of the upcoming match-up between British 168lber George Groves and German champion Robert Stieglitz – moved to 34-3-0, 27ko while Wilczewski, despite an admirable challenge, dropped to 30-3-0, 10ko.
Tommy Barber – London
European super middleweight champion James DeGale, who decisioned former EBU titlist Piotr Wilczewski on October 15 in a competitive match-up at the Echo Arena in Liverpool, could defend the honour before the year’s end as the Londoner himself has stated he wants to remain an active fighter. Cristian Sanavia, a 36-year-old from Veneto, Italy, will be the likely opponent as he is the official mandatory challenger to the blue belt (pictured below).
Bouncing back from an emotional-sapping loss in May to bitter rival George Groves, DeGale (11-1-0, 8ko) was made to labour for victory against Wilczewski (29-2-0, 10ko) in a bout where he absorbed numerous straight right shots from the Pole.
In return, though, DeGale’s combinations, inside fighting and general work-rate are what perhaps swayed the majority of the rounds to be struck in his favour: two of the ringside judges witnessed a 115-113 fight which offset the tie score of 114-114.
A fight against Sanavia (45-5-1, 13ko) in December would represent a battle of the lefties as both fighters are southpaws, however, DeGale would firstly need to recover from a torn eardrum – he lost his hearing in the fifth round against Wilczewski.
Sanavia has great continental experience with his most notable contests being two fights with Karo Murat, both of which were unsuccessful (2008: UD loss, 2009: 10Rd TKO). Other notable fighters on the EBU rankings include Arthur Abraham (1) and George Groves (2).
Alan Dawson – London
Cut, staggered and caught repeatedly with right hands, gold medal Olympian from the 2008 Games in Beijing James DeGale dug deep, stuck to his gameplan and prevailed over Piotr Wilczewski by way of majority decision at the Echo Arena in Liverpool on Saturday, October 15. DeGale became the new European champion at super middleweight in the process but was made to labour for the points victory…
Judges verdict: 115-113, 115-113, 114-114; majority decision to DeGale.
Leading in with his southpaw jab, stepping to the side and assessing Wilczewski’s movements, DeGale displayed good footwork, general movement and a solid left cross from range. In return, Piotr – the defending EBU titlist – attempted to nullify DeGale’s work by tying up in-close and tucking cheeky right hands into the Londoner’s ribcage.
Wilczewski’s defensive posturing was not atypical of eastern European fighters. He had a low left mitt so his jab was fired from the hip, he fought side on and kept a right glove by the side of his chin. DeGale’s evasive maneuvering – as highlighted by his intuitive head movement – ensured he avoided Piotr’s jab. By the round’s end, DeGale had Wilczewski in fits as a jaw crunching right uppercut was landed with precision. It thudded the Pole’s head back and DeGale almost wrestled the champion to the canvas – no knockdown, but the Englishman no doubt buoyed by his ability to hurt a normally resilient fighter.
The third round was messy. DeGale went after the body and slipped Wilczewski’s returning left hooks. In the fourth, Piotr sent jabs to both the upstairs and the midsection and landed his own shot of the fight with an overhand right – a southpaw’s Kryptonite. Using lateral movement, DeGale was able to step inside and land his single shots and also his combinations, however, the fourth round showed Wilczewski wising up and trying to force DeGale into areas he could not move out of – like the corner. The EBU champ also had great success with repeated one-twos and one of the combinations opening up a small cut to the side of DeGale’s right eye.
DeGale scored with countering left hands in the fifth whilst also enjoying success with three to four punch flurries. At the end of the stanza, though, DeGale was all but dropped by an in-swinging right hand that landed square on the chin after James let his guard down. Displaying a fair chin and strong survival skills, DeGale clinched on as he waited for the clock to time out.
DeGale regained his composure and control of his legs when the sixth began but absorbed left hooks and right hands. For a long period, both fighters traded in the space of a phone booth but it was James, this time, who came out on top.
Outworking his opponent in the seventh, DeGale was caught twice in quick succession in the eighth, however, responding well, DeGale stunned Wilczewski with an uppercut and left hook combo. Taking heed of assistant second Dean Powell’s instruction that he needs to work more, DeGale began flurrying well midway through the round and forced his man onto the backfoot.
DeGale’s insistence on paying attention to Wilczewski’s body – with both jabs and cross shots – showed signs it had taken it’s toll on the Pole’s endurance as he was boxing in a lower gear. Taking advantage, DeGale slammed left hooks into the side of the body and uppercuts to the chin when the guard had been lowered.
Depleted of energy by the tenth, Wilczewski was walking forward – as was his customary nature – but not throwing enough and was consequently taking punches without sufficiently blocking or avoiding them. Benefiting from Jim McDonnell’s attention to conditioning during training camp, DeGale’s work-rate showed that – by the championship rounds – Wilczewski appeared over-matched due to being gassed and therefore a different fighter than the one from the opening half of the bout.
Wilczewski’s courage and unwillingness to give in got him through round 11 but DeGale’s latter superiority returned by the start of the 12th because of a vicious overhand left that had Piotr slipping (partly due to the force of the punch and partly because of the ring apron). A momentary slobberknocker ensued during the closing moments with DeGale again gaining the upper hand.
By the contest’s end, DeGale – much to the delight of his Chunky! Chunky! Chunky! chanting fans – lifted his arm aloft, certain he had secured a much-needed victory.
“About time, I’m back on dot,” DeGale informed Box Nation following the announcement he had won by way of majority decision. “Hopefully some doors open now. He’s a tough seasoned professional. I got caught in the fourth, I couldn’t hear nothing after that, I lost balance.”
Regarding the next steps in his career path, DeGale said: “I want to defend this belt a few times, it’s added to my [Olympic] gold medal but the plan was always to challenge for a world title by the next Olympics. [This was a] fantastic night, I’m chuffed.”
Promoter Frank Warren commented: “It’s his 12th fight, this guy studied DeGale, he’s no slouch… he made him work and made him bleed. It was a tough, close fight, he had to dig deep and it will stand him in stead in his route to a world title.”
That route to a world title, for DeGale’s sake, is hopefully not immediate. Blessed with great technical skill and conditioning that is worthy of applause, there are still facets of DeGale’s game that require further polishing if he is to obtain wins against fighters the level above Wilczewski, such as: Mikkel Kessler, Carl Froch, Lucian Bute, Andre Dirrell and Andre Ward.
Having previously spent brief spells at the Mayweather Gym, DeGale could perhaps benefit from returning to downtown Las Vegas in order to pick up some further pointers on defence as he was – against Wilczewski – caught far too often with that right hand.
For tonight, though, DeGale rightly won the European championship and, considering where he was in May, showed great bounce-back-ability. With the win, DeGale’s record now stands at 11-1-0, 8ko while Wilczewski dropped to 29-2-0, 10ko.
On The Beak – Admin
Reigning WBO light heavyweight world champion Nathan Cleverly scaled 174.25lbs whilst challenger Tony Bellew weighed-in on the 175lbs limit in a fiery encounter at the Contemporary Urban Centre in Liverpool ahead of their domestic bad-blood laden showdown at the Echo Arena on October 15. James DeGale and Piotr Wilczewski provide the chief support and registered respective weights of 167.5lbs and 167.75lbs.
(Embedded video below credit – Youtube, FrankWarren)
On The Beak – Admin
Reigning light heavyweight world champion Nathan Cleverly looked relaxed during the obligatory stare down with WBO rival Tony Bellew at a press conference ahead of their highly-anticipated grudge fight on Saturday, October 15 in Liverpool’s Echo Arena. Co-headlining the show is James DeGale‘s attempt to de-throne Piotr Wilczewski for the EBU super middleweight crown, however, their face off lacked the intensity of Clev and The Bomber’s…
(Embedded video below credit – Youtube, iFilmLdnProductions)
On The Beak – Admin
As has become customary for big Sports Network-promoted events, Frank Warren has announced an undercard stacked with high-profile names and rising prospects for his Who Can Walk The Walk show scheduled to take place on Saturday, October 15 at the Echo Arena in Liverpool. The well publicised grudge match between Nathan Cleverly and Tony Bellew takes centre stage while James DeGale, Billy Joe Saunders and Rocky Fielding also feature.
|Craig Evans v Ibrar Riyaz
||Super Featherweight (6×3)
|Tobias Webb v Jahmaine Smyle
||Super Middleweight (6×3)
|Paul Butler v Arpad Vas
||Super Flyweight (6×3)
|Billy Joe Saunders v Norbert Sekeres
|Liam Smith v TBA
||Super Welterweight (6×3)
|Rocky Fielding v Lee Noble
||Super Middleweight (8×3)
|James DeGale v Piotr Wilczewski
EBU Super Middleweight Title
|Super Middleweight (12×3)
|Ronnie Heffron v Tony Pace
|Nathan Cleverly v Tony Bellew
WBO Light Heavyweight Title
|Light Heavyweight (12×3)
On The Beak – Admin
Former British super middleweight champion James DeGale (10-1-0, 8ko) is aiming to bounce back following his narrow defeat to bitter west London rival George Groves when he challenges Piotr Wilczewski for the EBU title at 168lbs on Saturday, October 15 at Liverpool’s Echo Arena. At an open media workout yesterday, Monday, trainer Jim McDonnell put DeGale through the paces as they worked on blocking skills and combination punching.
(Embedded video below credit – Youtube, iFilmLdnProductions)
Ibrahim Harb – Birmingham
European super middleweight title challenger James DeGale was in reflective mood ahead of his October 15 test against EBU champion Piotr Wilczewski as the Englishman looked back at the sole blemish on his professional resume – defeat to bitter rival George Groves. DeGale also spoke out over the calls to axe trainer Jim McDonnell from his camp and admitted feeling betrayed by Frank Warren when Groves was added to the Sports Network stable.
Providing the chief support to the world championship clash between British foes Nathan Cleverly and Tony Bellew, DeGale will aim to bounce back from his previous loss by producing a perfect performance against seasoned 168lb operator Wilczewski.
The man who has been getting DeGale in peak condition remains McDonnell, however, there was a media rush for DeGale and/or Warren to push the trainer from camp to make way for a supposedly greater tactician.
McDonnell shouldered a large portion of the blame for DeGale’s defeat to Groves as it was perceived the head cornerman did not implore onto DeGale the necessary changes he would need to make in order to swing the tie in his favour.
DeGale, though, has rubbished the notion he needs to rid himself of McDonnell: “They say there ain’t no loyalty in boxing, but there is for me,” the 25-year-old southpaw informed British broadsheet The Independent. “I stayed loyal to Jim because I have a great bond with him, he’s like family. It wasn’t Jim’s fault I lost, it was mine. I have never seen Groves so negative but I shouldn’t have fought that type of fight.
“At the end of the seventh round Jim must have got a nod from someone because he said, ‘Chunk, they’re making it close. You’ll have to stick it on him’. I reckon I won five out of the last six rounds. When they announced ‘Majority decision, Groves’ I thought, ‘This is bollocks’. All that work, all that hype. Losing made me feel a bit of a twat. I felt I let everybody down, my coach and my family.”
Technically gifted, DeGale (10-1-0, 8ko) is an accurate combination puncher who possesses knockout power based on the accumulation of punches he dispenses. The west Londoner initially learned his amateur game at the Dale Youth Club and it was in that gym where he met Groves (13-0-0, 10ko) and a notorious rivalry began. While Groves can lay claim to bettering DeGale in an amateur fight (by outpointing James), it was DeGale who went on to claim Olympic gold in Beijing in 2008.
That rivalry escalated in the paid ranks. DeGale became British champion by securing a technical knockout over Paul Smith in 2010 (pictured above) and Groves maneuvered into a mandatory position to challenge DeGale by trumping Kenny Anderson in an official eliminator for the Lonsdale title. The build-up to their May duel was stained with bad blood. Groves prevailed by way of majority decision and, months later, was signed by the same promoter who represents DeGale.
“When Frank [Warren] rang and said he had signed Groves I felt… betrayed,” said DeGale, candidly. “So the next day I met him [Frank] and I digested it properly. It makes sense, it’s a great move. If Groves beats Smith in his next fight [November 5], and I win this European title, in the early part of next year we’ll meet again and the winner will go on for a world title.
“You never know what Frank’s got up his sleeve,” he added. “I am thankful he has given me the opportunity to fight for the European title, which is actually more important than the one I lost. That will get me a world ranking.
“Last time someone [Groves] beat me domestically in the amateurs I was Olympic champion a year and a half later. This time round he’s got a dodgy decision over me again and believe me, I’ll be a world champion by next year’s Olympics – [it will be] deja vu.”
Tommy Barber – London
James DeGale could not only emulate, but surpass the performances and achievements of Britain’s best boxers like John Conteh, Chris Eubank, Joe Calzaghe, Prince Naseem Hamed, Henry Cooper, Ted Kid Lewis, Randy Turpin and Lennox Lewis. That is the opinion of DeGale’s head second Jim McDonnell, who believes the 2008 Olympic gold medalist has adapted “lovely” to the professional ranks.
“I would like to see him develop this year,” McDonnell explained to Boxing News this week.
DeGale (10-1-0, 8ko) produced a clinic of combination punching in a hostile arena when he wrested the British super middleweight championship away from Paul Smith in Liverpool last year but has failed to replicate that form this year as he succumbed to a split decision loss to long-time rival George Groves in May, relinquishing the Lonsdale title in his first defence.
The 25-year-old southpaw boxed with an effective aggression in the final two rounds against Groves but it was ultimately too-little-too-late as Groves’ stick-and-move tactic outfoxed DeGale. The Londoner, though, has taken heed of a number of lessons from that evening at the 02 Arena.
“He’s developed very quick as a professional,” McDonnell continued. “He’s adapted lovely, he’s learnt a lot out of the decision against George Groves and I think James is on track.”
DeGale’s most immediate task is an EBU title challenge against durable Pole, Piotr Wilczewski, on Saturday, October 15 at the Echo Arena in Liverpool on the undercard of Nathan Cleverly’s second defence of his WBO light heavyweight world championship against Tony Bellew.
“James will be victorious,” McDonnell mused. “I think it will be the best performance of his career so far.
“When he looks back at the end of his career I think he’ll go down as Britain’s best,” he added, confident his charge will add major world honours to his domestic and amateur collection.
DeGale, meanwhile, commented: “I’ve learnt a lot from my last fight, and I’m not going to let no one steal a fight from me, ever.”
Ibrahim Harb – Birmingham
Another chapter to the fierce rivalry between top super middleweight talents James DeGale and George Groves could be written as early as next year as prominent fight promoter Frank Warren – who now brags both boxers in his Sports Network stable – has no problem “building fights” as he understands it is “what the fans want“. Saint George is the only fighter to beat DeGale professionally, and James is looking to bounceback “like Pacquiao has”.
“What I have always done is put my fighters in with each other if they are at the same weight, because that is what the fans want,” Warren explained to the media yesterday, Thursday. “We don’t keep them apart, we build fights.”
Despite both DeGale (10-1-0, 8ko) and Groves (13-0-0, 10ko) being in the juvenile stages of professional development there had been intense public interest – both at home and abroad – in aligning the two together. They had contrasting personalities, a history of bad blood and were even schooled in the same gym – the Dale Youth boxing club in west London.
Groves had bettered DeGale in the unpaid ranks – a closely-competed amateur fight that could have gone either way, and their professional dust-up was no different as Groves, again, prevailed by way of a tight points triumph.
“It is a natural rematch and is something which will happen,” continued Warren. “I am sure it will be sometime next year and it will be a bigger fight, however, first of all George has got to get through Paul Smith, which will be a tough fight, and James has got to win the European title. The winners of those contests will go on and hopefully we will have some big fights.”
Groves, a champion of the Commonwealth title, defends his British belt for the first time since wresting the honour away from DeGale in May. He fights Smith on November 12 at Wembley Arena in London.
DeGale, meanwhile, is up against EBU titlist Piotr Wilczewski (29-1-0, 10ko) and will attempt to become the latest incumbent of the European championship on October 15 in Liverpool. DeGale is hoping to banish the Groves loss to a distant memory by scalping sturdy Polish prizefighter Piotr and stated that he has looked at the story of Pacquiao’s ability to shake off defeat in order to attain global success as his inspiration.
“A majority of the great fighters have a loss on their record, Manny Pacquiao is a good example, some even have a couple of losses,” DeGale explained at the 02 Arena, London, yesterday. “It’s a part of the game and it’s how you deal with those losses, when you get a loss on your record what matters is how you bounce back, look at Pacquiao now.
“There couldn’t be a better opportunity for me to bounce back by winning a European title fight, and that in turn could put me back on course to win a world title next year.”