James DeGale – As Good As He Thinks?

by Fran on December 4, 2010

James DeGale – British Boxing Glitterati!

Following a highly successful amateur career which culminated in a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics, James DeGale, or ‘Chunky’, has arrived as one of the glitterati of British boxing.  It has to be said, anyone who wins an Olympic gold medal is a talented boxer, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that this talent will translate into success in the paid ranks. In his next fight on December 11th, DeGale faces Paul Smith, a talented amateur himself who has tasted defeat but once in 30 professional fights.

Paul Smith will be a very stiff test for DeGale, although having checked out the odds you can get as much as 6 to 1 against Smith to walk away victorious, so clearly the bookmakers are favouring the London boxer very heavily.  I spent last night reviewing the boxing style of DeGale (using available video as usual) to see if there were any particular traits that Smith might exploit to secure victory.  This article is the result of that review process.

Deal With The Southpaw!

Many describe DeGale as a switch hitter (meaning that he can switch from southpaw to orthodox with relative ease.)  My view is that James is first and foremost a southpaw who consciously switches to orthodox when out of range.  If you check out a true switch hitter such as Marvin Hagler, you can see that the switching most often takes place at mid and close range and seems almost like a sub-conscious action. This allowed Marvin to slam shots in with devastating power from all angles.  By switching when out of range, James reduces the effectiveness of being a ‘switch hitter’.  Ultimately, if an orthodox boxer knows how to deal with a southpaw boxer (download the report Southpaw Versus Orthodox Explained! and you’ll see what I mean), then he can use that knowledge to nullify the perceived advantage that a southpaw holds against an orthodox.

The short video clip below is DeGale’s most recent fight against Carl Dilks.  Whilst the stoppage I believe was premature, Team Dilks simply did not have an effective plan to cope with the southpaw opponent (Carl failed to dominate his left hand side, allowing DeGale to spin and throw his power left hand at will.)  The question is, can Team Smith identify and execute an effective plan in the way that Team Dilks did not?


Force Him Back!

DeGale is most at ease standing his ground or advancing toward an opponent.  He has yet to face an opponent who has made a concerted effort to force DeGale back in a controlled manner.  It would be very unwise to rush James as he is a powerful fighter, but taking control of the pace of the fight by ignoring DeGale’s regular feints and driving forward with multiple jabs around his lead right hand would offer key successes for Smith.

Capitalize On The Defensive Flaw!

DeGale regularly uses the Floyd Mayweather-style cover up.  Floyd, as an orthodox boxer, holds his right hand high up the side of his head and keeps his right elbow tucked firmly into is ribs.  He rotates his upper body slightly counter-clockwise and this, along with the right arm position,  guards fully against left hooks to the body and head.  At the same time, Floyd’s left arm straightens out so that the glove is at the groin area, the left side of his jaw is tucked into his shoulder and the bulk of his arm provides a blocker to the opponent’s right hand.  This can be very effective for an orthodox against an orthodox.  However, DeGale is a southpaw and when using this defence against an orthodox boxer he leaves himself vulnerable to short right hooks, a punch very commonly used by orthodox boxers against southpaws.  Maybe Smith should get ‘right hook happy’ because James has used this defence in the wrong circumstances before.

Success On The Inside

DeGale is a very good infighter.  However, some of his short range shots ‘chop’ down onto the target.  This effectively diminishes the power potential of the shots as they are delivered almost as ‘arm punches.’  When a pro boxer hits another pro boxer at close quarters, delivery with power is an absolute must.  There are opportunities for infighting successes for Paul Smith by ensuring that his shots are very short and very direct.

And Finally…

James DeGale is super-confident.  I remember a certain Mr Naseem Hamed being super-confident until he faced off in a rough match-up against a certain Marco Antonio Barrera, during which Hamed’s uber-confidence amounted to absolutely nothing!  I wonder whether this could be an issue if DeGale is involved in an unforgiving war with the tough Smith, a boxer who has never been found wanting when it comes to battling!

Maybe this stuff that I’ve spotted will have no bearing whatsoever on the proceedings of December 11th, only time will tell.  When the opportunity arises I’ll submit a post-fight review of the DeGale Versus Smith ‘Saturday Night Special’ and we’ll see if any of these observations played any role.



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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Spence March 16, 2013 at 4:43 am

Hi, fran. I have a technical question and a boxer business man question and hope you can provide feedback

1. In and article, Naseem hamed’s trainer, -ingle said naseems power punches relyed on arm speed and didn’t use the body rotation. How is this possible? And even though naseem suffered from tendonitos would you sugged that technique when trying to beat an opponent to the draw. Lol meldrick taylor would benifited from such a technique

2. A small percentage of boxers like Ali, both sugar ray’s, mayweather where able entertain and draw crowds, influences judges, and received higher pay because of their showmanship. Could you write an article on how to work a crowd.


Fran March 20, 2013 at 9:29 am

Hey Spence

Thanks for the questions. On the Hamed issue, I couldn’t comment really. To me Hamed used to look like he launched into the punches, but he really wasn’t a favoured boxer of mine. Can punches land with force without body rotation, I’m not convinced? Of course he was a big punching featherweight, but this did him little good when facing up to a truly clever, tough and world-class opponent in Barerra.

I’ve made a note on drawing a crowd/marketability article – thanks. I did mention this as a ingredient of a great fighter. Maybe that’s a starting point for you?



Matt July 2, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Hello mate. Another great article here. Really helpful to me as I’m a southpaw. Just wanted a point clarifying if you wouldn’t mind. You mentioned: ‘DeGale is a southpaw and when using this defence against an orthodox boxer he leaves himself vulnerable to short right hooks.’ How does this defence make a southpaw more vulnerable to an orthodox right hook than a conventional guard? Because although his right lead hand is low, his left glove remains on the side of his jaw as it would with a peekaboo guard, so wouldn’t it be just as effective as blocking a right hook from the orthodox?


Fran July 3, 2012 at 8:26 pm

Hello Matt

Thanks very much for your comment. I like to ensure that the fistic minority community of southpaws are catered for!

Onto the DeGale question. Think about the right hook hitting him on the point of the chin as opposed to more conventional spot on the left side of his jaw. His upper body is turned slightly to the left and this protects from the straight shots, but there is a vulnerability to the right hook to the chin.

Hope this clears it up.

Thanks Matt.


Matt July 8, 2012 at 11:39 am

Yes that is much clearer thanks Fran. Its these minute aspects on points of style which really make all the difference in the boxing ring isn’t it? It seems there are pros and cons to each style….

For example, I read an article recently in a magazine about the drawbacks of the double-arm block style, or ‘peekaboo’. The article said that although its a favoured style and pretty fool-proof as the guard is always high, its actually not as secure as it seems because 1) it squares your shoulders slightly so you’re more vulnerable to straight shots splitting the guard and 2) because your hands are so close to your face it can nullify the use of the jab as it is not extended to keep your opponent at bay, allowing them to rattle off punches and 3) it limits the range of your upper body movement as opposed to having your hands slightly lower or further in front of you.

Do you have any thoughts on this?


Fran July 11, 2012 at 1:54 pm

I try to encourage fighters not to pigeon-hole themselves into a particular style. All styles, techniques, skills and approaches have inherent risk; it’s boxing and the risks of taking hits are there. The trick is to do what needs to be done to win i.e. landing more shots than the other guy. If a tight, peek-a-boo tight defense isn’t working, try something else. Thanks Matt.


Matt October 14, 2012 at 10:36 am

Hi Fran

What did you think of De Gale’s performance last night against the Frenchman? I thought the ring rust was apparent and more of the points that you have highlighted here. I thought he looked a bit sloppy at times, particularly on the ropes and even in the centre of the ring he looked very squared off. Do you think this is a weakness of being a switch-hitter? Changing stance so often that he gets caught whilst he is squaring off?


DAVE I December 27, 2010 at 11:05 am

Top article-hope to see more of this type of analysis on the site.


Fran December 27, 2010 at 7:33 pm

There’s a short follow up on the way! I’ve found the DeGale fight on YouTube and will write a short follow up to the original article.


svenjamin December 24, 2010 at 7:25 am

Stuff like this from someone with a seasoned eye is gold. This kind of analysis is an effective way for oldtimer to dispense some strategic wisdom!

But the funny thing is, the general pattern I see in your analysis of DeGale is: he’s good, but he likes to play around with tools without understanding their proper dynamics. And this is a fairly successful boxer we are talking about!

His pseudo-switch hitting and use of the philly shell combined with his other talents succeed in throwing some of his opponents off, but appear to be tactical errors that are simply not being capitalized on by otherwise outclassed opponents. Sorry, the american educational system wasn’t very effective at stamping out my run-on sentence writing.

On a side-note: it’s been a while since I visited, but I don’t seem to remember an important detail of the southpaw vs. orthodox dynamic being mentioned in your analysis: the liver. Southpaws put their liver forward. So punch/kick it! Unless they happen to be a southpaw with situs inversus. But the odds on that are probably worth ignoring.


Fran December 27, 2010 at 7:25 pm

Hey Svenjamin

Great to hear from you, it’s been a while! On the DeGale point, you’re spot on, I do think that there exist deficiencies that are not being taken advantage of by the current crop of opponents. will this continue to be the case as the quality of opponent improves? Unlikely, but then I’d expect DeGale’s team to iron out this technical issues.

On the Southpaw versus Orthodox issue – excellent observation! The liver shot is just something that I’d not considered, and anatomy as always plays a key role! Excellent spot, sure is good to have your sharp eye back using the site!

Hope you had a great Christmas and I wish you all the very best for the New Year!


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