Fight Pick & Preview: DeGale vs. Gonzales:
On May 31 at Wembley Stadium in London, former Olympic gold medal winner James DeGale takes on Brandon Gonzales in a battle of 168-pound contenders. DeGale’s only loss was a disputed squeaker to George Groves, but the southpaw has since won 8 straight. While DeGale has beaten some credible European talent, the unbeaten Californian is a tough out for anyone in the division.
- Date: May 31, 2014
- Site: Wembley Stadium, London, England
- Weight Class: Super Middleweights: 12 Rounds
James DeGale, 18-1 (12 KOs), London, England
Brandon Gonzales, 18-0-1 (10 KOs), Sacramento, California
Gonzales, 29, had been a well-kept secret, building his record and sensibly moving up the ladder. He was shoe-horned into a fight he was supposed to lose lopsidedly against ballyhooed South African Thomas Oosthuizen. Instead of it being a showcase for the unbeaten favorite, Gonzales served notice that he is also a factor, as the fight was a well-contested draw that likely should have gone Brandon’s way. That fight, in addition to this booking, shows Team Gonzales is confident in their man.
Gonzales is unbeaten, but hasn’t been coddled. In 2010, he did a good job in winning a decision over upset-specialist Darnell Boone. The following year, he bested tough Lester Gonzalez in another decision. Against rugged vet Ossie Duran, Gonzales barely managed a split decision, before fighting in another close one with rock-like gatekeeper Dan Mouton. All those close fights made him a decided underdog against the streaking Oosthuizen, but it turned out all those experiences had tempered him into a better fighter. In his last outing, Gonzales beat 18-0 Jonathan Nelson.
This reminds me a tiny bit of J’Leon Love’s close call with Marco Antonio Periban on the Mayweather-Maidana undercard. Obviously there are differences-galore between the principles. But you had a more elaborate talent in Love having trouble with the doggedness and strength of Periban, who was able to bridge the gulf in talent to some degree. That’s what Gonzales will need to do. From a speed and talent perspective, DeGale, 28, is a little better. The British Olympic hero is a polished product and Gonzales will need to make it a fight.
Gonzales has an understated level of merit. He does a lot of skillful things in the ring. He’s clever and utilizes the gift of great timing to land shots. But DeGale is so darned tricky–his body is hard to hit and he uses good head movement that makes it hard for opponents to reach him with anything meaningful. Maybe all those years working with Andre Ward will serve as the perfect preamble to taking on DeGale. Gonzalez also has Ward trainer Virgil Hunter in his corner. Are people overlooking Gonzales?
The Californian is a versatile fighter, able to go outside and do work, as well as being comfortable when the action moves to the trenches. Gonzales can move his hands fluidly and with speed. He goes to the body well and his jab is quite good, as compared to the negligible left-hand probe of DeGale’s.
Unfortunately for Gonzales, he’s not much of a puncher at this level. In addition, he’s not able to create much separation against a foe of DeGale’s caliber. That’s bad news going into London to fight a Londoner. Not to imply that England is a greater purveyor of the monkey business that plagues the sport, but they are at least participants.
Even if Gonzales is able to subtly edge rounds, he’s facing a flashy fighter who is more prone to catching the judge’s eyes, even if DeGale hasn’t ascended to the UK popularity levels he could have, especially for a gold medal winner. And he didn’t seem to catch any breaks on the cards against Groves. Still, the judges may not be going out of their way to throw rounds to the American. Gonzales is not a guy whose work leaps off the screen. It’s a spot where he may not get maximum credit for the good work he produces.
DeGale vs Gonzales Prediction
It may not even come down to favorable judging for DeGale. I look for the superior athleticism, creativity, and defensive acumen of DeGale to win the day. It would be foolish to overlook the talent and fighting spirit of Gonzales, who is assuredly coming to win.
He’s just running into a unique talent in DeGale, who is a real marvel in the areas of footwork, angles, and stylistic originality. I see DeGale winning a competitive decision over 12 rounds.
Prediction: James DeGale wins by unanimous decision.