On This Day in 2015: James DeGale makes boxing history

James DeGale became world champion with victory over Andre Dirrell
James DeGale became world champion with victory over Andre Dirrell (PA Archive)
6:00am, Sun 23 May 2021
CBAD8A00-D2B9-4E0E-ADDF-D0366C357A34 Created with sketchtool. E9A4AA46-7DC3-48B8-9CE2-D75274FB8967 Created with sketchtool. 65CCAE04-4748-4D0F-8696-A91D8EB3E7DC Created with sketchtool.

James DeGale made boxing history on this day six years ago as he became the first British Olympic gold medallist to win a professional world title.

The Londoner achieved the feat as he secured a unanimous points victory over American Andre Dirrell in Boston to claim the vacant IBF super-middleweight belt.

The 29-year-old’s victory capped a rise through the professional ranks which began after he won middleweight gold at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

DeGale came through 12 tough rounds against Dirrell (PA Archive)

It was a gruelling 12-round contest which sparked into life in the second when DeGale was cut but recovered to knock his opponent down twice.

Despite struggling to make the count following one of those knockdowns, Dirrell responded well and controlled the bout in the middle rounds.

It took a strong showing from DeGale in the closing stages to sway the judges in his favour. One scorecard did show victory by a wide margin but the other two were close. The final scores were 117-109, 114-112 and 114-112.

“I’ve finally done it,” said DeGale afterwards. “It’s an unbelievable feeling, I’m world champ. I made history!”

DeGale (right) retired after losing to Chris Eubank Jr (left) (PA Archive)

DeGale went on to defend his title with victories over Lucien Bute and Rogelio Medina before a unification attempt against WBC champion Badou Jack ended in a draw.

He lost his IBF crown to American Caleb Truax at the Copper Box Arena in 2017 but regained it in a Las Vegas rematch the following year.

He successfully defended against Fidel Munoz but then announced his retirement after losing on points to Chris Eubank Jr in February 2019. He had won 25 fights with three defeats and one draw.

Sign up to our newsletter