James DeGale vs Badou Jack and Gervonta Davis vs Jose Pedraza
BY KID HERSH
Showtime Championship Boxing from the Barclays Center in New York brought a couple of world championshiup fights that are highly anticipated. The undercard had a potential FOTY candidate when Ievgen Khytrov and Immanuwel Aleem squared off in a war of attrition. Before the fights started Floyd Mayweather Jr came on and said that only Conor McGregor made sense to him for a fight because of "numbers", which of course means PPV buys. He also said that he thought fighters were ducking Errol Spence Jr - no doubt hyping Al Haymons latest phenom.
First up was Jose Pedraza (22-0, 12KO's) vs Gervonta Davis (16-0, 15KO's). Referee was Ricky Gonzalez. Pedraza came out surprisingly aggressive but was getting caught with punches for his aggressive manner. Davis was targeting his head and nailing it with power shots but I thought that he was missing good opportunities to break down the taller man to the body because Pedraza was giving up his height and reach advantage while coming inside and leaving his body wide open. In the second round Pedraza continued coming forward but was giving Davis good chances to explode with power shots. Pedraza's head was rocking around but he had not been seriously hurt just yet. Nonetheless, he cannot continue taking those types of shots. The announcers are puzzled as to why Pedraza is fighting like he is but it is very simple; he cannot deal with Davis's power. It was more of the same in the third round as Davis got into a rhythm and was landing nearly anything he wanted to - once again his speed is just too great for Pedraza which is why he is sitting on the inside right in range on the smaller man. Davis continued the domination until suddenly in the fifth round he completely turned the tide by showing a second wind as he got busy and threw punches in bunches while Davis covered up and pretty much just took the onslaught. Nothing hurt Davis, but he hd a bit of a tough time keeping his composure in my opinion. He took the bait and fired back to end the round - landing good punches but showing that he was now fighting Pedraza's fight. Davis then took the fight to Pedraza in the sixth round by hurting him with a left hook to the body and dominated the round with more body work and getting busy with his offense. Before the seventh round could start the doctor (surprise surprise) took a long look at Pedraza, which as Paulie Malignaggi pointed out gave him an extra minute of rest and it seemed like a "checkup at the doctors office" as they asked him to do everything but bend over and touch his toes. It mattered not though, luckily, as he continued the onslaught in the seventh round and sent Pedraza to the canvas with a right hand. The fight was over at that point, with Davis winning his first title and keeping his extremely high knockout percentage. Great showing for him - but I have to adit that I feel like everyone missed the boat in this fight, including the Showtime announcers such as Al Bernstein who said Pedraza had a terrible game plan. I feel that he was forced to fight the way and style he did because there is no way that he could deal with the speed and unpredictable angles of Davis. Pedraza's punches were so slow that he was going to get knocked out earlier unless he brought the fight to the inside and he was a sitting duck there as well.
Main event time featuring James DeGale (23-1, 14KO's) vs Badou Jack (20-1-2, 12KO's). The referee was Arthur Mercante. DeGale got off to a good start in the first round by keeping Jack on defense. He also scored a knockdown from a lunging left hand near the end of the first round. Jack rose and was not looking hurt but it was not a good first round for him since he appears to not be able to deal with DeGales unorthodox style. It was looking a lot like DeGale vs Brandon Gonzales as DeGale continued moving laterally and confusing Jack with his footwork. Jack started to gain some momentum in the third and fourth rounds by timing out DeGale and being the first to throw. In the fifth round DeGale took control back over but it was only in spurts because Jack was stepping forward and throwing once DeGale unloaded and moved back with his hands at his hips. At the end of the fifth round Arthur Mercante Jr took a left hand that was potentially the highlight of the fight and no doubt going to be a meme for decades to come as he lost his footing but Jack caught him before he took a tumble. He then, in Mercante fashion, went over to jacks corner and asked for a bottle of water to flush his eye out. The seventh round was a great fan as the fans got a treat for eyes in action trading hands back and forth. It was more so a Jack round though, as DeGale looked stunned for the first time in the fight and allowed himself to get caught on the ropes. His odd, awkward style seems to be getting figured out by Jack with his straight punches down the pipe. Jack carried the momentum into the seventh round but it was DeGale who took control of the round and landed the clean punches. Jack then came right back and took control of the fight in the eighth round s he landed his straight punches with DeGale heading backwards in more straight lines. Jack has done a great job adjusting to his opponents awkward style. The doctors took a look at a hemotoma just barely starting to form on DeGale before the ninth round (Jesus, this is just overkill tonight) but it mattered not because just like the Showtime Extreme fight earlier; doctors cannot ruin something this good! The doctors cut into the fight before the eleventh round because they have now turned into dental hygienists and then the action continued with the ebb and flow amazing rifts that fights of the year have. In the twelfth and final round Jack had everyone screaming and on their feet as he landed a knockdown with a right uppercut that landed odd on DeGale, sending him to the canvas and the crowd going wild. It was one of those moments that makes you jump out of your seat because you know that that knockdown just sealed the fight for him. The cards came in 114-112 DeGale, and 113-113 X2, so I was slightly off in terms of the twelfth round knockdown sealing the deal for Jack but it did save him from losing his title as both men retained. There was confusion in the ring in the post fight interview as Jim Gray got some control but DeGale was being super annoying by taking control and kind of talking over everyone with his outspoken personality. He was pretty funny though at times, especially when he was pointing to his teeth missing and saying "I'm still pretty". Great showing by both men but I thought Jack edged it - as Mayweather would allude to by saying Jack got a bad decision for a second time in a row.