Ahead of James DeGale’s return this Saturday (December 9), against Caleb Truax – his first contest in his native UK for three years - the IBF super-middleweight champion’s head trainer, Jim McDonnell, told BBN about how his charge has prepared and discussed a big fight for another of his students, Jake Ball.
Before we discuss this Saturday’s fight, another one of your fighters Jake Ball is in action next week against Miles Shinkwin - how have preparations been going for that fight?
Everyone puts things out there about preparations usually, saying this and that, but genuinely, this is the best I’ve ever seen Jake Ball look. Genuinely. He’s training hard, he is ticking all the boxes at the moment, this is technically the best I’ve ever seen him and he is just in a very good place!
Has he put that loss to JJ McDonagh (a one-round stoppage in 2016) firmly behind him now?
Yeah, all it takes is that one step back in the ring which he has done now. He’s made great improvements since that fight as well, but he got beat that night because he made mistakes. He knows the mistakes he made now and will definitely not be making them again. We’re confident he will get a good result next week.
How have preparations gone for this camp and how has James’ shoulder been since the operation?
Yeah, everything has gone well, he’s been training exceptionally hard, James is back in a good place - both physically and mentally since his surgery [on his right shoulder, in June], sparring has gone well, we’re looking forward to the fight.
What do you think of Caleb Truax as an opponent for James as a homecoming fight?
He’s a good opponent for a comeback fight. We can’t just take this fight for granted. Would Truax beat Badou Jack? No. Would he beat Lucian Bute? No. Would he beat James DeGale? No. But we have got to be switched on.
Although DeGale has been involved in many big fights, defended his world title three times, by his own admission he has not been at 100 per cent for some of those fights; are we yet to see the best of James DeGale?
I feel like you are going to see a very good James DeGale in this fight and I think mentally as well he is in a very good place as he can now punch using both hands. You will make the judgement after this fight, and the word will be ‘Wow’. You will definitely see a better James DeGale.
Who are you leaning towards for George Groves v Chris Eubank Jr?
I think I have been quoted as saying it already so I’m not going to change my mind! The tried, the proven and the tested is Groves and the prospect is Eubank. So you’ve got to go with Groves. This is Eubank’s step up - his coming-out fight. He hasn’t yet fought at this level so if he goes in the ring and beats Groves, you’ve got to give him all the ratings, but right now I’d have to go with the tried, the proven and the tested. If you look at Groves’ resume, he’s got Carl Froch, he’s got James DeGale, he’s got a world title, he’s got proven capabilities, now it’s Eubank’s turn to prove it.
Do you believe the winner of that contest will go on to win the Series all together?
I’m really not sure! Callum Smith is there and he’s a very good fighter so no, it’s not guaranteed the winner of that fight will win the tournament.
Degale’s last stoppage victory was back in 2014 when he last fought in England, do you believe he can stop Caleb Truax this weekend?
Yeah absolutely, James Degale has matured, he has boxed fighters at the highest level in their backyard and has proven himself. This is the case of James being professional and being completely switched on. We are not underestimating what is in front of him as this kid will be dangerous. I am very confident a two-handed James DeGale will be too good in every department on Saturday night.
Where do you see DeGale this time next year in his boxing career?
Providing all goes well this Saturday, I think mentally DeGale will be right up there - he will be punching two-handed again and feel great. James right now is recognised as the number one fighter in the 168lb division, and I believe that in the next year he will get the chance to prove that. We’ll be looking to dominate and unify the division.