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Preview: Piotr Wilczewski v James DeGale, EBU Super middleweight title Fight

By Daniel Cann

Piotr Wilczewski v James DeGale
EBU (European) Super middleweight title
Echo Arena, Liverpool, Merseyside, UK
15 October 2011

On the undercard to the WBO World Light heavyweight title fight between Nathan Cleverly and Tony Bellew is this absorbing contest between the EBU Super middleweight champion Poland’s Piotr Wilczewski (29 – 1, 10 wins inside) and England’s James DeGale (10 – 1, 8 wins inside). The champion at 33 years old is giving 8 years to his opponent as well as a slight advantage in height and reach. Statistics like these don’t always matter once that bell has rung though.

Fans of former Olympic Gold medallist, Harlesden’s DeGale will know full well that if he wants to keep his world ambitions alive he must beat Wilczewski in style. He is coming off a narrow points defeat to arch rival George Groves and a win here could set up a rematch between the two with the British, Commonwealth and European titles all at stake. No one knows this better than DeGale and I am sure he has made sure his preparations have been spot on for this one. He cannot afford to slip up here.

Reports from his training camp are positive and being part of a high profile bill with a major title at stake he will want to shine. With a live audience in the UK tuning into BoxNation on Sky channel 456 DeGale can make the right impression on fight fans. Remember he lost narrowly to rival George Groves last time out and will want to impress this time.

In Poland’s tough Piotr Wilczewski he will be in with a ‘live one.’ The EBU champion has only lost once and is ranked number two by the WBO.

With trainer Jim McDonnell putting him through his paces at his Loughton gym
He is expected to be in optimum shape. The southpaw challenger said ‘I’ve had a good rest and returned back stronger than ever and I’m just looking forward to getting in the ring again and winning the European title,’

Furthermore he said ‘I’m still on track to fight for a world title next year which was always the plan when I turned professional after winning gold at the Beijing Olympics,’

He is clearly respectful of his opponent’s achievements and record when he observed ‘Wilczewski is a good strong fighter and he’s ranked number two in the world, I’d be a stupid to just look past him so everything is about Saturday night and making sure I win,’

‘It could be explosive and I’m sure the crowd and viewers on BoxNation are going to be in for special night with my fight plus a potential thriller between Cleverly and Bellew.’

Referring to his defeat to Groves in May he added, ‘One loss isn’t going to break me, if fact, this is going to be the making of me and I’ll go on to bigger and better things,’

‘Groves is defending the British and Commonwealth titles against Paul Smith next, who I’ve already beat, but I’m going for the European title which is a bigger fight and a win will get me back in the rankings,’

Keeping his options open and looking to higher things he also said ‘There’s a great world title fight next month between Mikkel Kessler and Robert Stieglitz and I’d fancy the winner of that.’

Confident words from a confident (some detractors would argue arrogant) man. But we must remember that DeGale has exceptional talent and self belief, apart from the close Groves defeat he has looked scintillating.

I know he is not to everyone’s tastes and liking but when Carl Froch and Brian Magee hang their gloves up the UK will need boxers like DeGale to keep super middleweight world title hopes alive.

Wilczewski is a tough no-nonsense looking boxer who won the EBU title in March by impressively dispatching Amin Asikainen by stoppage in the eleventh round. Fighting out of an orthodox stance at five feet eleven inches tall he will be the shorter man by just an inch and a half. Despite winning the title inside the distance only 10 of his 29 victories have come inside the scheduled course.

He has boxed in the United States on three occasions and in Finland to take the title, the rest of his contests have been in Poland. At least he has experience of being the away fighter ahead of Saturday and I doubt a fighter of his obvious class and pedigree will be bothered fighting an Englishman in Liverpool. DeGale’s fanbase is mainly in the South of England anyway and most of the crowd will be made up of Tony Bellew fans.

DeGale can take heart from Wilczewski’s sole defeat a third round TKO to American Curtis Stephens on one of his visits Stateside in July of 2009. DeGale with 8 of his 10 wins coming inside the distance can of course bang a bit! Wilczewski has won seven on the bounce since and has put that defeat firmly behind him. You can’t build muscle on chins and for a sharp counter puncher like DeGale it will be a prime target.

Along with his EBU belt Wilczewski has held the Polish super middleweight title and the lightly regarded IBO and WBF world super middleweight versions. He will have a winner’s mentality which will be crucial under such pressure and will also have his sights set on the winner of Kessler v Stieglitz.

That said I feel that with his back against the wall and with a point to prove DeGale will not leave anything to chance. Defeat here would surely put paid to any world hopes and seriously stall his career. The loss to Groves was acceptable as it was one of those ‘could have gone either way’ decisions. But the world will be watching on Saturday and it is not only his chance o shine but his chance to gatecrash the world rankings and put him firmly in line for a world title shot.

Perhaps it is not so outlandish to suggest that should Groves get past Paul Smith on 5 November then a rematch between Groves and DeGale could have a world title at stake sometime in 2012.

We shall see. I believe that Wilczewski will pose a few questions and test DeGale. But once DeGale has solved his style and found some openings it will be a case of how long it will be before the Hammersmith fighter breaks down the Polish visitor. It won’t be easy and he could get caught a few times himself but after about nine or ten rounds of competitive action I believe DeGale will be firmly on top to the point where the referee will be forced to step in. This fight should prove just why the super middleweight division is one of the most exciting in boxing today.

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