The first and second-ranked super middleweights in the world met in a unification bout Saturday night in front of 10,128 fans at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and after two knockdowns and twelve intense, back-and-forth rounds, the distinction as the world’s best fighter at 168 pounds still was unresolved.
WBC champion Badou Jack (20-1-3, 12 KOs) and IBF titlist James DeGale (23-1-1, 14 KOs) fought to a 12-round majority draw in a thriller that was scored 114-112 (DeGale), and 113-113 twice.
“I’ve got huge respect for this man, but I thought I won that," said DeGale. "I landed the cleanest shots. Let’s do it again. Let’s do it again in London."
Draws typically are controversial, but both men had quality moments in a bout that may have enhanced the drawing power of each fighter.
Britain’s DeGale, making the third defense of his IBF belt, started the drama by flooring Jack with a jab late in the first round. But after that flash knockdown, Jack settled down and began to impose his power in the highly skilled and closely contested battle.
Jack, also making his third title defense, was more effective on the inside and more active overall, throwing 745 total punches to DeGale’s 617.
DeGale also had a tooth knocked out during the fight, causing him to lose his mouthpiece on multiple occasions. However, he did not suffer any point deductions for the lost mouthpiece.
The pivotal moment in the fight occurred when Jack floored DeGale for the first time in his career with a left-right combo punch midway through the 12th and final round.
“He hit me (in the 12th), but I was more off balance," said DeGale. "I respect him. He’s a good, all-around fighter. Let’s go again.”
Without the 10-8 round, DeGale would have won a unanimous decision.
“I thought I won the fight. I finished stronger,” Jack said. “His knockdown was a flash knockdown. I won the fight. He was doing a lot of running. He was throwing a lot of [expletive] at my guard."
While both fighters seemed open to a rematch, the question of weight remains in dispute, as Jack may be outgrowing the division.
“Let’s do it again at light heavyweight," said Jack. "It’s time to move to light heavyweight.”
Undefeated 130-pound Gervonta Davis (17-0, 16 KOs) dethroned defending IBF Junior Lightweight World Champion Jose Pedraza (22-1, 12 KOs) with an impressive seventh round TKO (2:36) in the undercard bout.
Davis was accurate from the opening bell, landing an astounding 48 percent of his power punches and 40 percent of his total shots.
Pedraza was making the third defense of his belt, but didn’t come out with his traditional “Sniper” game plan of fighting at range and picking apart his opponent.
Meanwhile, Davis gained confidence as he connected on the inside, landing at an impressive clip and avoiding his Puerto Rican opponent's blows with effective lateral movement and head movement.
The Baltimore native hurt Pedraza with a huge left hook to the body in the opening moments of the sixth round, forcing Pedraza to guard his right side while eating repeated combinations. Davis landed more than 50 percent of his power shots in the sixth and Pedraza never really recovered.
“I felt that he was laying down," said Davis. "I caught him one time in the body and he backed up. My team told me to go back to the body. My team told me to stay under control and go back to the body.”
Pedraza was floored in the seventh round by a big right hook, falling to the canvas for the first time in his career. He got up, but referee Ricky Gonzalez sensed Pedraza was defeated and immediately halted the contest.
Pedraza admitted he made a fundamental error in fighting Davis’ game.
“The strategy was to fight him from a distance, but it didn’t work out that way,” Pedraza said. “In spurts I did do it, but in the end I was trying to give too much pressure and that didn’t work."
Pedraza cited weight being a contributing factor to the loss.
“It’s no excuse, but I was at 135 pounds and coming down to accept this fight maybe wasn’t the right move,” said Pedraza.
In another noteworthy bout, Amanda Serrano (31-1-1, 23 KOs) capitalized on the opportunity to fight in the first women’s world title fight on English-language national television in nearly a decade, as she defended her WBO Junior Featherweight World Championship over former two-division world champion Yazmin Rivas (35-10-1, 10 KOs) via unanimous decision.
The judges scored the bout 97-97, 98-92, 99-91.
Serrano was the busier fighter from the opening bell, and landed nearly the double amount of the punches as her opponent – 206 compared to 107 – while connecting on an impressive 41 percent of her power punches.
"We knew she was going to come to fight,” Serrano said. “She's a Mexican fighter who's very tough and experienced. I had to show her my power and my skills. I was glad to get 10-rounds in and I hope the fans enjoyed the fight."
By Staff of TheDailySportsHerald.com and news services