James DeGale (21-1, 14 KOs) narrowly defeated Andre Dirrell (24-2, 16 KOs) Saturday afternoon on Premier Boxing Champions on NBC from Agganis Arena in Boston to earn the super middleweight world title.
Degale had Dirrell in trouble early knocking him down twice in the second round to open up a lead on the scorecards. Dirrell fought back strongly throughout the rest of the fight by using his jab and a series of combinations to occasionally stun DeGale, but was unable to make up the gap on the scorecards. The judges’ scores were 114-112 twice and 117-109.
Worcester’s Edwin Rodriguez (27-1, 18 KOs) impressed the crowd at Agganis Arena with a dominant third round stoppage over the previously undefeated Craig Baker (16-1, 12 KOs). The ref stopped the fight at 2:22 into the third round because of unanswered strikes to the head.
Another local favorite, Framingham’s Danny O’Connor (26-2, 10 KOs) was determined to put on a show close to home and he delivered in a big way, stopping Chris Gilbert (13-2, 10 KOs) in the fifth round. O’Connor knocked Gilbert down in rounds two and three before getting the stoppage in round five.
Here is what the fighters had to say Saturday:
“I am speechless. In my whole career, what I have been building up to is winning a world title and I have finally done it. It is an unbelievable feeling. I have made history; I am the first British Olympic Gold medalist to become a world champion.
“I am back now and injury free. I will take on any super middleweight in the world. There is no other super middleweight in the world who will beat me. I am hard to beat when I am at my best.
“Let’s not forget Dirrell is a very good opponent who is very, very talented and hard to beat.
“I am super fit, feeling good and I am ready. I am a world champion.”
“They said I ran from Carl Froch and they took that fight from me. He ran tonight and they gave it to him.
“All he did was run, no way I lost this fight.”
“I imposed my will and took him out. I was hitting him with some hard rights and it was only a matter of time.
“I hit him with a lot of clean rights but I really wanted to knock him down.
“I’m ready for a title fight now, but maybe it will take one more fight. That’s up to my team.”
“I felt like it was stopped too soon but it’s done now and all I can do is go back to the gym and work harder and come back stronger next time.
“I commend Edwin and today I guess the better man won.
“My activity level wasn’t high enough that’s all.
“I’m a champion either way it goes, it’s time to get back in the gym.”
“The game plan was to be intelligent and use my skills. We didn’t think he was as skillful and I didn’t want to fight down to him. Luckily the body shots really affected him.
“As soon as Paulie Malignaggi got injured I turned my focus towards this fight. That’s all I thought about. I still want to fight Paulie.”
“Danny O’Connor is a slick well rounded fighter. He just caught me with a great shot. I really appreciate the experience of fighting on this card but I feel like I have more to give.
“To improve on my performance in the future I just need more experience, I’ll be back.
“Danny is the best fighter I’ve fought so far.”