James Degale vs Fulgencio Zuniga preview.
December 8th is shaping up to be a terrific night of boxing both on sides of the Atlantic. In the early hours of Sunday morning, Manny Pacquiao will look across the ring at Juan Manuel Marquez for the fourth time. The pair’s first three meetings have been surrounded in both controversy and awe-inspiring action, and fans worldwide expect the same at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Closer to home, Matchroom will hope the cancellation of Lee Purdy and Carson Jones will not dampen the spirit of fans, who will instead see Darren Barker and Kerry Hope at the top of the bill, while John Ryder will take on Eammon O’Kane in a battle of the undefeated prospects.
So it is little wonder why Mick Hennessy’s show on the same night is receiving little attention from hardcore boxing fans. The show, held at Hull’s Sports Arena and broadcasted live on Channel 5 in the UK, however, remains an exciting one.
Top of the bill sees James ‘Chunky’ DeGale (13-1) battle Fulgencio Zuniga for the vacant WBC ‘Silver’ Super Middleweight title. While the WBC babble may mean little outside of the governing body’s attempt to earn more money from another meaningless strap, the fight itself is intriguing. Having lost his British title and unbeaten record to arch rival George Groves in May last year, DeGale found himself an outcast. After winning the European title by outpointing Poland’s Piotr Wilczewski at Liverpool’s Echo Arena, DeGale became enthralled in a war of words with his promoter and manager Frank ******. Months of legal disputes followed, with the 2008 Olympic Gold medallist fighting just once, stopping Italy’s Cristian Sanavia in Denmark.
But the promotional troubles are now firmly behind him. Having signed with Mick Hennessy earlier this year, DeGale made his return to the ring by successfully defending his European title, outpointing Frenchmen Hadillah Mohoumadi in a bout which was tougher than expected. Both DeGale and Hennessy put the performance down to ring rust (DeGale had only fought once in twelve months), but critics remain unconvinced.
While Zuniga is largely unknown by the casual boxing fan, he represents a stern test for DeGale. All of the Columbian’s 6 losses have come against future or former world title challengers and his only stoppage defeats have come at the hands of Lucian Bute in 2009 (TKO4) and Kelly Pavlik seven years ago (TKO9). He took IBF Light Heavyweight champion Travoris Cloud the distance last year, and did the same to Thomas Oosthuizen in his last bout.
At 35, Zuniga is nine years the older than DeGale, but he is significantly more experienced having fought 32 times compared with James’ 14. The Columbian is also heavy handed, with 22 of his 25 wins coming by knockout, albeit at a lower level. His best victory is likely Victor Oganov (TKO9 in 2007) who went on to fight Andre Dirrell, or David Alfonso Lopez, a win which saw him obtain the lightly regarded IBA Middleweight title.
The safe bet is for DeGale to box off the back foot and make Zuniga miss wildly, winning on the scorecards. But he will need to be better than he was against Mohoumadi who often found DeGale a stationary target along the ropes. It is unlikely DeGale will force a stoppage, and if he opts to stand and trade with the Columbian he could be sent to the canvas for an early night.
The undercard sees a mix of Hennessy’s usual suspects. Chief support will be Middleweight prospect Chris Eubank Jr, fighting for the second time in two weeks. Eubank will look to improve on his perfect eight fight record against an opponent yet to be named. Last time out Eubank recorded his best victory to date, outpointing the experienced former Commonwealth Light Middleweight champion Bradley Pryce. The bout was a tough one for Eubank, who was caught repeatedly by Pryce’s overhand right. Nevertheless, Eubank’s jab and lead left hook won him the fight, albeit closer than the 80-73 scorecard turned in by referee Steve Gray.
Super Bantamweight Kid Galahad (12-0) will look to have his name mentioned alongside Scott Quigg and Carl Frampton as the best 122lb fighter in the country. A product of the Wincobank Gym, Galahad is an unorthodox power puncher who has visibly styled himself on ‘Prince’ Nazeem Hamed. His best win to date was a points victory over the ageing Jason Booth which saw him capture the WBC Intentional Super Bantamweight title in February, a belt he defeated by stopping Josh Wale three months later. His opponent is yet to be named.
There is also room on the card for unbeaten Featherweight Samir Mouneimne (10-0) who fights the apply named David Savage (14-1-1) over 10 rounds, while Joel Haigh takes on Paul Haines in a Light Welterweight contest.