By James McKnight @mckjimbo.
James DeGale received an early Christmas present on Saturday night as he saw off the durable Columbian veteran, Fulgencio Zuniga, claiming the WBC 'Silver' super-middleweight title.
Pre-fight, DeGale was keen to box clever, to move his feet well and to be sharp in and out of range. He backed his words up as round 1 came to an end. He did box well on the outside, he moved well and when on the inside he let his hands go catching Zuniga with some clean hard shots to body and head.
In round 2, the Columbian hit the canvas, but the referee believed he had slipped. A clear right hook to the temple had landed though.
Round 3 was an excellent round for DeGale as his combination work impressed. He caught Zuniga with a beauty of a left hook which sent him flying on to his backside causing him to look back up at 'Chunky' smiling and nodding in approval of the great shot.
DeGale went at Zuniga late in the round but could not finish the job as the bell sounded for the end of the round.
The Columbian seemed more and more puzzled now as DeGale was setting traps for uppercuts, getting caught off balance many times.
After 4 rounds, all 3 judges had 'Chunky' 40-35 up.
To Zuniga's credit, he kept trying in round 5, attempting to get at DeGale but was having no success and was getting countered. The cleaner, more eye-catching shots were coming from DeGale.
Zuniga looked to be tiring in round 6 with his mouth open. DeGale was putting some real meat in to his shots as he was working the body well. His left hand was really working a treat as it had been throughout the fight.
Going in to the second half of the fight, which, although controlling, DeGale became inclined to work off the ropes more instead of taking centre ring where he dictated things.
From here on, his work stagnated as he looked to be taking a breather and seemed to be taking his foot off the gas. Zuniga was still trying and looking to trade.
'Chunky' was cruising to a wide points victory going in to the latter stages of the fight. Zuniga was showing lots of courage as DeGale was not looking like he would not end the fight inside the distance. DeGale backed up against the ropes quite a bit again as the Columbian was letting his hands go. The last few seconds of round 12 saw 'Chunky' throwing and landing some real digging shots.
DeGale was overall pretty happy with his performance and here's what he had to say.
"This was a good stepping stone. There's much more to come,"
"When i'm so much in control people expect the knockout but believe me, that was a good performance. He was a good, World-class fighter,"
"I didn't want to get careless and get caught with silly shots because the guy can punch. This is an excellent fight as this point of my career."
An overall impressive performance I felt from DeGale with only a couple of things to moan about on my behalf. I didn't feel it was necessary for him to back up against the ropes at times when he was having success centre ring. He did look like he was taking his foot off the gas and taking a breather at stages where he should of imposed himself more.
It was a solid win though of course and going the distance against a tough, durable and experienced opponent has its benefits. He did very well. Against better, World-class opponents, will his lack of real punching power prove his downfall?
Credit has to go to Zuniga as he was game and was always coming forward trying to get at DeGale. He showed lots of determination.
What next for DeGale? Well I think he should take on some top WBO fighters before setting his sights on a possible showdown with WBO #1 ranked Champion, Arthur Abraham, late next year.
It isn't going to be easy, but he has talent and needs to keep working hard and keep believing in himself.
The future's bright, the future's CHUNKY!