WASHINGTON -- Super middleweight world titleholder James DeGale found himself in a dogfight Saturday night, but he used his speed, skills and accurate punching to punch his ticket to a unification fight by virtue of a grueling unanimous decision against mandatory challenger Rogelio "Porky" Medina in the first semifinal of Showtime's four-man tournament at the DC Armory.
Medina gave DeGale all he could handle in a very physical fight, but DeGale prevailed 117-111, 116-112 and 115-113, scores roundly booed by the crowd, which loved Medina's nonstop punching style. ESPN.com also scored the fight for DeGale, 116-112.
With the victory, DeGale secured his place in a fall unification fight, probably in September, against titleholder Badou Jack (20-1-2, 12 KOs), who retained his belt in the main event by majority draw against former titleholder Lucian Bute. Bute turned in such a good performance in a close loss to DeGale last November that he parlayed it into another title shot against Jack. Showtime put the four-man tournament together and will also carry the final.
"The boxing skills are too good," DeGale said. "If I'm being honest, he's a very strong fighter, but skills pay the bills. I watched this guy years ago, and this guy didn't have the engine like that. He's gotten better and stronger in the last year and a half.
"I'm a bit disappointed -- I should be taking out people like Porky Medina, no disrespect to him."
Medina was unhappy with the decision and accused DeGale of head-butting him.
"He said he was going to stop me," Medina said through a translator. "He was running all around and he didn't stop me like he said he would. He was head-butting me and I was getting a little frustrated, and that's why I spit on him [after the 11th round].
"He's the only one who thinks he won. The fans think I won. I definitely want the rematch."
DeGale (23-1, 14 KOs), a southpaw, has proven to be a road warrior. He has won three consecutive title fights away from his home in England. A 2008 Olympic gold medalist, DeGale won a vacant title by decision against Andre Dirrell in Boston last May, outpointed Bute in November in a tough fight, and was making his second defense against Medina.
DeGale, 30, said he will be ready for the fall unification fight.
"I'm always learning in the gym. My inside work, my defense, my concentration. I'm going to go back to the gym," he said. "I'm going to work and I'll be ready in September. I want Badou Jack. I want a fresh name on my record."
Medina's game was all about being aggressive. He tried to attack DeGale by pushing him toward the ropes and firing punches, especially to the body, and caught him many times. But DeGale kept a jab in his face and was much quicker with his combinations. His right uppercut also was a key weapon for throughout the bout.
Medina (36-7, 30 KOs), of Mexico, saw a four-fight winning streak come to an end. He continued to walk to DeGale in the third round and trapped him along the ropes and landed solid punches that seemed to briefly rock DeGale, who eventually spun away and delivered his own shots in return. That scenario played out time and again throughout the bout.
Medina, 27, expended a tremendous amount of energy with all of the punches he was throwing, while DeGale was more measured but also more accurate with his punches.
According to CompuBox punch statistics, DeGale landed 314 of 612 punches (51 percent) -- including 66 percent of his power shots -- while Medina landed 265 of a very high 1,140 punches (23 percent).
DeGale landed many flush right uppercuts through Medina's porous guard, the kind of hard punches that resonate with judges.
Medina was all over DeGale for most of the sixth round until DeGale connected with a powerful straight left hand that rocked Medina during a fierce exchange that got the crowd excited.
Medina never stopped throwing punches, and DeGale had some swelling on his right cheek from taking heavy shots, especially in the 11th round, which was Medina's best of the fight. But DeGale came back strong in the final round, and when it was over both fighters stood on the ring ropes and played to the crowd, each believing he had won.
Pearson rebounds with win
Dayton, Ohio, middleweight Chris Pearson (17-1, 11 KOs) easily outpointed Joshua Okine (22-6, 15 KOs), a Ghana native fighting out of Silver Spring, Maryland. Pearson, a southpaw, won 98-92 on all three scorecards to rebound from his first defeat, a clear eight-round decision loss to unbeaten Eric Walker on Dec. 18.
Lightweight contender Sharif Bogere (28-1, 19 KOs), a Uganda native living in Las Vegas, routed Samuel Amoako (17-9, 14 KOs), a Ghana native based in Silver Spring, Maryland, in their 10-rounder. Bogere dominated the entire fight against the lethargic Amoako, winning by shutout, 100-90, on all three scorecards. Bogere, who lost a decision to Richar Abril in a lightweight world title bout in 2013, is 5-0 with a no contest since.
Light heavyweight Carlos Gongora (7-0, 4 KOs), who is from Ecuador and fights out of Brooklyn, New York, blew out Zachariah Kelley (5-14, 5 KOs), of Lawton, Oklahoma. Gongora dropped Kelley twice in the second round and referee Billy Johnson waved it off at 1 minute, 50 seconds. Kelley lost his fourth fight in a row.
Las Vegas junior middleweight Latondria Jones (3-0, 2 KOs) overwhelmed Kamika Slade (0-1), of Danville, Virginia, stopping Slade on her feet 18 seconds into the bout.
In his pro debut, lightweight Keegan Grove (1-0), of Washington, D.C., cruised to a shutout decision over Anthony Napunyi (10-16, 5 KOs), of Canal Point, Fla. Grove won 40-36 on all three scorecards as Napunyi lost his 15th fight in a row.
Junior middleweight Moshea Aleem (4-0-1, 2 KOs), of Richmond, Virginia, and Martez Jackson (2-0-2, 1 KO), of Macon, Georgia, opened the card by fighting to a four-round draw. All three judges scored the bout 38-38.