Newly crowned IBF Super middleweight world champion James DeGale (21-1,14KOs) appears to be headed for a ring return in October according to reports in the media. Initially names such as match room boxing promotional stalemate Carl Froch and former world champion Mikkel Kessler were being considered. Kessler just recently announced his retirement from boxing and Froch could retire as well. The names that have moved to the front of the line are future hall of famer Bernard Hopkins and former world champion Lucian Bute. Either fight would likely take place in DeGale’s native London, England.
DeGale opened a lot of eyes last month when he traveled to the United States (U.S.) to face former world title challenger American Andre Dirrell. DeGale had Dirrell down twice in the fight and withstood a Dirrell rally down the stretch to decision him and win the IBF Super middleweight world title. The fight was aired live both on United Kingdom and on U.S. television. This was major for DeGale more so in his own country. He won Olympic gold for his country in 2008 but the popularity momentum did not carry over into the professional ranks. That was until his last victory. He made history by becoming the first british born fighter to win Olympic gold and a world title in professional boxing.
Bute would seem to be a less dangerous fight than Hopkins. One big reason is the inactivity. Bute has not fought in more than 18 months and that was a loss to former world champion Jean Pascal. Bute not only lost but was beat rather soundly. It would still be a good name none the less to have beaten for DeGale. Hopkins presents a much different challenge. He is 50 years old but those who know boxing know that age truly is just a number when it applies to Hopkins. He too is coming off of a loss but it was against 175 pound world champion Sergey Kovalev. The bout wasn’t close but Hopkins showed a lot of heart especially in round 12 where he took a stand and just did make the final bell. DeGale is not the puncher Kovalev is and at 168 Hopkins would be the naturally bigger man. Hopkins has been fighting at 175 for years now. Hopkins will be a tough out even at home but a fight DeGale could win.
DeGale is considered right now the 2nd best guy in the 168 pounds division. The number one guy is Andre Ward who recently returned to the ring with a TKO victory over DeGale countryman Paul Smith. Should DeGale win his next fight then a unification with Ward would be a big fight for the 168 pound division in 2016. In order to make that fight happen it’s likely that DeGale would at the very least have to travel to the U.S. again to face Ward. In the meantime it does appear that DeGale is now getting the respect and support of his countryman. This is something that took some years to achieve but as they say better late than never.