Bright future ahead but ‘Chunky’ now under pressure to produce.
James DeGale will fight Brandon Gonzales at Wembley Stadium on May 31, and after going through a difficult time over the last year he admits he is back and relishing the opportunities ahead.
The bout with Gonzales will be an IBF final eliminator which will give the victor the chance to face the winner of the rematch between Carl Froch and George Groves.
If DeGale wins, and that is a big if against an unbeaten fighter, it could result in a renewal of his rivalry with long-time adversary Groves, although he admits that it would be an “easier” fight against Froch given their styles. Regardless, his move to the Matchroom stable is a step in the right direction after a testing year.
The 28-year-old conceded that he has been depressed over the last 12 months, as despite Mick Hennessy guiding him into a position of being on the brink of fighting for world titles, ultimately he has fought at low key venues on terrestrial TV which has negatively impacted on his appeal and seen him become somewhat of a forgotten man.
While he has arguably lost his way out of the ring since his defeat to Groves back in 2011, it is worth remembering that DeGale has an 18-1 record in his professional career and while he admits he hasn’t been at his best in previous fights, he should now flourish given that he is back in the limelight and has his confidence and excitement for the sport back.
However, belief alone is not enough at this point as the Olympic gold medal winner must now prove he belongs at this level. For the past few years he has followed his own path but inevitably the draw of fighting in what would be another huge British fight is too difficult to ignore.
DeGale has the skill-set to beat the best, but too often he has wavered from his strengths and become worn down and involved in a slug-fest that doesn’t particularly suit him, and essentially he can’t afford to do that if he not only wants to win but to also look good in the process.
The calibre of opposition is increasing and the Harlesden-born star must respond, and while he clearly still irks a certain section of the public with his personality, he is a character and the response he has received from Thursday’s press conference proves that he is back in the equation.
Credit is due to Eddie Hearn despite sceptics seeing this purely as a business move, and while that can’t be denied he continues to work towards putting on fights that the public crave.
However, DeGale won’t concern himself with that just yet as he insists that he will not overlook Gonzales. Whether you like him or not, DeGale has worked his way into a position of being worthy of a title shot and it is a success for boxing as a whole that three British fighters could potentially become embroiled in huge fights in the coming year.