Matchroom Sports had designs on a triple-header bill at the 02 Arena in South London, England, on April 25, with British favorites Anthony Joshua, Lee Selby and James DeGale all featuring prominently on the card.
Due to box Andre Dirrell for the IBF super middleweight world title, DeGale and promoter Eddie Hearn lost out on home-town advantage as the latter’s $2,105,000 purse bid was dwarfed by the audacious figure submitted by Warriors Boxing promoter Leon Margules, who tabled a $3,100,000 bid on behalf of Dirrell’s adviser/manager – Al Haymon.
“I’m a little disappointed,” conceded DeGale (20-1-0, 14ko) when speaking to Sky Sports HQ recently, as the 29-year-old is now tasked with having to follow the example set by stable-mate Kell Brook, who recently completed a successful trans-Atlantic trip to take on a touted American (Shawn Porter) and return with IBF gold.
“But mainly for the British fans as some might not now see me win a world title live. But look, I’ve done this before as I won the gold medal at the Olympic Games in 2008. I was an 80/1 underdog. I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again. I’ve been all round the world as an amateur… boxing abroad. I’ve brought back titles and the results. I’m confident I can do it again.”
DeGale’s sole blemish as a professional arrived in 2011 when fellow Londoner and all-round nemesis George Groves eked out a majority decision over DeGale at the 02 for British and Commonwealth honours.
Since then, DeGale has slowly rebuilt, gradually improved his athleticism and ability which has culminated in a tremendous 2014 as he stopped Gevorg Khatchikian, won impressively versus the undefeated Brandon Gonzales in front of 80,000 fans at Wembley Stadium ahead of a third round drilling of former title challenger Marco Antonio Periban.
In many ways, DeGale’s rise to ascendancy is asymmetrical to Dirrell’s, who has seemingly struggled to capture his former prime despite a series of triumphs last year.
Regardless of form and performance level, Dirrell is certainly DeGale’s toughest opponent to date whilst the same perhaps cannot be said of Andre, who has shared the ring with Arthur Abraham, Carl Froch and even sparred Groves prior to the Saint’s clash with Chunky.
“I’m trained by a taskmaster in Jim McDonnell,” continued DeGale, unfazed at the proposition of taking on Dirrell in Chicago or Detroit on what will likely be a Premier Boxing Champions card. “He works me hard, it’s graft. I’ll be extremely fit going over there.”
Breaking down his opponent, DeGale said: “Dirrell will be tricky, tall, good, a southpaw. He knows how to fight and is a former Olympic medalist as well. His professional record is nearly perfect. He’s a good technical fighter. Tall and long.
“A lot of people see us as a style clash but I think we’ll mesh. I’m definitely getting near my prime. My last two performances have been spot on. I had a wicked knockout at Wembley [against Gonzales] and of course then Periban. These are quality guys and the results I got were spot on.”
On the nuances of the Dirrell deal, he added: “We’re just waiting for everything to be confirmed. I’m looking to make history – the first Olympic gold medalist from Great Britain to win a world title. It will mean everything.
“Just prepare yourself Andre because I’m coming for you,” he closed, sending Dirrell a message. “It’s my destiny.”