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James DeGale joins Matchroom, lands IBF eliminator vs. Brandon Gonzales

James DeGale (R) fighting George Groves on May 21, 2011. Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images.

James DeGale (R) fighting George Groves on May 21, 2011. Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images.

English super middleweight contender James DeGale will face unbeaten American Brandon Gonzales in an IBF eliminator on May 31 – DeGale’s first outing since joining Matchroom Sport.

DeGale-Gonzales will feature on the undercard of IBF titleholder Carl Froch’s grudge rematch against George Groves in London – with the winners of both 168-pound contests set to meet each other later in 2014.

That news was confirmed on Thursday, along with the fact that DeGale has left promoters Mick Hennessy Sport for arch rival Eddie Hearn and his growing Matchroom stable of elite British fighters. Hearn is promoting Froch-Groves II at England’s national football stadium, Wembley, where a 62,000 sell-out is likely to be increased to a massive 80,000 for the early summer blockbuster.

DeGale (18-1, 12 knockouts) knows he cannot afford to think beyond 29-year-old Californian Gonzales (18-0-1, 10 KOs). However, after a succession of low-key fights at minor venues around the U.K., he is clearly thrilled to be back in the spotlight, with his once-promising career seemingly on track again.

“I’m back and I’m back big,” said the 28-year-old from London. “The last year or so has been frustrating but that’s all in the past and the future is looking extremely bright. The fights out there for me are crazy. But I can’t think beyond Brandon. He trains with Andre Ward and Amir Khan, so he’s got great training and he’s a good fighter.

“He can do a lot of things well, so I cannot overlook him. I need these massive fights to motivate me and to perform at my best. I cannot wait to show the best James DeGale in May.”

As for the prospect of meeting Froch for a first time or having a second crack at Groves, whom he lost to on a majority decision in May 2011, DeGale is his usual bullish, confident self. He claims it does not matter which of his compatriots emerges triumphant.

“I’m not fussed who wins out of Carl and George. Carl is an easier fight for me, but with George it is personal – I get angry talking about him,” said DeGale. “I’m ready for whoever it is but for now I’m concentrating on Gonzales.”

Hearn is equally pleased to have landed another of the current title contenders on U.K. shores, and revealed he had too fend off a number of other promoters in the battle to sign DeGale.

“We’re delighted to welcome James to Matchroom Boxing,” he said. “There was a huge amount of interest from a number of promoters to add him to their roster. So I am delighted to win that race. The timing of the fight with Brandon Gonzales couldn’t be better with the winner set to face the winner of Froch-Groves II.

“The 168-pound division is buzzing and this just adds another dimension to the potential megafights for British boxing.”