Saturday, March 25, 2023  |



Carl Froch vacates, James DeGale will get title shot

James DeGale (R) in his most recent fight, a third-round knockout of Marco Antonio Periban on Nov. 22, 2014, in Liverpool, England. Photo by Scott Heavey/ Getty Images.

James DeGale (R) in his most recent fight, a third-round knockout of Marco Antonio Periban on Nov. 22, 2014, in Liverpool, England. Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images.

English super middleweight contender James DeGale will fight for the IBF title, most likely on April 25 at the O2 Arena in London, after his countryman, Carl Froch, finally vacated the belt on Tuesday.

As expected, 37-year-old Froch has decided to relinquish the IBF title rather than make a fifth defense, against mandatory challenger DeGale. THE RING’s No. 1-rated super middleweight has constantly stated that DeGale is not yet part of the division’s elite and therefore not a viable opponent as he looks to wrap up a glittering career with superfights.

Yet Froch, currently on holiday in Dubai, admitted in an interview with BBC Five Live that the pair could share a ring together later in 2015 should DeGale, the magazine’s No. 4 at 168 pounds, be successful with his first title shot, against an opponent to be confirmed. Froch, meanwhile, says he is chasing two possible major summer showdowns – either against 50-year-old Bernard Hopkins or Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. An elbow injury sustained by the Brit had prevented a bout with Chavez Jr. going ahead in Las Vegas next month.

“It’s been a frustrating couple of weeks with terms agreed for the Chavez fight only for me to be unable to proceed in camp due to injury,” said Froch (33-2, 24 knockouts), who also holds the WBA ‘regular’ super middleweight title. “I know what it’s like to wait for a shot and I didn’t want to hold James up in fighting for a world title.

I could have been awkward and tried to put up medical advice to delay the mandatory defense. But James is a great fighter and I hope he can go out and win that title and, who knows, we may even meet later in the year. I will fight him as and when I need to. I have nothing against the lad and he is British so I want him to win and do well.

I do still want to fight in Las Vegas. It’s the fight capital of the boxing world. I was devastated when it couldn’t happen in March but my elbow meant I wouldn’t be ready in that time frame. My other dream would be to fight at Nottingham Forest’s City Ground in my home city, potentially against Hopkins. I was born there and it would be fantastic for everyone.

But I have had longer out of the ring now than I’ve ever had at any time in my career. So something needs to happen soon. Otherwise I will have to retire. I feel I’m becoming a civilized man, enjoying my family and being at home with two young children. Am I becoming soft and civilized? I hope not. I can fight again, I know I can. But I’ve got to be motivated. So it’s got to be either Las Vegas or the Nottingham Forest City Ground because there’s nothing else that really ticks the box.”

News that Froch is no longer the IBF champion was confirmed at the same time as his promoter Eddie Hearn and DeGale faced the media at a press conference in Tower Bridge, London. Matchroom supremo Hearn revealed that he remains in negotiations for Froch to face Hopkins or Chavez Jr. in the summer.

“Talks continue with the Chavez camp regarding a summer clash in Las Vegas, and discussions have taken place with Golden Boy Promotions regarding a bumper clash in Nottingham with two-weight world champion legend Bernard Hopkins in the summer,” said Hearn.

DeGale (20-1, 14 KOs) will fight the next available IBF contender. The federation will instruct Hearn as to who that is and negotiations will commence immediately, confirmed a Matchroom release. That is likely to be American Andre Dirrell (24-1, 16 KOs) rather than DeGale’s longtime English rival, George Groves, who is the mandatory to WBC super middleweight holder Anthony Dirrell, the younger brother of Andre.

“I can’t wait for April 25,” said 29-year-old DeGale, of Harlesden, north London. “I’m not bothered who I fight for the title. I’m that confident in my own ability. I don’t mind if it’s Andre Dirrell. He’s a southpaw as well, and we are two of the best in the division. I will get in that ring with anyone and win.”

Hearn revealed that The O2 in London on April 25 was the targeted date and venue for a clash with Dirrell, but said negotiations with the Michigan fighter and his team are still at an early stage.

“It’s very early,” said Hearn. “This has all happened in the last 24 hours, we will continue negotiations with his team to try to get that fight made. With a sold-out arena in The O2 and Sky Sports behind us, I think it would be difficult for them to get James to America. If that has to happen, not a problem, we’ll go over there, but we’re pushing for that fight to take place on April 25 in London and if Dirrell doesn’t want the fight then it goes down the list to the next available contender, which is Gilberto Ramirez. There’s lots of work to do in the next few days but I am confident that James will fight for the World title at The O2 on April 25.”

Harry Pratt is on Twitter: @gharrypratt