JAMES DeGALE is in an awkward position. Aware of the need to talk up future opponents, he nonetheless likes to keep it real. Not that any credit afforded Lucian Bute, who challenges DeGale for the IBF super-middleweight title he used to hold, on November 28 in the latter’s Quebec City stronghold, would be total hyperbole – I recall DeGale’s trainer Jim McDonnell, being effusive in his praise for the Romanian-Canadian before he was destroyed by Carl Froch in 2012. But Bute was hammered by Froch and later outpointed up at light-heavy by Jean Pascal, so DeGale has mixed feelings regarding this potential usurper.
“Bute, it’s a big challenge,” he says. “A former world title-holder for [almost] five years, made nine successful defences. He’s got to be good but since the Froch fight I feel like he hasn’t been the same. But I don’t know if he was a bit of a hype job before that anyway, kind of a Jeff Lacy [before he met Joe Calzaghe]. He wouldn’t come out of Canada. You’ve still got to respect what he’s achieved and he’s hungry for his old belt.”
DeGale would start a big favourite if the bout were held in Britain, but he is travelling to Canada, where Bute resides and has lost just once in 29 fights. This adds to the danger facing DeGale, but the 29-year-old Londoner is no stranger to taking big wins on away soil, having beaten Andre Dirrell in Boston earlier this year to secure his crown.
“It shows you what kind of person and fighter I am,” DeGale states. “You might as well call me ‘The Road Warrior’ because that’s what I do now. But I’m willing to do it, to go out there, retain my title and earn good money.”