IBF world super-middleweight champion James DeGale insists he would have entered the World Boxing Super Series if it were not for a serious shoulder injury – but he intends to fight the winner.
DeGale is the biggest super-middleweight name not included in the eight-man tournament, which features his old rival and current WBA champion George Groves as well as compatriots Callum Smith, Jamie Cox and Chris Eubank Jnr.
However, DeGale is unable to fit into the Series’ schedule – which kicks off at the beginning of next month – after undergoing an operation on his shoulder back in June.
“If I was fully fit I would have loved to go into it. It’s a brilliant concept, they’ll have three fights over nine months. The original Super Six tournament was good but it stretched out over a couple of years so people got a bit tired of it, whereas this one looks like it’ll be over in nine months,” he told Boxing News.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to fight the winner. If I wasn’t injured I would’ve gone into it, there are some good fighters in there and it’s a good tournament. The plan is for me to fight the winner.”
Smith and Groves are the betting front-runners to win the tournament at the moment, and DeGale agrees, though leans slightly toward the unbeaten Liverpudlian.
His prediction for Eubank Jnr – who fights Turkey’s Avni Yildirim in his first contest of the Series – is less optimistic, though.
“I think it’s out of Groves and Smith but I’ve got a feeling it’ll be Smith. It’s going to be a tough one,” he said.
“I think Chris Eubank Jnr will pull out after his first fight, and he’s got a decent test there. I sparred him in the past, Avni Yildirim. He came in for three rounds, gave it everything, then jumped out after three rounds. They came out after and said he knocked my teeth out – it was my bridge, which was already loose, then it came out in the Badou Jack fight.
“Chris Eubank should beat him, but it’s a tough fight.”
After his January war with then-WBC super-middleweight champion Jack, which ended in a draw, DeGale was sidelined with various injuries, the worst of which was an ongoing problem with his right shoulder.
However, the injury was much worse than initially anticipated and the surgeons had to remedy several issues with it, including an 180 degree tear around the shoulder, the AC joint needing stabilising and a tear in his rotator cuff.
“It’s been a long road. I didn’t realise how bad it was. When I originally went into surgery, it was an inflammation that would be sorted out, but when I woke up after surgery they told me the operation was bigger than expected and the doctor said I wouldn’t be able to punch or train properly for three months,” he revealed.
“I’ve been doing my rehab three or four times a week. I’m doing my running now as well, I’m still on course for my December return.
“I’ve had a niggle since the [Andre] Dirrell fight when I won the world title. It’s just worse and worse and worse. I had physio and that. The camp for the [Lucian] Bute fight, it got a lot worse, I was having hard spars with it there.
“It’s been a long, hard 10 weeks if I’m being honest. I’ve been very frustrated and annoyed, I haven’t done anything apart from in the last couple of weeks where I’ve done a bit of running. I can’t punch, I can’t lift my own body weight, but now I’m getting better and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
He had previously been expected to fight his mandatory challenger, a position which Dirrell and Jose Uzcategui fought for earlier this year. However, after their clash ended in controversy they were ordered to box in a rematch, which is yet to be finalised.
As such, DeGale may be able to make a voluntary defence of his title upon his return to the ring, though discussions over his next move will take place next week when he meets up with adviser Al Haymon.
“I’m just waiting on Dirrell and Uzcategui to fight again, so it looks like I’ve got a bit of time to fight who I want really,” he continued.
“I haven’t spoken to Al yet, I’m going to Vegas next week to watch Mayweather-McGregor and I’ll talk to him then.
“I just want to get this should sorted. Hopefully, it’s looking like I can punch again at the beginning of September, so I’m just waiting on that.”