The super-middleweight edition of the eight-fighter competition began on Saturday when Callum Smith defeated Erik Skoglund, and DeGale’s rivals George Groves and Chris Eubank Jnr will also have their quarter-finals in the coming month.
IBF champion DeGale remains widely thought of as the world’s leading super-middleweight but, since drawing with Badou Jack in January, has undergone surgery on a torn rotator cuff on his right shoulder and also struggled with a nose injury.
“Hopefully by the end of September I’ll be able to punch, by October I’ll be able to spar again, so I’ll be back (in) December,” the 31-year-old told Press Association Sport.
“It was serious surgery. I’m just pleased that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel because (my shoulder) is getting better, it’s feeling looser, I can do a lot more stuff with it.
“It’s been a long road. It’s horrible. More painful than any fight I’ve ever had. The (Rogelio) Medina fight and Badou Jack fight, I was boxing handicapped: 100 per cent I’d have beaten Jack without it.
“My nose as well: I had a deviated septum, where the cartilage has come over and I couldn’t breathe through my nose.
A post shared by James Degale (@jamesdegale1) on
“I got a call (for the WBSS) but I needed my operation. I couldn’t go in that competition like that, fighting handicapped.
“It’s a good tournament, there’s a lot of good fighters in it, and I am a bit disappointed, but hopefully I’ll get the winner.”
DeGale considers Smith and WBA champion Groves the competition favourites, and remains interested in what would be a highly sought-after rematch with the latter.
“Groves has been saying that after this tournament, if he comes through, he can retire,” he said. “I think that’s false. It’s a big-money fight and he doesn’t like me. That fight’s always going to be there.
“I want the winner, and I think the winner’s Groves or Smith. I want to box three times next year.
“There’s a possibility of me going up (to light-heavyweight) just to fight (Jack), ’cause I know he ain’t in my class.
“I’ll get back to prove I’m still the best super-middleweight in the country, and move forward.”