Tommy Barber – London
James DeGale is set to challenge for the EBU super middleweight title in five weeks time as his bout with defending champion and world contender Piotr Wilczewski has been added to the October 15 card at the Echo Arena, Liverpool, headlined by the fiery WBO light heavyweight world championship fight contested between domestic enemies Nathan Cleverly and Tony Bellew.
Promoter Frank Warren, who has guided DeGale’s career since the 25-year-old turned professional three years ago, stated that the decision to add the fight to the undercard of Cleverly’s first WBO defence was because he wanted DeGale (10-1-0, 8ko) to box again before the year’s end.
Should he have committed to a late October or early November date for DeGale and Wilczewski to box in London, then the former Olympian – who won gold at the 2008 Games in Beijing – would likely have not been able to trot out again until 2012.
“We originally planned to have James’ fight in London, but I want him in there as soon as possible and this was the best way,” Warren is quoted to have said by West London Sport. “If he wins this European title – which I believe he will – then I want him to fight again before the end of the year. That wouldn’t have been possible if we’d waited until the end of October to have this fight.”
DeGale’s career suffered a hiccup earlier this year as he dropped a split decision to long-time rival George Groves in May. He initially clamoured for an immediate rematch – something Groves and his then-team were loathe to oblige as they sought career progression and deemed DeGale a sideways step.
The loss, though, served as a learning curve for the outspoken prizefighter as he has stated that he treated the early rounds of the Groves bout as a “sparring session” and, if faced with a stick-and-move opponent in the future, would box with more aggression.
Wilczewski (29-1-0, 10ko) and the chance of rising to the pinnacle of European competition is now at the forefront of DeGale’s mindset as he confirmed: “The Groves fight is totally out of my system and I’m totally focused on becoming European champion.
“It’s against a guy who will come to fight,” he noted. “He’s a tough guy but technically good as well. This will be by far the toughest fight of my career.”