DeGale optional defense: Smith and Fielding among those in the mix

Phil Jay 28/05/2015

Suzanne Teresa

The possibility of another all-UK world title clash looms large for the summer following James DeGale’s recent IBF super middleweight title victory over Andre Dirrell in Boston.

DeGale is already being linked to a lucrative rematch with George Groves if his old nemesis can win the WBC title against Badou Jack, although in more pressing matters, ‘Chunky’ could be pitted against an alternative compatriot.

As Matchroom stablemates Rocky Fielding and Callum Smith are both ranked in the Top 15 with the IBF, the pair could be drafted in by promoter Eddie Hearn for DeGale’s first defence of the belt in the coming months.

IBF Chairman Lindsey Tucker confirmed to WBN that DeGale has no mandatory obligations until November at the earliest, meaning Hearn can pick and choose from the deep end of the IBF rankings for the new champion’s homecoming.

“James DeGale won a vacant title so he only has six months until a mandatory challenge,” Tucker exclusively told World Boxing News.

“That means he only has four months to complete an optional defense because we will notify him 60 days before the mandatory due date. Then, DeGale will have to begin negotiating with the mandatory challenger at that time.”

Mexican Gilberto Ramirez is the current number one contender and in line to face DeGale in late 2015/early 2016 as long as he stays on the IBF course. Groves would also be able to trade punches with DeGale at a time of his choosing if ‘The Saint’ manages to capture the green belt – as unifications take priority.

Julius ‘The Chef’ Jackson comes into play as a name for DeGale and Hearn to contemplate, as does compatriot Jessie Hart who is ranked number 12. Mexican Rogelio Medina, Sergiy Derevyanchenko of the Ukraine, Giovanni De Carolis of Italy and Canada’s Schiller Hyppolite would be considered outsiders at the current time, whilst Sauerland promoted Patrick Nielsen and Tyron Zeuge would have a better chance than most due to their promoters close ties with Matchroom.

At this point, you’d have to favour Liverpudlians Smith and Fielding, along with Nielsen to get the nod as Hearn plots a home city celebration for London-born DeGale similar to that of Kell Brook.

‘The Special One’ defended his red belt in fine style against Jo Jo Dan in Sheffield earlier this year and DeGale’s turn is set to come in the next few months.