James DeGale will face Brandon Gonzales in an IBF final eliminator on the undercard of Carl Froch's much-anticipated rematch against George Groves.
The Sun confirmed the Wembley bout for the 2008 Olympic gold medalist:
James DeGale will fight in an IBF final eliminator on the Froch-Groves undercard at Wembley on May 31. #boxing— The Sun - Boxing (@SunBoxing) April 10, 2014
DeGale joins Anthony Joshua on the May 31 undercard, signalling a huge night for British boxing. Joshua's opponent is yet to be named but is due to be announced soon, per ESPN.co.uk.
The latest addition to this lineup could be the most controversial. DeGale recently terminated his contract with promoters Hennessy Sports, who confirmed they are seeking legal action on a deal that was set to "run for several more years," per an official statement by Hennessy Sports:
Unfortunately the company has been given no alternative but to put the matter into the hands of its lawyers and we are currently considering our legal options against DeGale.
We are also extremely concerned about the possible involvement of any other parties in DeGale’s decision to terminate our contract and if necessary we will take the appropriate legal action against any other promoter, broadcaster or sanctioning body that is found to have been involved in this decision.
DeGale was widely thought to be signing with Matchroom before confirming the news alongside the announcement of his clash with Gonzales. Eddie Hearn, group managing director of the company, revealed the winner of DeGale's bout will face the victor of Froch vs. Groves:
Welcome to the team @jamesdegale1 - facing Brandon Gonzalez in an IBF final eliminator on the Froch v Groves card - to face the winner!!— Eddie Hearn (@EddieHearn) April 10, 2014
The Guardian's Kevin Mitchell suggested DeGale's decision to jump ship may have come after the fighter "expressed frustration that his career was not moving more quickly."
Switching to Matchroom appears to have dramatically increased his chances of a title shot, where it's likely DeGale would prefer to face Groves, his longtime rival. Mitchell provides further context:
DeGale was a member of Dale Youth ABC boxing club alongside Groves – who is self-managed but who could sign a long-term promotional deal with Matchroom – and lost to him in a close contest over 12 rounds for the British and Commonwealth titles in May 2011 under Frank Warren's Queensberry Promotions banner.
Since losing to Groves, DeGale has racked up eight consecutive wins to work himself back into contention. He has beaten Sebastien Demers, Stjepan Bozic, Dyah Davis and Gevorg Khatchikian in the last year, as recorded by BoxRec, but he faces a tough examination in the form of Gonzales.
The undefeated American is yet to stutter across a run of 20 fights (including one no-contest) spanning back to his professional debut in 2007. Gonzales has added wins over Don Mouton and Jonathan Nelson to his record in the past 16 months, per BoxRec.
DeGale will certainly need to be in sharp form if he is to bypass Gonzales. Prior to the announcement of his new allegiance, he posted a thoughtful quote that highlights his mentality right now:
Very appropriate...... pic.twitter.com/XAiBt1FwP0— James Degale (@jamesdegale1) April 9, 2014
Should he earn a rematch with Groves or a fight with Froch, there's no doubt DeGale will have to raise his game. Groves possesses the all-around skill to neutralise DeGale's speed, while Froch's shot-picking ability could leave his potential opponent vulnerable. Khatchikian allowed DeGale easy shots during their contest, something Groves and Froch would not do.
Matchroom's latest signing continues to galvanise excitement around British boxing. With the May 31 card lined up, Dereck Chisora's scheduled rematch with Tyson Fury and Amir Khan's battle against Luis Collazo, there's plenty for the British to look forward to.
The upcoming Wembley event is likely to be one of the biggest nights in DeGale's career. If he beats Gonzales, he is sure to set up an even more important date.