James DeGale is the IBF's mandatory challenger to face the winner of Carl Froch's rematch with George Groves after he demolished Brandon Gonzales in four rounds on Saturday.
Super-middleweight DeGale, the 2008 Olympic gold medallist, seemed keen to make an impression in front of nearly 80,000 fans at Wembley, throwing shots from the opening bell before eventually dropping Gonzales in the fourth, with the referee ultimately stepping in to prevent the American from receiving any further punishment.
"I’m going to have to watch it back," DeGale told Sky Sports, when asked if he thought the stoppage had been premature. "I hit him with some good clean shots, but he was hurt, he was hurt."
The victory sets up the prospect of another massive domestic fight within the next few months, although such things rarely end up being straightforward in the unpredictable world of boxing.
But with Eddie Hearn the promoter of all three of the potential protagonists, it would seem he is ideally placed to arrange another big date in British boxing history.
"The winner has to fight James DeGale," Hearn said. "It’s another big fight for Britain."
What a punch DeGale https://t.co/PGMM45ltLB— vízzy9 (@vizzy9) May 31, 2014
On this evidence, DeGale will pose a genuine challenge to whoever he faces, although Gonzales—unbeaten in his 20 professional fights—failed to really get into the contest before being thoroughly punched out of it.
Having lost to Groves just over three years ago, a result that sent their respective careers in differing directions, DeGale had more reason than normal to be driven to produce a victory that would kick his career into the world title bracket.
Perhaps that is why the Olympian came roaring out of the gate, stunning Gonzales in more ways than one with a flurry of early punches. The first round was remarkably one-sided: The only thing missing was a knockdown.
Gonzales, after words from his trainer, Virgil Hunter, put on a better account of himself in the second and third rounds, hitting back at DeGale as both fighters suffered some mild bruising around their eyes.
In the fourth round, however, DeGale got the eye-catching stoppage that will help build the hype for whatever fight is to come. A glorious combination and vicious left-hook put Gonzales on the canvas, as he struggled to compose himself even after getting to his feet before the five-count.
DeGale smelled blood, however, and was all over Gonzales as soon as the referee allowed the fight to resume. "Chunky" tried to finish the fight with one final haymaker but was still trying to find the connection when the referee stepped in out of concerns for the American's safety.
The finish was somewhat controversial, but the result is interesting. DeGale could be next for Froch or Groves, where he could become the first British Olympic gold medallist to go on and lift a professional world title.
Is he ready for that?
"100 per cent," DeGale said. "You’ve seen the last couple of fights. Final eliminator, mandated."
"That was a good, good fighter [Gonzales]. I’m ready for the winner: Froch, Groves, I’m ready."
"I don’t care [who wins]. I’ll deal with both of them."
All quotes taken from Sky Box Office's live broadcast.