James DeGale hopes to make his return from a shoulder operation in December
James DeGale says he is the rightful super middleweight No 1, despite the World Boxing Super Series tournament, and is happy to prove it by defeating the winner.
The IBF champion is recovering from shoulder surgery and will watch with interest as fellow British fighter Callum Smith kicks off the eight-man competition by facing Erik Skoglund in the quarter-finals in Liverpool this Saturday.
DeGale is the longest reigning world title holder at 167lbs, with Badou Jack vacating the WBC belt and moving up following their draw in January, and insists he should be regarded as the top fighter in the division.
Callum Smith faces Erik Skoglund in Liverpool this Saturday
“If you look at all the rankings, I’m the top spot,” said DeGale. “I’m proven, I’ve won my world title, had three defences at the very highest level with the people at the top, so I think a lot of people hold me as No 1.”
Long-term rival George Groves, the WBA’s ‘super’ champion, faces Swindon’s Jamie Cox in his quarter-final next month, and DeGale believes he and Smith are the two favourites to win the Muhammad Ali trophy.
If I had to pick one, I would probably go with Callum Smith. Whoever comes through that, I want a unification fight with them.
“I’m going to go for Groves or Smith. I just think they are the best two out of the bunch,” said DeGale. “Obviously Groves is proven now, he’s a world champion at the minute. I think Callum Smith is the best up and coming fighter out there.
“If I had to pick one, I would probably go with Callum Smith. Whoever comes through that, I want a unification fight with them.”
DeGale has not fought since battling to a draw with Badou Jack in New York
DeGale hopes for a ‘homecoming’ fight in Britain this December and is open to the idea of appearing on the same bill as Tony Bellew, who is also expected to make his return that month.
“The shoulder is healing really well. I’m ahead of schedule,” said DeGale. “Last week was the first time I punched in 13 weeks and it feels like I’ve got a new shoulder.
Cleared by the physio to gently start lifting weights again! Still on course for a December return 🙏🏽👊🏽 @nickpalma86 @robmaddenpt
“It’s still a bit stiff and it doesn’t flow as normal just yet, but there is no pain and I’m happy.
“Hopefully I’ll be back in December. I spoke to Al Haymon the other day and it’s all on course for a December return.
“If I’m being honest, if I come back home I would like to headline my own show and have a proper homecoming.
“But I wouldn’t mind being on a massive show like that. Tony Bellew is one of my good, good friends, and I would love to be on that show. I’m chasing more world titles and wherever they’re at, I’ll go.”