By Keith Idec
Among the things James DeGale wants to do Saturday night is to remind fans in his homeland that he is boxing’s best super middleweight.
Rival George Groves believes he has earned that distinction. DeGale dismissed that contention in the buildup toward his first fight in nearly 11 months, a defense of his IBF 168-pound championship Saturday night against American Caleb Truax at Copper Box Arena in London.
“After all this time away, I know I have to prove myself again to the British public,” DeGale told London’s Daily Mail. “Remind them that I am the No. 1 super middleweight in the world.”
London’s Groves remains the only boxer to defeat DeGale (23-1-1, 14 KOs) as a professional. Since their fight in May 2011, though, DeGale is certain he has beaten better opposition than Groves, who owns the WBA 168-pound title, and established himself as the super middleweight to beat in the sport.
Regarding Groves’ claim that he has surpassed DeGale, the confident southpaw stated, “That’s bull. How can he justify that? His so-called win over me was years ago and since then I’ve been winning world title fights against miles-better opponents than he’s been fighting.”
One of Groves’ three losses was a split-decision defeat to Sweden’s Badou Jack (22-1-2, 13 KOs), who DeGale battled to a 12-round draw January 14 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
DeGale, fully recovered from shoulder surgery performed five months ago, will have to wait for a shot at redemption against Groves, who won their 12-round bout by majority decision. On February 17 in Manchester, Groves (27-3, 20 KOs) is set to face Chris Eubank Jr. (26-1, 20 KOs) in another domestic showdown.
The winner of their World Boxing Super Series 168-pound semifinal will advance to the super middleweight championship match against the victor of another semifinal between England’s Callum Smith (23-0, 17 KOs) and Germany’s Juergen Braehmer (49-3, 35 KOs). DeGale expects to sit ringside for the highly anticipated Groves-Eubank bout.
“I was invited to a Q&A with George, but then disinvited,” DeGale said. “I think he blocked me. So I don’t think he’ll want me at ringside up in Manchester in February.”
DeGale isn’t certain Groves can beat Eubank or Smith, whom DeGale expects to beat Braehmer. He is more focused on his own return to the ring Saturday night against Truax (28-3-2, 18 KOs), of Osseo, Minnesota.
“The main thing is that for the first time in three or four fights I will be boxing with two good arms,” DeGale said. “I could hardly use my right in that epic fight with Badou Jack in January. I was beginning to wonder if my career might be over. But then, I am a worrier.
“So I set my mind on being back before the end of the year. Once I did that, I knew I’d be OK and here we are. It’s been a long and painful recovery, but I had to have the operation and now I feel stronger than ever before.”
BoxNation and BT Sport will televise the DeGale-Truax fight as the main event of a telecast set to start at 6:35 p.m. GMT/1:35 p.m. EST/10:35 a.m. PST.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.