The road to a rematch between British super middleweight rivals George Groves and James DeGale has taken a hit because Groves was forced to withdraw from a Dec. 9 bout in Liverpool, England, due to a hand injury.
British and Commonwealth champion Groves outpointed DeGale via majority decision in a heavily-hyped fight on May 21 -- and had also defeated him in the amateur ranks. They were supposed to box in separate bouts on the same card as promoter Frank Warren laid the groundwork for them to meet again.
Now that will be delayed after Groves (14-0, 11 KOs) suffered the injury during a recent training session and was advised by his doctor not to fight next week. DeGale (11-1, 8 KOs), a 2008 British Olympic gold medalist, will move up to the main event position for his fight with Jose Maria Guerrero (29-2-1, 11 KOs) of Spain.
"I'm really gutted as I was coming along nicely in training and on course for the fight in a couple of weeks' time," Groves said. "The injury is a setback and I really wanted to end the year with four good wins. I'm sorry that my fans won't be able to see me in action, but I'll be back early next year and ready to kick off 2012 with a bang as I continue towards further titles."
Groves was on a good roll, having followed up his victory against DeGale with a second-round blowout of Paul Smith, a fighter that DeGale needed nine rounds to knock out in December 2010.
"Obviously we are all disappointed as George was looking forward to getting back into the ring again so quickly after his great win over Paul Smith," Adam Booth, Groves' manager and trainer said. "At this stage of George's career it would be crazy to compromise him and carry an injury of that nature into the fight. He's been advised to rest it for now."
Said Warren: "It's disappointing for everyone concerned, but George can't fight if his hand is injured and if he did go ahead and put in a sub-par performance we don't want to make excuses. He'll have a good rest and treatment and I'll look to get him back out early next year which will be a big one for him."
DeGale followed his loss to Groves by outpointing Poland's Piotr Wilczewski on Oct. 15 to win the European 168-pound title, although that belt will not be at stake against Guerrero.
Dan Rafael is the senior boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.