It feels like James "Chunky" DeGale has been on the cusp of super middleweight world honours for a while now. The 2008 Olympic Gold medalist now stands closer than ever to a title shot after the WBC ordered the Brit to fight Marco Antonio Periban in a semifinal eliminator, with the winner to face Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in a final eliminator next year, should he get past Dyah Davis (22-3-1, 10 KOs) this Saturday in Kent, England.
For now, DeGale (16-1, 11 KOs) is having to watch on (with a little envy I imagine) as his bitter rival, George Groves, gets first crack at the big time when he faces off against WBA and IBF champion Carl Froch one week later in Manchester.
Recently, DeGale took time out from his preparations to talk to ESPN.com about the Davis fight, that "Battle of Britain" clash and much more.
You face Dyah Davis on Nov. 16. How has your camp been for this fight and what do you know of your opponent?
"Training's gone really good. I ain't really been out the gym since my last fight in June [against Stjepan Bozic]. Obviously, I've had a couple weekends off, but I've been a true professional staying in the gym. About Davis, I know he's decent opposition. I know he's 22-3-1. I know that he's been in the ring with [WBC champion] Sakio Bika and went 10 rounds with him and got stopped late on. I know he's beat a couple of unbeaten fighters, like Marcus Johnson. He's going to be game, ambitious and it's a decent test, but after this fight I need to step it up. I need to move on because I'm ranked highly with all the organizations. I need to start making moves now. Enough of me treading water. I've had some good learning fights and I've had eight 12-round fights. I need to box for a world title now. So Mick Hennessy [DeGale's promoter], no pressure Mick but you need to get me a world title fight because I'm in the perfect position."
So this fight is the last step or one of the last steps for you to fighting for a world title?
"Yeah. I've been calling for one for the last couple of fights. I've been telling Mick, 'Get me a fight, get me a name, get me a world-title shot, so do it.' I've told Mick it's time to step up. I need to fight for a world title or in a final eliminator."
What's your thoughts on the super middleweight division as it stands?
"There's three world champions, obviously. And then there's a couple of fighters that haven't got world titles but are hovering around those guys, and I'm one of them. It's one of the best weight classes in world boxing right now. Once I get my chance I'm going to take it with both hands. There's some fantastic fights out there for me. There's some strong world champions, but I think I can mix with the best and I think I can beat them as well."
Are you surprised that, after all this time, Bika has made it and become one of those three world champions?
"It's crazy. He's been around for years. It's been seven years since he boxed Joe Calzaghe for the world title. He's done his work and finally he's a world champion. Boxing-wise, he's technically not very good. He's strong and he's crude. So someone like that would be perfect for me. I wouldn't look past him, because it'd be a hard fight. Calzaghe said that was the hardest fight of his career. It's a bit surprising he's made it but he's paid his dues."
What's your assessment of your time as a professional? And what have been the highs and lows so far?
"The first couple of years of my career were fantastic. My highs were winning the British title in my ninth fight. That's crazy. Against a good professional in Paul Smith too. Obviously, my lows were losing to Groves in a massive grudge match. But then coming back in my next fight I had another high in winning the European title. That shows the kind of man I am. It's been a short career so far. There's been ups and downs. I think I've done OK so far."
When the rivalry between you and George came to light, there was definitely this good-guy, bad-guy scenario, with you the latter. Have the roles switched lately?
"Of course, that's 100 percent true. All the buildup to my fight with Groves [in 2011], people thought I was the bad guy out of us both. That's why when I walked out for the fight, I got booed like we were in a pantomime or something. People are starting to find out now that I am genuine, I am normal. Everyone I meet and speak to, they're like, 'You're a great guy,' but on television I might come across as arrogant maybe. But I'm not arrogant one bit. I'm down to earth and humble. I definitely think people have had the wrong perception of me. I'm just confident in my ability. Groves is the arrogant one. He's the one that think he's something else. I think we're starting to see his true colors in the buildup to his fight with Froch."
If it had been you who had got the nod to fight Froch on Nov. 23, would you have said yes?
"One-hundred percent. I think I'm all wrong for Froch. He can't deal with someone who is a good, smart fighter that moves their feet well and punches in combinations. I'm a switch-hitter, I'm a southpaw, I'm fast, I move my feet well. I'm all wrong for him. It'd be a good fight, but I'd be victorious. It's a risky fight for him to take against; he'd box anyone, but it'd be too risky for him."
Is Groves himself ready for the Froch fight? What's your prediction?
"I think Groves is ready. I don't think Froch is the fighter everyone is claiming him to be. He's a good fighter, he's been around and boxed everyone they've put in front of him, but I think now is the time to beat Froch. I think it'll be a competitive fight for eight rounds but Froch will get on top of him after that and stop him late on. It's going to be a close fight, it's going to be intriguing. Groves is going to try and move and box him. Froch is going to try to close him down and land his shots."
It's an important seven days for the 168-pound weight division between [Nov.] 16 and 23. Yourself, Andre Ward, Froch and Groves all feature. Is this a chance for you to lay down a marker?
"One hundred percent. I'm looking for a great performance here. He [Davis] ain't the best of opponents, but he's a decent test. If I can do a good job on him then it can send out a little message that I'm ready, and ready to mix with the big boys. It's my time now."
Ward is the division's top dog. Do you think he's levels above the rest or [has he] just not fought anyone yet with the right style?
"That's it. He ain't fought anyone with the right style. I'll fight anyone in the division next week. With Ward, I'd rather take it in a couple of more fights. Ward ain't boxed no one like me, who's younger, fresher and a good boxer like himself. He's boxed people who come to fight or guys who aren't ambitious enough. I think me and Andre Ward would make a great fight, it may be a bit technical but it would make a great fight."