James DeGale has signed with Hennessy Sports, and will debut on Channel 5 in October. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
European super middleweight champion James DeGale has signed a "long-term deal" with Hennessy Sports, officially leaving Frank Warren Promotions, and will make his debut with his new promoter on October 13, live on Channel 5 in the UK.
"I am over the moon with my new long-term promotional deal with Hennessy Sports. I can't wait to get back in the ring on October 13 and show the millions of viewers on Channel 5 what I'm all about."
DeGale (12-1, 9 KO) is still considered one of the UK's top young fighters -- and indeed, still one of the more promising prospects in the sport -- but his relationship with Warren has gone quite sour this year, with an earlier attempt to "move on" in January, which was then thwarted by Warren, who said he still had the fighter under contract through April 2013.
It's a calculated risk for DeGale, who moves to a smaller promoter, but also one with terrestrial TV in the UK and a good relationship with overseas networks, too -- Hennessy and Wealth TV have already worked together in the States, and Super Channel in Canada also routinely carries his cards.
The 26-year-old DeGale won Olympic gold in Beijing in 2008, and was a highly-coveted amateur prospect turning pro. It was no surprise that he signed with Warren, then the clear dominant promoter in the UK fight game, and his early push was strong. In his seventh pro fight, he was fighting for minor WBA titles, and in his ninth, he beat Paul Smith for the British super middleweight title.
In May 2011, he was matched in a rare prospect-versus-prospect bout with former amateur rival George Groves, which Groves won over 12 closely contested rounds at the O2 Arena in London. It was a big-time fight that drew some strong attention even in the States, remarkable given the inexperience of the two fighters.
After that, it went a bit downhill. DeGale kept winning, and Warren got him a fight for the European title right off of the Groves loss, with "Chunky" lifting the strap from Piotr Wilczewski in a tight battle last October. But when the calendar turned, there were all sorts of issues between Warren and DeGale, most of them kept private. DeGale wound up fighting Cristian Sanavia in April, but did so in Denmark on a Sauerland Event-promoted show. He hasn't truly fought for Warren in a year.
Obviously, something needed to change, and something has. Warren's position has been somewhat marginalized, as BoxNation is his only outlet for fights, and Matchroom Boxing has begun breathing down his neck (at best) with their Sky Sports deal. Hennesy's Channel 5 deal is going to look good to a lot of fighters, one might suspect, but this is far from the end of Warren or anything like that -- he's still got a lot of talent in his stable, and he's overcome a lot more than his current standing to hang around in the boxing world.