Although super middleweight world titleholder James DeGale retained his belt in a hard-fought draw with Badou Jack in their Jan. 14 unification fight at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, DeGale got busted up enough that he will not be available to defend the belt until at least July.
Because of DeGale's injuries, the IBF, whose title he holds, has granted him a medical exception, allowing him to delay his mandatory defense against Jose Uzcategui in order to recover.
Last month, DeGale underwent nasal surgery and a procedure to repair a broken eardrum, injuries that he suffered in the bout. He also had a dental procedure because Jack knocked out one of his front teeth. Further, DeGale, a 31-year-old southpaw from England, is dealing with a sore shoulder.
"We received a letter from a doctor in the U.K. stating that DeGale was operated on last month," IBF championship committee chairman Lindsey Tucker told ESPN. "DeGale will need until July 2017 to recover from his injuries."
DeGale (23-1-1, 14 KOs) and Jack (20-1-3, 12 KOs) fought a blazing-action fight in which both took and dished out a lot of punishment, although DeGale took the worse of it, especially in the 12th round, when Jack, who had been dropped in the first round, knocked him down and nearly stopped him. In the end, one judge scored the fight 114-112 for DeGale and the other two judges each had it 113-113 as both fighters retained their belt for the third time.
A few days after the fight Jack announced that he had vacated his 168-pound belt and planned to move up to light heavyweight. DeGale, however, said he wanted to continue defending his title and hoped for a London homecoming fight in his next defense.
With DeGale out of action for the time being, Tucker said the IBF will order its two leading available contenders, Uzcategui and Andre Dirrell (25-2, 16 KOs), to fight for the interim title. DeGale would be obligated to face the winner upon his return.
Uzcategui (26-1, 22 KOs), 26, of Venezuela, has won four fights in a row since his lone defeat, a 10-round unanimous decision to Matt Korobov in June 2014.
Dirrell, 33, of Flint, Michigan, has had two world title shots but lost both. In 2009, he traveled to Carl Froch's hometown of Nottingham, England, and lost a split decision challenging for Froch's belt during the Super Six World Boxing Classic. In May 2015, Dirrell got knocked down twice in the second round and lost a unanimous decision to DeGale for the vacant title. Dirrell has fought just once since, winning a lopsided 10-round decision against Blake Caparello.