James DeGale beats Lucian Bute to retain IBF super-middleweight title
Last Updated: 29/11/15 11:30am
James DeGale made it a memorable night for British boxing by retaining his IBF super-middleweight title on points against Lucian Bute.
DeGale came out on top 116-112 117-111 117-111 on the judges' cards after a brutal fight in Quebec hours after Tyson Fury had beaten Wladimir Klitschko to claim the Ukrainian's multiple heavyweight belts.
Bute held the belt for nearly five years until being defeated by Carl Froch in 2012 and, although DeGale made the stronger start, the Romania-born Canadian soon had his home support thinking an upset was on.
DeGale was able to block most of Bute's work but his busy, aggressive front-foot style saw him dominate the centre of the ring.
The Briton had to deal with a cut above his left eye, caused by an accidental clash of heads, but DeGale's speed often kept him just out of range and he was able to come up with a number of telling combinations.
Although Bute continued to work hard, DeGale produced more telling punches and the second half of the fight saw him take hold.
DeGale landed with a couple of lovely uppercuts in the seventh and eighth, with Bute continuing to come forward and appear open at times, albeit never looking like being stopped by the champion.
His more polished approach continued to pay off but Bute landed some telling blows in the 11th and by the time the fight entered the last three minutes DeGale knew he had been in a tough scrap.
And he was able to finish strongly, despite Bute being cheered on by a partisan crowd, landing a flashing hook and doing more than enough to earn a unanimous decision.
"I said Lucian Bute is a world-class fighter. But I'm young, fresh and peaking now. I'm ready for the best in the world," DeGale said.
"All credit to Lucian Bute. He's a great champion and, believe me, he will be back."
Asked about a potential unification fight against WBC title holder Badou Jack, he added: "Let's do it in Vegas next April."
Bute has now lost three of his last five fights but the 35-year-old former champion offered enough to suggest he can still perform at the highest level.
"It was a great fight and I did my best tonight," he said. "I think it was a close fight. He's the Olympic champion and world champion and if the judges give him the decision I respect that."