James DeGale's hopes of securing a swift second bout against Badou Jack have been dealt a big blow after confirmation that the World Boxing Council (WBC) has ordered negotiations to take place for 'The Ripper' to defend his super-middleweight title against Liverpool's Callum Smith.
IBF champion DeGale and Jack entertained fans with a high-profile unification fight at Barclays Center on Saturday night (14 January) that saw both fighters knocked down en route to a somewhat controversial majority draw. 'Chunky', who lost his front tooth in Brooklyn in addition to suffering a perforated eardrum and a suspected broken nose, thought he had done enough to secure a 24th professional win and immediately called for a rematch.
With the explosive Smith having secured his position as number one contender for the WBC crown and claimed European honours with a blistering first-round knockout of Hadillah Mohoumadi last April, DeGale could have set up an all-British clash with victory at the weekend. However, Smith's promoter, Matchroom chief Eddie Hearn, has now confirmed imminent talks regarding Jack vs Smith.
In a letter addressed to Hearn and Mayweather promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe that the former posted on Twitter, WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman Saldivar wrote: "Dear friends: Serve this letter as the beginning of free negotiations period for the mandatory title defense of WBC champion Badou Jack against Callum Smith, for the WBC super-middleweight title.
"If there is no agreement between parties, the WBC will conduct a purse offer on Friday, February 17, 2017 at the head offices of the WBC in Mexico City. Please accept my cordial regards."
The prospects of Smith actually getting to face Jack appear remote, however. Both the Swede and promoter Floyd Mayweather Jr revealed after that DeGale draw that he was now "too big" for 168lbs and plans to skip a division to light-heavyweight where he will set his sights on Adonis Stevenson in addition to the likes of Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev. If indeed that does happen, then the unbeaten Smith would be expected to face former WBC super-middleweight champion Anthony Dirrell for the vacant belt.