DeGale is crowned European champion

James DeGale overcame a fifth-round scare to become European super-middleweight champion with a narrow points victory over Piotr Wilczewski.

DeGale won a majority decision after coming on strong in the second half of the fight at the Liverpool Echo Arena.

The wiley Wilczewski, 33, used his experience to frustrate the Olympic champion and rocked him with a big right that left DeGale hanging on for the bell at the end of the fifth.

But DeGale recovered and his superior skills proved decisive, with one judge scoring the bout 114-114 and the other two 115-113 in his favour.

The pressure was on the Harlesden man – and he knew it – following May’s controversial points defeat against arch-rival and fellow West Londoner George Groves.

That majority-decision verdict saw DeGale lose his British title and unbeaten record, and he could not afford to slip up again.

Having paid the price for a ponderous start in that encounter, DeGale pledged to be much more assertive against Wilczewski.

And after a cagey opening round, DeGale ended the second with a beautifully delivered uppercut.

But Wilczewski was awkward and clearly looking to use his dangerous right hand against DeGale’s southpaw stance.

He enjoyed a good fourth round, absorbing a hard uppercut and then clipping DeGale with a thumping right cross.

And an even heavier right wobbled DeGale in the following session, forcing him to cling on and survive a mini-crisis.

To his credit DeGale responded well, steadying the ship in the sixth and seventh rounds by landing with some decent combinations and body shots which slowed down his opponent at an important stage of the fight.

That set DeGale up for the eighth – his best round of the contest – in which he hurt Wilczewski with a left uppercut and several more body shots.

DeGale stepped on the gas as the defending champion faded in the closing stages, and a left hook followed by a barrage of yet more body shots rattled Wilczewski in the 11th.

And DeGale was the aggressor again in the final round, throwing Wilczewski off balance with a right-left combination.

Wilczewski was ranked two in the world by the WBO and had lost only one of his 30 previous fights.

Beating him leaves DeGale on course for a possible world title shot or a rematch with Groves.

After only 12 professional fights, DeGale has now won the European and British titles – but he was forced to dig deep by a proud Pole who promised he would not give up his championship without a battle and was true to his word.