James DeGale came through his first examination as IBF super-middleweight champion with a thrilling unanimous decision victory over Lucian Bute in Quebec.
The 29-year-old DeGale won the title by beating Andre Dirrell on points in May and put the belt on the line against Bute, who was stopped by Carl Froch in 2012.
The bout at the Centre Videotron got off to a blistering start and the pace barely relented as both fighters enjoyed success with quick combinations.
The home crowd were getting right behind Romanian-born Canadian Bute, who left DeGale with a cut above his left eye after an accidental head clash.
DeGale was forced back by his opponent as the match wore on but his superior footwork and speed were enough to convince the judges to score the fight 116-112, 117-111, 117-111 in the Briton's favour.
"I said Lucian Bute is a world-class fighter," said DeGale in the ring, moments after his win was announced. "But I'm young, fresh and peaking now. I'm ready for the best in the world.
"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."
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