PUBLISHED: 12:34 05 March 2008 | UPDATED: 13:13 24 August 2010
By Ben Kosky NEW Olympian James DeGale admits he can t stop smiling since finally clinching a coveted place at the Beijing Games last weekend. The Dale Youth Club middleweight made certain of his inclusion in Great Britain s Olympic squad with four stra
By Ben Kosky
NEW Olympian James DeGale admits he 'can't stop smiling' since finally clinching a coveted place at the Beijing Games last weekend.
The Dale Youth Club middleweight made certain of his inclusion in Great Britain's Olympic squad with four straight wins to reach the final of the European qualifying tournament in Pescara, Italy.
The third of those saw 'Chunky' DeGale, 22, finally conquer his nemesis Darren Sutherland by the slimmest of margins - and the Harlesden fighter says it was then that he knew he was Beijing-bound.
Sutherland had beaten DeGale in all three of their previous encounters - two of them highly controversial - but the Dale Youth man triumphed when it mattered most, 23-22.
"Straight after the Sutherland fight I knew I was going do it," DeGale told the Times.
"I was 10 points up in the fight and virtually giving him boxing lessons, then he caught me with a big overhead right and I took a standing count.
"I think I scored the winning point in the last second of the fight, but the main thing is I beat him and now I can't stop smiling. Nothing in the world can get me down.
"People said I couldn't perform on the big stage, but I proved I can. I had four fights in five days, I beat Sutherland and qualified for the Olympics - what more could I ask?"
After his opening win against Giorghi Nakani of Georgia, DeGale then stopped Spain's Abella Castillo in the third round before his hard-fought success over Sutherland.
A cut above the double ABA champion's right eye required four stitches before he was ready to take on Hungary's Istvan Svili in the semi-final, with Olympic qualification at stake.
And DeGale was never in any danger of falling at the final hurdle - even though he did lose his footing in the second round before recovering to land a right hook and give Svili a standing count.
The Hungarian was never in the contest and DeGale duly saw out a 17-9 win to realise his dream - something that came as no surprise to GB team coach Terry Edwards.
He said: "Everyone in Team GB knew Chunky was going to qualify for 2008 - it was just a matter of where and when."
With qualification secured, Edwards advised DeGale to withdraw from the final and take a fortnight off before he returns to action next month at the GB tournament in Finland.
DeGale added: "I'm just chilling, relaxing and enjoying life for the next couple of weeks and then I'm back to work.
"My trainer, Steve Newland, has been fantastic and my mum and dad have always been there for me, supporting me. I hope I can give something back - starting with an Olympic medal.