DeGale's the real deal
PUBLISHED: 12:15 25 February 2009 | UPDATED: 13:28 24 August 2010
GERARD FARRELL / DZ PICTURES TEL: 0044-7831-396-923
By Ben Kosky JAMES DeGale s trainer says the Olympic champion can go all the way as he prepares to take his professional bow in Birmingham on Saturday. DeGale is back in the ring for the first time since he defeated Emilio Correa to become the Olympic mid
By Ben Kosky
JAMES DeGale's trainer says the Olympic champion can go all the way as he prepares to take his professional bow in Birmingham on Saturday.
DeGale is back in the ring for the first time since he defeated Emilio Correa to become the Olympic middleweight gold medallist in Beijing six months ago.
Former European featherweight champion Jim McDonnell, who trains the Harlesden star, believes Saturday's four-round clash against Vepkhia Tchilaia could be the start of a glittering career on the world stage.
"If it was up to me he'd be doing six or even eight rounds on his pro debut, same as mine," McDonnell told the Times. "But I don't think there'll be many four-rounders.
"He might have a couple or just the one, but ultimately you're looking at a 12-round fighter. Could he win a world title in his first fight? No. If it was over four rounds, yes.
"James is coming out of a strength sport into an endurance sport. He's definitely good enough and it's all about having his career guided correctly, which I'm sure [promoter] Frank Warren will do, and timing.
"It's like turning a sprinter into a middle distance runner, enhancing his muscle and stamina training, his technical skills and building on what won him the gold medal.
"In some respects, winning an Olympic gold medal - when you have to go through all the politics and qualifiers - is harder than winning a world title and I'm certainly not going to change everything.
"He's like a two-storey house and I want a three-storey house, so I'm not going to knock the house down - I'm going to build on top of it."
Two of DeGale's former amateur colleagues from Dale Youth ABC, Steve O'Meara and Simon O'Donnell, also train under McDonnell's guidance at the Loughton Academy in Essex.
And the 23-year-old will be surrounded by further familiar faces when he steps out to face Georgian opponent Tchilaia at the National Indoor Arena - namely Frankie Gavin and Billy Joe Saunders.
Gavin and Saunders were also members of the close-knit Great Britain amateur squad and, like DeGale, are making their pro debuts on the same show after signing for Warren.
"We don't see each other all the time like when we were training in Sheffield, but there's still that vibe," said DeGale.
"I speak to them probably twice a week, we'll meet in Birmingham for the press conference and then we'll chill and catch up, so that'll be nice - and I can't wait to go out there on Saturday and look the business.
"I'm not boxing a bum, his record's about 50-50. I've fought a lot of boxers from that part of the world, so I know he's going to be tough and well-trained, but I'm confident of going in there and doing a job.
"There was so much happening after Beijing and I needed to sort my future out - it does seem a long time ago. This is a new chapter and I'm so excited about it."
Tchilaia, whose career record is nine wins and eight losses to date, has backed himself to wreck DeGale's hopes and dreams at the outset by pulling off an upset on Saturday.
He said: "DeGale is very classy to win the Olympics, but the professionals are totally different. He lacks any power and I don't think he can take a punch too well.
"I love a good fight, but I don't know if DeGale does - he spent most of the Olympic final running from that Cuban. If he runs from me it might make a longer fight but I'll catch up with him in the end and put him on his backside."
STEVE O'Meara is also in action this Saturday - he takes on an opponent yet to be named in a light-middleweight bout at the Norfolk Showground, Norwich.
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