Dream can come true for DeGale
By Ben Kosky FOUR years ago, boxing enthusiasts were glued to their television sets as a British youngster captured both the nation s affections and an Olympic medal. Among the many viewers marvelling at Amir Khan s skills that day was Harlesden teenager
By Ben Kosky
FOUR years ago, boxing enthusiasts were glued to their television sets as a British youngster captured both the nation's affections and an Olympic medal.
Among the many viewers marvelling at Amir Khan's skills that day was Harlesden teenager James DeGale - who vowed from that moment to follow Khan onto the Olympic stage.
In the coming weeks, DeGale, now 22, has the opportunity to convert his ambition into reality when he marches into the Beijing ring to represent Great Britain at middleweight.
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"I remember when I sat down four years ago in the conservatory with my mum and dad and watched Amir Khan in the final," recalled DeGale, a double ABA champion who boxes for Dale Youth Club, Ladbroke Grove.
"I thought 'Beijing 2008, that's going to be me'. This is what I've been thinking about ever since and it'd mean everything to me to win a medal.
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"All the hard work has been done, I've qualified through the hardest of all the continents, and if I box my best and everything goes right, I don't see any reason why it can't happen.
"It's come around so quick and I just feel fantastic - I can't wait for the competition to begin. The middleweights and light-heavies are the first ones on, but that's no problem - my mind is focused and ready for it."
As always, the draw may have a significant bearing on DeGale's prospects, with world number one Matvei Korobov of Russia the man they all have to beat.
Venezuelan Alfonso Blanco, a silver medallist at last year's World Championships, and Cuban Emilio Correa have both defeated DeGale in the past, while Darren Sutherland another familiar face in the mix.
The Irishman has been DeGale's nemesis in recent years - although the Dale Youth fighter triumphed in arguably their most important meeting at the Olympic qualifiers in Pescara last February.
"I wouldn't mind getting Sutherland again," DeGale admitted. "We've had a great rivalry and he might be 4-1 ahead, but they've all been very close. Imagine him and me boxing for a medal - that'd be fantastic!
"The boxers from Russia and those kind of countries don't mess around. [GB lightweight] Frankie Gavin's the world champion and even he doesn't want to draw one of them.
"So it's going to be hard, but I know what to expect - I've boxed six of the top 10 in the world and beaten Artayev.
"The team we've got is so talented we could end up with eight medals. We're like a bunch of brothers and [coach] Terry Edwards is the paps.
"There's a great vibe, we all say what needs to be said and, when one of us is in the ring, the other seven will be shouting their heads off."
Also giving his wholehearted support will be Steve Newland, DeGale's trainer at Dale Youth Club, who is travelling to Beijing for the duration of the Games.
Newland expressed his thanks to his employers, Park Royal-based J & B Construction, saying: "I've had a lot of time off already to help James and they've been great about it.
"I also want to thank the club and people in the local community who helped get the funds for me to go to China - they've done their bit and I know they'll be cheering James on.