James can turn jeers to cheers

PUBLISHED: 14:05 08 December 2010

Paul Smith (left) and James DeGale with promoter Frank Warren

Paul Smith (left) and James DeGale with promoter Frank Warren

2010 Getty Images

JAMES DeGale is confident of taming a hostile crowd as he bids to wrest the British super-middleweight crown from Paul Smith on Saturday.

The Harlesden star will be pitched into Smith’s backyard at Liverpool’s Echo Arena this weekend, but is warning the Merseysider to prepare for only the second defeat of his career.

“Going into the lion’s den really doesn’t bother me,” DeGale told the Times. “It’s going to be hostile but I’ve had it before and I’m fine with that.

“They’ll be booing me at the start, but they’ll be cheering me out as the new British champion. The speed and tempo I’ll box at is going to mess Smith up – and he shouldn’t underestimate my power either

“Obviously the Olympics is the biggest show on earth and to win a gold medal was amazing. But to win a British title is something every British fighter wants.

“It’s so prestigious, especially when you think of all the great fighters who have been British champions over the years. It’ll look good on my mantelpiece.

“I set myself targets by the end of the year and I’ve just spent 10 weeks in the gym training like a soldier. I’m going to hit those targets and then I’m moving on to bigger and better things.”

Smith, who has held the British championship for just over a year, holds a clear advantage in terms of experience – he has a total of 30 professional bouts under his belt to DeGale’s eight.

Their British title clash is part of a star-studded show to mark promoter Frank Warren’s 30 years in the business, also featuring WBO interim light-heavyweight champion Nathan Cleverly.

Another name on the bill is that of light-middleweight Steve O’Meara, who has known DeGale since their amateur days at Dale Youth ABC and now trains with him under the watchful eye of Jim McDonnell.

O’Meara, who faces former ABA champion Joe Selkirk over six rounds, is certain that his training partner will be wearing the British belt by the end of the evening.

“Smith’s a tough fighter and he ain’t going to lie down easy, in front of his home crowd. But I think the key is going to be speed and movement and James has so much of both that Smith won’t be able to deal with it,” said O’Meara.

“For me it’s just a case of how many rounds James is going to win by. He’s in top condition in the gym – in fact it’s hard to keep him out of there.”

O’Meara had hoped to step up to eight or 10 rounds for the first time in his 13-fight career, but the requirements of Sky Box Office – who are screening the show – prevented that.

“I’d rather have done more, but it just means I’ve got to start quickly and take control early on,” O’Meara added. “I can’t wait. It’s a massive show and I’m just happy to be on it.

“He’s a decent fighter and a bit of a banger, but I always do better against people who hit hard – it gets me switched on from the start. As long as I stick to the game plan and concentrate, I know I can cause an upset.”

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