McDonnell: King James is set to rule

PUBLISHED: 17:02 15 December 2010

during the Frank Warren 30 Years anniversary show at Echo Arena on December 11, 2010 in Liverpool, England.

during the Frank Warren 30 Years anniversary show at Echo Arena on December 11, 2010 in Liverpool, England.

2010 Getty Images

JAMES DeGale’s trainer believes the newly-crowned British super-middleweight champion could become the best boxer this country has ever seen.

The Harlesden star destroyed defending champion Paul Smith in nine rounds last Saturday to capture the British title in only his ninth fight as a professional.

And Jim McDonnell, who has trained DeGale since he turned pro two years ago, has no hesitation in tipping the Olympic gold medallist to join the sport’s elite sooner rather than later.

“A fighter like James DeGale comes along once every 10 years and I’m not ashamed to put him in the same bracket as people like [Floyd] Mayweather and [Manny] Pacquiao,” McDonnell told the Times.

“James could go down as Britain’s greatest ever fighter. He works like Mayweather – it’s boxing 24/7 and the hardest thing is making him rest.

“He can be European champion in his next few fights and then knocking on the door for a world title in 18 months or so. All he needs as a boxer is experience.

“He’s so far ahead of the domestic field and he’s made people stand up and realise the country’s got a precious talent – his class was there for all to see.

“The better the opposition he fights, the better you’ll see from James – he’s got so many gears. Paul Smith’s the best of the domestic bunch, but I knew he’d never worked at that pace.

“We never thought he was going to get rolled over in two to three rounds, but the game plan worked absolutely perfectly. Who in Britain can handle James DeGale? I can’t see any of them doing it.

“What I’m certain of is that, when James next gets into the ring, he’ll have such a buzz because when you win a title, especially a major one, it improves you emotionally at least 15 to 20 per cent.”

Liverpudlian Smith, fighting in front of his home crowd at the city’s Echo Arena, had lost only once in 30 bouts, but was under immediate pressure as he struggled to deal with DeGale’s hand speed.

The champion sustained a cut above his right eye following a clash of heads in the fourth round and DeGale took advantage, landing a series of telling punches.

Although he was warned for a low blow in the sixth round, the Londoner continued to unload the cleaner shots, rocking Smith with a stinging right uppercut in the following round.

A series of combinations followed and DeGale caught his opponent with a vicious left hook in the ninth round, prompting referee Howard Foster to end the contest.

Next on the agenda for the 24-year-old could be a bid for the European belt, held by Irishman Brian Magee, but DeGale’s British title success has inevitably reignited talk of a showdown with his former Dale Youth amateur rival, Commonwealth champion George Groves.

McDonnell is convinced that match-up would be a big mistake on the part of Groves’ trainer and manager Adam Booth, insisting: “If I was looking after George, I’d steer clear of James DeGale like the plague.

“I like George, he’s a lovely guy and a great prospect and, if he’s nurtured, he could develop into a real quality fighter. He needs to get on with his own career, he doesn’t need to get exposed and hurt.

“If you put George on a table at a press conference and said ‘do you really want to fight James DeGale?’, he’s not going to say no. But if he’s got a lie detector on his head, it’ll be bleeping.

“No matter what Adam Booth says, if he puts George Groves in with DeGale, his career won’t recover from the beating he’ll take. Adam’s deluded if he thinks otherwise.

“I know because when I was boxing, I was calling out Barry McGuigan for a long time and it needed my manager to put his arm round me and protect me. He knew I wasn’t ready.”

Meanwhile, there was disappointment for DeGale’s training partner Steve O’Meara, who suffered the second defeat of his professional career on the undercard at the Echo Arena.

Light-middleweight O’Meara, also a former Dale Youth amateur, lost out on points in a six-round clash with unbeaten Joe Selkirk, with referee John Latham scoring the fight 59-57.

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