I caught up with 2008 Olympic Gold Medallist James DeGale MBE today in camp as he prepares for his date with destiny – Chunky (20-1: 14 KO’s) aims to make history by becoming the first British gold medallist to become a world champion.
At the age of 29, James makes his first attempt at capturing a world title when he faces American Andre Dirrell (24-1: 16 KO’s) for the vacant IBF Super-Middleweight title.
James, you looked really sharp just then – much more mobility as you moved.
You clearly have overcome your injury problems, how are you feeling at the moment?
I feel extremely good, extremely fit – you just seen me then do four rounds, 12 minutes each round and you saw how hard I worked.
It was high intensity, a lot of work-rate and constantly thinking. I’ve got James Mac in the Southpaw stance working his jab – with some technique work, at the same time Jim was giving me graft on the pads. I’m feeling good man, training is going well – I’ve been training for the past 7-8 weeks so I’m super fit already, I’m just waiting for that date now!
I guess it’s difficult for you to be able to know when to “peak” with training until you get that confirmation of the date?
Of course – I’m just waiting for that date. It’s about how the training works around that date.
If the fight is in five weeks I can go flat-out again – if it’s eight weeks I’m going to have a week off or something as I don’t want to burn out.
As Jim says: “You can never burn out, but you can under-rest”. Which is true – you can never over-train, but you can under-rest.
I’ve watched some footage of Dirrell this week – he’s a Southpaw and he comes in with that left jab that then becomes a hook and followed by an uppercut.
So from your perspective, are you expecting him to “put it on you early”?
I don’t know – looking at his last couple of fights he’s been holding the centre of the ring more and trying to get his opponent out of there – instead of getting through it and winning on points.
Where as year’s ago in 2009 when he boxed (Carl) Froch and (Arthur) Abraham he was a negative fighter wasn’t he – he used his feet a lot & was willing just to win and look good.
His last couple of fights against (Derek) Edwards and others he’s looked solid, punching a lot harder – wanting to get his opponent out of there.
I’m not too sure what to expect, but we’ve got everything covered man.
Well you’ve got the ability to box on the back-foot if needs be – inviting him to come on.
Do you know what – I’m going over there (to America) and I’m looking to take the title away from him – I’m not looking at a points victory – I want to go and put on a good show and win it convincingly.
It’s been a difficult few years for you and I was impressed with how you conducted yourself prior to you coming to Matchroom.
You were perceived in the public as a bit of a villain in the early days and now you are liked.
Non-hardcore friends of mine even mention how they have a different opinion of you now!
Things are changing big time now. It’s crazy the amount of support I get on Twitter now or from the man on the street – it’s mad!
It’s really nice now. When I came back from the Olympics I was a normal 22 yr old boy from Harlesden – it felt like I was shoved in the limelight a little bit and I didn’t know how to take it.
Obviously I’m a confident young boy anyway and I’m not afraid to tell people how good I am – maybe I played it a bit wrong.
I’m 29 yrs old now and mature, I’ve been a professional for 7 years now – the way you think matures and changes.
Even when you were with Mick Hennessy and were boxing at the Glow in Bluewater, back then I was impressed with how humble you were – your sole focus was on yourself and not calling anyone else out.
I had to be humble where I was boxing at that time, it was tough.
I remember a fight against Dyah Davis for example – that was a tough and frustrating fight for you.
Yeah Dyah Davis – that was tough, I was injured – actually that was horrible!
Even when I was in there I knew in myself I should be getting rid of these people. I just couldn’t do it, I couldn’t land or get my shots off – it was so, so frustrating.
Looking at the rest of the Super-Middleweight division, you’ve got Andre Ward who has comeback and of course Jimmy won’t allow you to look beyond this fight but there are some massive names out there.
Ward, Froch still floating around, Golovkin if he moves up etc.
If I get this world title, there are some massive fights – obviously domestically Carl Froch and the George Groves rematch.
Worldwide there is Ward – two Olympic gold medallists. Can you imagine that? The skill levels will be crazy.
Golovkin potentially coming up, there are SO many big fights out there; I’m looking forward to it!
Weight-wise in the future, could you see yourself moving up to Light-Heavy as you have the frame for it?
Yeah maybe in the future. The Light Heavyweight division at the moment is extremely tough with Sergey Kovalev and Adonis Stevenson.
But I’m in boxing for the big fights and the fights that the people want me to be in.
I agree that I’m big enough for Light-Heavy. If the people want me to go up after I’ve won a world title and mix with those guys, I’m willing to do that.
That division is on fire currently with Stevenson and Kovalev – it’s a wicked division.
From your perspective winning the world title is your goal – do you want to unify the division?
Yeah, let’s go through the champions; I win the IBF title, who else have you got?
Arthur Abraham (WBO) – will he fight me though? Eddie Hearn works closely with the Sauerland’s so hopefully we can get that on, it could happen.
Then you’ve got Andre Ward – come on, that’s a massive fight. You could bill that as just “GOLD”, two Olympic gold medallists, same weights – it would be fantastic.
Who else have you got as champion, Anthony Dirrell (WBC) – Andre’s brother, all these fights can happen.
I want to be in these massive fights.
Final question James – you mentioned earlier to me that you should hear a concrete date next week on when the Dirrell fight will happen?
So next week they would have had 14 days when it got announced that they (Warriors) won the purse bid – it’s been 9 days already.
On Tuesday (24th March) it has to be signed, sealed and delivered.
Really I should be hearing something tomorrow (Friday). They’ve got to send the contract, we’ve got to have a look over it and send it back.
So I should know tomorrow and get it announced in the next week.