DeGale blows in

Olympic champion James DeGale is desperate to put on his first professional belt at the Boleyn Ground on Saturday.

The Londoner, who thrilled the nation by winning the middleweight gold in Beijing in the summer of 2008, will battle Sam Horton for the vacant WBA International super-middleweight championship as part of the star-studded 'Hammer Time' show.

DeGale, nicknamed 'Chunky', is eager to outshine the likes of 2000 super-heavyweight champion Audley Harrison by becoming the one of the few British Olympic gold medallists to become a world champion.

To do so, the man who was made an MBE in January 2009 will have to overcome Dudley-based Horton, who has himself lost just one of 16 professional contests.


"Of course it would be great to get my first professional title," DeGale told WHUTV. "The Olympic gold medal was just half of my dream. The next part now is to be a world champion and this title is just a stepping-stone.

"I'm the real deal, man. The future is bright and the future is chunky. Please believe I will be the first Olympic gold medallist who will go on to win a world title."

Having boxed so impressively in China, DeGale, whose cousin Lee Cook plays professional football for Queens Park Rangers, cannot wait to pull on his gloves in front of 20,000-plus fans this weekend.

"Pressure-wise, I thrive on pressure, so I can't wait. I'm really looking forward to fighting at Upton Park, too. I train just down the road in Loughton, so I've got lots of friends and support around here, so I'm really looking forward to it.

"I'll most definitely have plenty of support. I've personally sold about 600 tickets myself. I train in Loughton so a lot of people know me around here so I should have some support. The atmosphere is going to be great - I've heard they've sold about 20,000 tickets, so I'm really looking forward to it now."

As an amateur, DeGale fought regularly over three three-minute rounds. As a professional, he has not gone further than the four rounds he boxed with Georgian Vepkhia Tchilaia in his first bout in February 2009.

However, the Harlesden-born fighter has no doubts that he will last the distance should Saturday's clash go the full 12 scheduled rounds.

"I've got one of the best coaches in the world in Jim McDonald, so I'm always fit. On Saturday, I can walk to the ring with a smile on my face. I've done all the hard work so 12 rounds will be a walk in the park, really."

DeGale is one of three Beijing Olympians on Saturday's bill. Frankie Gavin will battle Gavin Tait in a light-welterweight contest, while Billy Joe Saunders will take on Andy Butlin in a middleweight bout.