By Geoff Poundes
Britain’s forgotten Olympic champion, James DeGale, finally gets his career back on track after a number of false starts when he defends his European super-middleweight belt in London on Saturday night.
DeGale has at last emerged from a debilitating battle with promoter Frank Warren over his promotional contract (a battle he won) and is now signed up with Mick Hennessy’s burgeoning outfit. Hennessy comes with mainstream free-to-air television exposure through the UK’s Channel Five, so DeGale may finally attract the kind of attention his undoubted skills deserve.
On Saturday he pitches up against the French champion, one Hadillah Mohoumadi, who sports a 13-2-1, 9 KO record but has little on that resume that suggests he has the tools to trouble the flashy DeGale. One of 32 year old Mohoumadi’s losses was to Cristian Sanavia, a man DeGale handled with some ease en route to a fourth round stoppage in his last outing back in April.
While DeGale has been out in the cold, sorting out his contractual issues, boxing in the UK has moved on almost without him. The 26 year old has compiled a 12-1, 9 KO record but is still best remembered for his top-of-the-bill encounter with arch-rival George Groves in 2011 when he surrendered his unbeaten record to a wafer-thin decision. In the build-up to that fight DeGale got himself into difficulties with some puerile and churlish behaviour which did not endear him to the great British public, and one suspects he has some bridge-building to do before he inspires the fans in the way that Hatton or Khan are able to.
On Saturday his show at a new venue called Glow, Blue Water, on the outskirts of London, finds itself up against the big heavyweight showdown in Liverpool between David Price and Britain’s other much maligned Olympic gold medalist Audley Harrison. One suspects that DeGale will be fighting a losing battle for television ratings, even if he should find the battle in the ring relatively straightforward. For now, the fighter himself is just happy to be lacing on the gloves again after a frustrating hiatus:
“This is a fresh start, a new chapter in my career and it’s exciting,” said DeGale. “I’ve got a good team around me and at last I’ve got a path, I’ve got focus again.
“A mutual friend introduced me to Mick [Hennessy] and we got along well. I spoke to a few other people overseas, but this deal was the best one – it just feels right.
“Six months ago I didn’t know what was happening – there was the hearing with Frank and it was all driving me mad. Now I can concentrate on my boxing and that’s the main thing.”
Look for the talented Englishman to stop the Frenchman inside six rounds.
On the undercard British trier Lenny Daws, 24-2-2, 10 KO’s gets a tilt at the vacant European Light-Welterweight title when he steps up against Finland’s Ville Piispanen, and also Mick Hennessy’s young guns Kid Galahad and Chris Eubank Junior turn out against opponents yet to be named.