After pounding every opponent in his path to win boxing gold at the Beijing Olympics, 22 year old James Degale has just stormed onto the British Boxing scene, announcing the start of his professional career in late 2008. I threw some questions at him as he prepares for his first fight in February.
What got you into boxing?
I started at 10. I was a bit naughty and mischievous at school so my granddad and dad sent me down the boxing gym. At 14/15 I went through a bit of a mad stage in my life. My parents told me that if I didn’t stop they would have to take me to social services. That’s what made me wake up and smell the coffee – that’s when I started taking boxing seriously.
I won the school boys and NABC’s titles at middle weight and then got picked to fight for my country and it all took off from there.
What sort of madness were you involved in?
Roaming the street, smoking weed and silly stuff like that.
Did you ever get into trouble with the law?
No not really. That’s one thing that didn’t happen.
What would you be doing if you weren’t boxing?
I would probably be a plumber or something like that, coz I studied plumbing for a year.
Would you go back to it if the boxing doesn’t work out?
Nah the boxing will work out. I won the gold medal, I’m gonna make history. Please god, if everything works out it should be alright and I won’t have to go back to plumbing.
How does it feel to be a pro?
It feels fantastic, it’s a new chapter to my life and I can’t wait to box on Feb 28th. I don’t know who I’m fighting yet, but I’m going to bash him up when I meet him in the ring.”
How has your life changed?
It has been tipped upside down since Beijing. I go down Oxford Street or my local shopping centre, The Westfield, and people recognise me. It’s nice at the age of 22 to be recognised for my talents.
How have the ladies responded?
I’m not being big headed, but I didn’t have much of a problem in that department before, but now that I am Olympic champion – of course it has made me more popular.
You are being promoted by the infamous Frank Warren. What is he like?
He’s cool man. Before I turned pro I heard bad and good about him but my personal opinion is that he is cool. He has made people like Hatton and Joe Calzaghe millionaires so hopefully he can do that for me.
Speaking of Calzaghe, what did you make of his negative comments about you not being able to a big impact as a pro?
I think he’s fantastic. I think he is one of the best boxers in the world. The press overhyped what he said. I met him at the sports personality of the year awards and he just said to me, make sure your hunger doesn’t go as soon you get a bit of money and a nice car.
What’s next for James Degale?
To keep on progressing as a pro and hopefully in the next couple of year’s ill be a champion.
To who, or what, do you attribute your success?
My parents have put heaps into me. My Coach and ultimately working hard and sticking at it.
Any advice to other aspiring sportsmen and women?
Stay focused, be positive and don’t let anyone tell you anything else and everything will be alright. Just keep at it.