Jim McDonnell predicts a big improvement from James DeGale in his next fight
Trainer Jim McDonnell believes the best of James DeGale is just around the corner.
By Adam Norman - Twitter @SkySportsNorm
Last Updated: 12/11/12 1:21pm
DeGale's seemingly inexorable rise to the top hit the buffers with the narrowest of defeats to arch-rival George Groves more than a year ago.
There followed the long-running saga of a contractual dispute with promoter Frank Warren, but with that now out of the way and DeGale and Groves taking their separate routes to the top, 'Chunky' can now focus on the future.
His victory over tough Frenchman Hadillah Mohoumadi last month arguably posed more questions than it provided answers, with moments of brilliance from the 2008 Olympic champion offset by rookie mistakes.
However, McDonnell expects all that to change when DeGale defends his European super-middleweight title for a third time on December 8.
"The thing is with James he needs momentum," McDonnell told Sky Sports. "It was the first time he's boxed in half a year, so he needs to be active and you'll see the next time he boxes - you'll go WOW, what a difference.
"You'll see a huge difference because the difference between sparring and fighting with little gloves on is massive, and the level James is at you've got to be active.
"His timing and the things he's doing since that last fight, you can see the difference already. As soon as he gains momentum, and he's out regularly, I think you'll see the best of James.
"I think it's a question of being fight-fit. You can do all the training in the gym but you've got to have contests, you've got to have boxing. James is healthy after a couple of niggles and the difference in his next fight will be for all to see."
The Harlesden stylist has such raw ability that he was moved on to championship-length fights after just six fights in the paid ranks, something McDonnell finds remarkable.
"For someone who's been professional for just over four years, he's only had 14 professional contests, but in his seventh he was having his first 12-rounder at Upton Park," added McDonnell - himself a two-time world title challenger.
"When I look back on my own career I had six, eight and 10 rounders but James has had to grow up very quickly as a pro. I think he's done fantastic to be honest.
"It's still early days. He's had six 12-rounders and it's absolutely amazing because in my day you'd have 20 (fights) before you had a first one. I can't think of anyone who could touch that.
"With James the important thing is gaining momentum and being busy, when that happens he'll be ready to make his name.
"These guys are for real, top operators. James is picking up a vast amount of experience in a limited number of contests. But he needs momentum."
McDonnell, who has looked after DeGale's career since he turned professional after his success in Beijing, is also looking forward to the public's perception of his protege changing over the coming years.
DeGale may have turned many fans off with his arrogance and trash-talking ahead of the clash with Groves, but the trainer sees another side of the 26-year-old.
"Out of all the people I've met he's the most misunderstood person I've ever met in my life," said the 52-year-old Londoner. "I was shocked when I found out what he does with his time, such a nice and kind person.
"The real James DeGale is a lovely, humble person and I think part of the misconception is due to the lead up to the Groves fight, the good-guy, bad-guy thing, and he got all the boos and I don't think it helped him in the verdict.
"All the things other people talk about - I don't know that James DeGale. He's so humble, the things he does for charity without wanting any kudos, he doesn't have to do that and is just a genuine nice human being.
"I think now he doesn't have to play up to anything he can just be himself and let people make their own judgement. Obviously I've had conversations with him, telling him just to be himself, but people have the wrong perception of him and over the next couple of fights the real James will come across."
DeGale is set to return to the ring on December 8 although an opponent and venue have still to be confirmed.