James DeGale insists he is bang on course to be Britain's best super-middleweight.
Olympic champion determined to make his mark
Rising star James DeGale insists he is bang on course to be Britain's best super-middleweight.
The 24-year-old Olympic gold medallist has made a perfect start to life in the paid ranks, winning his first seven fights with five successes coming inside the distance.
He also claimed his first title, the vacant WBA international belt, when he stopped Sam Horton in five rounds back in May.
The super-middleweight division is arguably the most competitive and vibrant in Britain with former WBC king Carl Froch currently taking part in the Super Six World Series and topping the rankings.
Scouser Paul Smith holds the British belt, George Groves has the Commonwealth title and there are also the likes of Brian Magee and Tony Quigley anxious to make their mark.
DeGale will be looking for his eighth pro victory when he defends his newly-won title against Liverpool's Carl Dilks (14-2) in Birmingham on September 18 - a tricky opponent ranked just ahead of the Olympian in the current British standings.
But Londoner DeGale is already looking to be British champion by the end of what will have been a hectic year for him.
"I want at least two more fights before the end the year ... and I want to be British champion," said the southpaw switch-hitter.
"I said at the start of the year that's what I wanted and I think I'm getting there. I've got a tough fight coming up but my training is going well. I've been in camp for three weeks now and I've been working like a Trojan.
"The domestic scene is buzzing at this weight - but I believe I'm the best and I'm going to prove that.
"I am a person who sets himself goals and mine are to win the British title in 2010, defend it a couple of times in 2011 and then be a world champion in 2012.
"Whatever it takes and whoever I have to fight to achieve it I will do. I'm ready for anyone."
It looks as though there could be several mouthwatering domestic clashes to come in the near future - and there was almost a taster in April but DeGale reputedly turned down £50,000 from David Haye's promotional company to fight Groves.
The gold medallist was beaten by Worcester-based Groves at amateur level as the 21-year-old stormed to the 2006 ABA title, but DeGale insists there will be only one outcome WHEN the two collide in the future.
"I keep saying to (promoter) Frank Warren to get the fight on, but you have to remember that boxing is not just a sport, it's a business," said DeGale.
"Groves is living off my name after living in my shadow for so long. There are big egos in boxing and people get jealous - it's sad really.
"But I think it's a fight that will happen somewhere down the line and I promise that I will knock Groves out."
After winning a bronze medal at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, DeGale was catapulted into the limelight when he won gold at Beijing two years later - beating Cuban Emilio Correa 16-14 in a bad-tempered middleweight final that saw the Briton bitten on the shoulder.
He turned professional in December 2008 and signed a deal with Warren, along with fellow Olympians Frankie Gavin and Billy Joe Saunders.
But all did not go smoothly when he made his pro debut, labouring to a four-round points win against a defensive Georgian in Vepkhia Tchilaia which earned him a mixed reception in Birmingham.
"I made a shaky start for sure. I'm loud so I think people expected a lot from me," said DeGale.
"But I feel I have improved so much then and I can really feel the fans getting behind me.
"It's a massive change moving from the amateurs to the pros - it's almost like two different sports. In the amateurs it's almost like fencing as you are trying not to get hit, but the pro game is much more spiteful as you are looking to go in the ring and hurt people.
"It took me a while to adjust. I had to totally change the way I punched, the way I defended and how I approached fights. But I feel I'm getting there now and I think that is showing in my performances."
Turning professional robbed DeGale of the opportunity to defend his Olympic title when the Games come to London in 2012.
He admits to having regrets about not being involved, but insists he has made the right decision.
"Only this week I was thinking about how good it would be to be a part of London 2012," added DeGale.
"It's the biggest show on earth and it was a dream come true for me to be involved in Beijing. The thought of being stood on top of that podium, medal around my neck, flag around my shoulders and hearing the national anthem still makes me smile.
"But I think I had to strike while the iron was hot in terms of going pro. Winning the Olympic gold was the pinnacle of my amateur career and anything less than gold in 2012 would have been a failure.
"I'm still in touch with Khalid Yafai and Tom Stalker, who are in the Great Britain squad, and I think they can do well in 2012. They look to have a good bond and I wish them all the best."
DeGale has no wish to follow in the footsteps of WBA light-welterweight champion Amir Khan and progress his career in the United States.
Khan announced he had split with British promoter Warren back in January and signed a deal with Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions. The Bolton star now spends most of his time in the States with trainer Freddie Roach.
"You can never say never, but I'm very comfortable being at home," said DeGale.
"I've signed with Frank Warren, who is one of the best if the not the best, promoter in the world. He has made the careers of so many fighters and I'm hoping he can do that for me.
"We get on really well. It's a good relationship and already he's had me on some great bills. The one at Upton Park in May was fantastic. I was chief support to Kevin Mitchell and to have 20,000 people chanting your name was special. The aim now is to be headlining these bills.
"I'm also close to my trainer Jim McDonnell. He works me hard in the gym, but outside of the ring we can chill out, have a cup of tea and a chat.
"So I'm pretty lucky and also very happy with how things are at the moment."
Lonsdale celebrates 50 years with James DeGale MBE boxing in Lonsdale apparel & equipment. James' next fight is set for September 18 at the LG Arena, Birmingham.