Trainer Jim McDonnell believes WBC Silver super-middleweight champion James DeGale MBE’s North American debut on Friday night can start “building that momentum towards winning a world title."
The former 2008 Olympic gold medalist, fondly known as ’Chunky,’ takes on Sebastien Demers at Casino Lac-Leamy, Gatineau, May 17th.
“He’s been training for a long time, it’s been a very long camp - obviously through no ones fault the last one got called off but he’d ticked all the boxes - he’d sparred 241 rounds,” McDonnell said.
“Now, with the fight in Canada in place, he hasn’t got to, essentially, do too much because he’s already there - if anything we’re just guarding against over-cooking him.
“It’s just a case of holding him over and once he gets in the ring in Canada I think he’s going to put on a really good performance and this could be the start of him building that momentum towards winning a world title.”
This will be DeGale’s first fight since dominating former IBO super-middleweight champion Fulgencio Zuniga in Hull back in December, after his clash with Alexander Brand, set for March, was postponed.
Now, DeGale will come face to face with Canadian fighter Demers, who fought Arthur Abraham for the IBF middleweight title in 2007 and boasts an impressive 31 wins from 36 fights.
But, ’Team Chunky’ are eager to impress the Canadian fans and know a good performance could propel James towards that world title.
“I think the Canadian fans will see someone who will live up to the title of former Olympic champion, champion of his own country, champion of Europe, someone who is a genuine article,” Jim said.
“Someone who is a genuine world class fighter who’ll be looking to become a world champion in the not too distant future - definitely the next year to 18 months.”
Having admitted himself that he was suffering with a long-term knee injury, DeGale is now well on the way to recovery and his trainer believes the difference will be there for all to see.
“It’s chalk and cheese, absolutely unbelievable - he boxed with the knee, refused to have it looked at or anything done for it for a long long time - he was in a bit of self-denial with it,” Jim said.
“I think he was just terrified of being told he couldn’t train or can’t box, so he just persevered, but in the end it got to a point where he was sitting there saying to me in fights; ‘Jim I can’t bend my knee!’
“That was one of the reasons he was going to the ropes on a more regular basis than needed to be.
“He’s taken that knee into a lot of big fights, and I am not making excuses and he hasn’t made any excuses for poor performances or anything, but the difference now that the knee is getting very close to 100 percent is there for all to see.
“It’s probably about 90 percent now, but the difference is unreal.”