By Kevin Francis, courtesy of The Daily Star
JAMES DeGALE is “relaxed and comfortable” ahead of the first defence of his European title tonight.
Any thoughts of an easy bout in his own backyard disappeared when Italian promoters won the purse bids for the fight.
He now meets Italian Cristian Sanavia, 37, in Denmark, but super-middleweight DeGale, who has lost just one of his 12 professional contests, isn’t worried at all about fighting away from home.
His trainer Jim McDonnell said: “From the age of 10, James has boxed more away from home than he has at home.
“He’s boxed all over the world. I’ve never seen anybody so comfortable with going abroad. It never troubled him as an amateur and it doesn’t worry him now.
“He can’t wait for it and is really looking forward to getting in that ring.”
DeGale, 26, said: “Whether it’s in my front room or in China, a ring is a ring. It doesn’t bother me.”
DeGale wants tonight’s fight against Sanavia (45-5-1) to be a stepping stone towards a rematch with bitter rival George Groves.
The 2008 Olympic gold medallist was beaten by his fellow Londoner on points last May.
DeGale bounced back to snatch the European super-middleweight title last October, but was pushed all the way by Piotr Wilczewski.
Meanwhile, British and Commonwealth champ Groves has pulled out of his WBO title challenge against Robert Stieglitz on May 5.
And DeGale hopes another fight with his unbeaten domestic rival will soon be on the cards.
He said: “A rematch would be massive in Britain for whatever title. It’s a genuine needle fight.”
But for that bout to move closer, DeGale must first of all see off the challenge of the experienced Sanavia.
McDonnell said of the former WBC champion: “You can’t underestimate him. There is pedigree there and he is very strong.”
DeGale says he has taken a step back in time in order to try and improve his victory chances in the ring.
He added: “I’ve been working with different sparring partners in the last few months and I’ve gone back to how I used to box, which is how I won the gold medal.
“I’ve tried to mix it too much in recent fights and tried to entertain too much. But I don’t have to do that. First and foremost, I have to make sure I win.
“I’ve gone back to boxing with a tight guard and there won’t be many people who can beat me like that. I’m going back to the old James DeGale, who won the Olympic gold medal.”