James DeGale Has Been Battling The Boos From The Start

By Mark Staniforth

Beaten by the narrowest of margins by his former amateur rival, then denied any prospect of a rematch by the British Boxing Board of Control, this has not been the best of weeks for James DeGale.

DeGale slunk out of the O2 Arena in London last Saturday night with fans and even some fellow fighters pouring scorn on his failure to back up his pre-fight boasts against George Groves.

The reaction was nothing new for DeGale, who has been battling the boos since winning his Olympic gold medal against a back-drop of cat-calls from dissatisfied Chinese fight fans in 2008.

DeGale's apparent crime on that particular occasion was to deign to jostle with the crowd favourite, Cuban Emilio Correa, who even bit DeGale during the fight but was cheered all the way to narrow defeat.

With his brash, outgoing personality, DeGale was never going to be everybody's favourite fighter, but the speed with which he has gone from gold medal hero to pantomime villain has been patently absurd.

When DeGale made his professional debut less than six months later at Birmingham's National Indoor Arena, he was pilloried by local fans despite a perfectly credible debut win over Georgia's Vepkhia Tchilaia.

"I'm bamboozled as to why I was booed," DeGale admitted afterwards. "Maybe it's because I'm up there on a pedestal after Beijing. Joe [Calzaghe] had this problem earlier in his career too - and look what he achieved."

The boos have pursued DeGale throughout his career so far, bringing plenty of unfair comparisons with the treatment meted out to his predecessor as a British Olympic boxing gold medallist, Audley Harrison.

But while Harrison was mocked for spectacularly failing to live up to some quite preposterous early-career boasts, DeGale did nothing more than to give voice to a belief that every young boxer must carry - that one day he could win a world title.

At times on his professional journey, it seemed DeGale was simply being made to pay for having the audacity to win Olympic gold. Former amateur team-mates, in contrast, have been routinely cheered the length and breadth of the country.

Frankie Gavin, who is not exactly shy and retiring in his ambitions (nor should he be) has emerged as one of the nation's most popular fighters. Olympians Tony Jeffries, David Price and Billy Joe Saunders have not heard a solitary boo between them.

Clearly, the circumstances surrounding the build-up to Saturday night's fight were slightly different. DeGale over-stepped the mark during the pre-fight hype, and Groves' fans were well within their rights to let him know what they thought.

Yet even then DeGale's outbursts must be put into context. DeGale and Groves had shared a spiky rivalry for years, and DeGale clearly, and perhaps rightly, believed Groves had piggy-backed him into the spotlight.

The hype is an occupational hazard. Fighters have exchanged vicious barbs and even pre-fight punches for years. Rarely has harmless verbal bluster been held against a fighter quite as much as it has DeGale.

He didn't help his cause with his performance on Saturday night. Seemingly burdened by the pressure of wanting to prove himself to his former amateur club-mate for a final time, DeGale flopped badly.

But only the most hardcore build-up-to-knock-down merchants would dare to suggest on the evidence of Saturday night that DeGale's defeat has brought a permanent end to his world title dreams.

Repaired and recuperated, DeGale will come again. When he does, he can expect to be booed to the rafters like never before. DeGale will fully expect it, because it has come to be the Great British way.

Who knows what some of the country's current top amateur stars have made of the treatment meted out to DeGale. Some are not backward in coming forward. Can they expect the same treatment if they have the audacity to win gold in 2012?

Great British boxing gold medallists don't come around too often. We should treasure them, and accept their occasional ego trips simply as an understandable by-product of having achieved such an illustrious sporting pinnacle.

It is a strange sporting nation which takes so much vindictive pleasure in rushing to excoriate the true winners amongst us, flawed though they may be, whilst reserving the garlands for the also-rans.

Tags: James DeGale image  
User Comments and Feedback (Register For Free To Comment) Comment by Silky-Flow on 05-27-2011

[QUOTE=Dirk Diggler UK;10612402]He was booed on his debut because it wasnt an exciting fight. Once again, I dont agree with it but its not racism. He was booed last saturday because Groves had more fans. DeGale has not endeared himself…

Comment by Dirk Diggler UK on 05-27-2011

[QUOTE=Silky-Flow;10612380]So James tripping over his words in an interview and calling someone "ugly" justifies HIS OWN COUNTRY booeing him at every fight and treating him like a foreigner like they did last Saturday? :rolleyes: again THAT'S FEEBLE, no-one's crying "racism"…

Comment by Silky-Flow on 05-27-2011

[QUOTE=Dirk Diggler UK;10612351]Its how you carry yourself. DeGale uses rather childish humour and insults at times, calling Groves "ugly" and saying his breath smelt etc. Tripping over his words, forgetting what he was gonna say. I mean if you cant…

Comment by Dirk Diggler UK on 05-27-2011

[QUOTE=Silky-Flow;10612310]That's a feeble excuse imo, Degale has only spoken badly about Groves who is his main rival, who else has he totally bad mouthed? furthermore he barely said a word before his debut and STILL GOT BOOED, so again that…

Comment by Silky-Flow on 05-27-2011

[QUOTE=Dirk Diggler UK;10612237]Froch hasnt been in the spotlight as much as DeGale. And when he trash talks, he does it in a dry witty manner anyway. Groves is also quite witty too and came across well in the press conferences.…

Post a Comment - View More User Comments (98)
Top Headlines De La Hoya: I Knew Pacquiao Would Beat Me Up, I Was a Dead Man Provodnikov, Pirog, Avanesyan, Troyanovsky Part of Reality Show Eduardo Hernandez Blasts Out Victor Terrazas in Two Rounds Luis Nery Closes in on Title Shot at Bantamweight David Lemieux Dominates Cristian Fabian Rios, Wins Decision Steven Butler Crushes Trotter in One, Maduma is Upset Photos: Manny Pacquiao Mobbed as He Arrives in Los Angeles Kevin Lerena Edges Micki Nielsen: Budler, Van Heerden Win Mikey Garcia Aims To Make a Statement With Dejan Zlaticanin Vazquez: I Took 'Worst Deal of My Career' To Get Juanma in There Marquez: I Beat Pacquiao Four Times, No Reason For Fifth Time! Jamie Cox Outpoints Rios in Foul-Fest, Wins WBO Regional Belt Sam Eggington Drops, Batters Frankie Gavin for Knockout in Eight Craig Cunningham Drops, Shocks Anthony Ogogo For TKO Win Kal Yafai Wins, Faces Luis Concepcion on 12/10 in Manchester Sean Davis Edges Paul Economides For WBC Regional Title Hisashi Amagasa Wins Ten Round Decision Over Carlo Demecilo David Price: I Can Knock Joshua Out, Dropped Him Bad in Sparring Lemieux's Manager Confident Canelo Fight Can Be Made For May Luis Nery Looks To Take His Career To Next Level in Tijuana Hekkie Budler Aims To Bounce Back at Kempton Park Josh Taylor Continues To Rise By Drilling Dave Ryan in Edinburgh Magdaleno on Track To Make 122-Pounds For Donaire Title Shot Hassan N'Dam Aims To Revamp Career, Hires Pedro Diaz Shane Mosley: I'm Semi-Retired - But For Right Opponent I'll Fight! For Better or Worse, Heavyweight Glory Still Runs Through Klitschko Golovkin's Coach: Mayweather Deserves Catch-Weight, NOT Canelo! Frank Warren: Klitschko Does NOT Deserve Shot at WBA Title! What To Do With Tyson Fury? - BoxingScene Ratings Update Arum Explains Manny Pacquiao's Lack of Knockouts Since 2009 McGuigan: Frampton Will Make an Impact in Vegas With Santa Cruz Golovkin Warns Saunders: I Want Your Belt, That is My Goal! Joe Hanks, Denis Douglin Return To Action on November 5 Manny Pacquiao Gets in One Last Workout Before Leaving To LA Hearn: I 100% Want Anthony Joshua vs. David Haye in 2017 Parker vs. Ruiz: Duco Looking For Goverment Funding For Event Jean Pascal Not Yet Ready For Ring Return, Says Trainer Photo: Victor Terrazas, Eduardo Hernandez on Weight For War Vargas: It's My Time, After I Beat Pacquiao - A Star Will Be Born! Erislandy Lara Still Has a Target on The Back of Gennady Golovkin

Latest Active Forum Threads