Boxing: DeGale eyes £2m Arum deal

McGuigan throws hat in the ring as Olympic starlets look to turn professional
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The Independent Online

Olympic champion James DeGale heads to America next weekend to discuss his future with the top US promoter, Bob Arum. The middleweight golden boy, who says he is seeking£2 million over two years to turn pro, will be Arum's ringside guest at the Kelly Pavlik-Bernard Hopkins mega-fight in Atlantic City on Saturday.

However, in this financial climate it is unlikely he will get that sort of money either here or in America, even though he claims this is the figure he believes is on offer. "Hasn't he heard of the credit crunch?" asks one leading British promoter.

DeGale says he will not commit himself until he has talked things over with the British Olympic coach, Terry Edwards, whose own immediate future seems more settled after a meeting last week with Derek Mapp, the head of the newly formed British Amateur Boxing Association. But the probability is that DeGale and some others in the successful Olympic squad, including the 19-year-old welterweight Billy Joe Saunders, will be shedding their vests shortly.

Several have been approached by a consortium believed to be headed by the former world champion Barry McGuigan. McGuigan, now a TV pundit, declines to confirm his involvement, but I understand he has teamed up with a wealthy businessman, and that any boxers they sign are likely to be promoted by Mick Hennessey, who has a contract for his fights to be shown on ITV.

Saunders is known to have received a six-figure offer from Frank Warren but so far has not signed any deal with Britain's top promoter, who says he is not getting involved in an auction for any of the Olympic boxers. "If they come to me and say they want to turn professional, I will make what I consider a fair and reasonable offer, and that's it," Warren says.

Former Warren luminary Ricky Hatton, who has a promotional tie-up with Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy organisation, says he is also in the market to develop young talent when he retires – which could be soon should he lose his forthcoming bout with Paulie Malignaggi. His erstwhile stablemate Joe Calzaghe is another who wants to be an impresario, while heavyweight contender David Haye promotes his own shows, though one amateur who will not join the Hayemaker organisation is DeGale. His former ABA rival George Groves has already signed for Haye and is set to be joined by the Irish middleweight Darren Sutherland, beaten by DeGale in the Beijing semi-finals.

Londoner DeGale will not name the promoter he says made him the £2m offer but says: "I have spoken to a couple of British promoters and I'm looking forward to talking with Bob Arum. But I don't want people to think I am just a greedy guy out for what he can get. I haven't taken that figure out of the air. I have spoken to Amir Khan and others and they say that's what I should be looking for. I just want to get what I think I deserve." It is true that Olympic silver medallist Khan and Audley Harrison, DeGale's predecessor as a gold medal-winner, both banked seven-figure fortunes when they turned pro, but the financial climate has cooled. "I will not be doing anything until I have talked things through with Terry [Edwards], who has been like a father to me," says DeGale.

Having been assured he is wanted to lead the British squad towards 2012, Edwards, 65, will do his utmost to try to persuade DeGale and Co to stay with him. However, Edwards' precise role remains unclear. The BABA are currently advertising for a £75,000-a-year performance director, to whom Edwards presumably might be answerable. He says he might even apply for the job himself, but adds: "As long as whoever comes in doesn't want to tell me how to coach boxers, I don't mind."