Boxing: DeGale's debut leads Olympians into pro ranks

By Steve Bunce

The Olympic middleweight final was a long time and a lot of red carpet rides ago for James DeGale whose return to the ring tonight in Birmingham as a professional is being seen as the launch of a whole new generation of young boxers.

DeGale (right) won a stunning and surprising gold medal in Beijing overcoming the facts and figures of an Olympic sport that seldom delivers fairytales. He boxed with such brilliance at times and against such enormous odds that it was difficult to understand why he had not been the favourite.

Tonight at the National Indoor Arena DeGale will enter the ring to face a Georgian called Vepkhia Tchilaia over four rounds at super middleweight in the first of eight planned fights before this time next year. DeGale will be joined in his changing room and the ring by BJ Saunders and Frankie Gavin who were with him in Beijing.

Gavin made British boxing history when he won the world amateur lightweight title in late 2007 but a battle with the scales led to an ignominious exit from the Olympics before the first bell. Saunders lost before the medal stages but was the best at welterweight in the world for his age group before Beijing.

Gavin fights George Kadaria, another Georgian, over four rounds at light welterweight and Saunders will meet Hungary's Attila Molnar over the same distance.

All three agreed terms with Frank Warren last December and will fight live on Sky tonight but they could end up shifting to another channel as part of an ongoing battle between British boxing broadcasters. Tonight Setanta, ITV and Sky will screen 13 hours of live boxing including six title fights.

The main event at the NIA is Matt Skelton's defence of his Commonwealth heavyweight title against Martin Rogan and the bill also includes local fighter Don Broadhurst defending his Commonwealth super-flyweight title against Ghana's Isaac Owusu. Meanwhile, in Norwich Jon Thaxton makes a European defence of his lightweight title against French champion Anthony Mezaache but a lot of attention will be on the third fight of unbeaten heavyweight Tyson Fury, who has a mouth to match his fantastic name.

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