Inside Lines: DeGale force winds of change are blowing over Bluewater


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The Independent Online

This time four years ago, his was a name on everyone's lips. Boxing's golden boy of Beijing was the first Briton to win an Olympic title in 36 years.

Yet when he turned up at London's ExCeL for this year's tournament, the European super-middleweight champion was virtually the fight game's forgotten man.

James DeGale admits watching Britain's Olympian triumphs gave him fond memories and itchy fists. "There were times when I thought to myself, 'I wish I was still there'."

It had been a summer of discontent in which he had split with his promoter, and his long-term girlfriend, and found fans asking him: "Have you retired?" "I was a pain in the arse to be around," he tells us. "I'd lost my hunger because there was so much stuff happening around me. I could see how fighters go off track and on to the booze and drugs. I was very down and thought of quitting but I was so lucky to have a good family to stop me sinking into depression."

After a winning Euro excursion to Denmark, his biggest fight of the year was an expensive contractual dispute with Frank Warren (who had signed him post-Beijing on a seven-figure deal), aspects of which are still ongoing. But it left him free to box for another promoter, Mick Hennessy, for whom he defends his European title at the Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent on Saturday week.

Beijing to Bluewater may seem a distinct downsizing but Bluewater is no backwater, his 14th pro fight taking place in its £60 million exhibition centre called Glow and screened live by Channel 5. "This is a new beginning, a new chapter," says the 26-year-old Londoner. Given another four good fights, he promises he'll be ready to accomplish what no other British Olympic champion has ever done: win a world title.

So, all systems Glow for "Chunky"?

Will Coe fight the election?

Lord Coe and British hockey's chief, Richard Leman, a fellow Olympic gold medallist, are due to go head-to-head for the British Olympic Association chairmanship on 7 November, as I understand theirs are the only names put forward by headhunters Odgers Berndtson, who advertised the unpaid post, though the BOA have until 7 October to receive other nominations from within the organisation.

Coe, who seems a shoo-in, would much prefer to have a clear run, but it is thought that there are a handful of constituent BOA members who are concerned that he might use the position as a promotional platform in his bid for the bigger prize of the presidency of the International Association of Athletics Federations in 2015.

Their preference could be for someone who currently leads a national sporting body – such as Leman, 56, a member of the 1988 gold-medal winning British hockey squad and now an award-winning Sussex businessman in the recruitment sector, or rowing's Di Ellis. There is also the possibility that Coe may be unwilling to contest an election and backs out.

One hopes this will not be the case, because domestically and internationally he is the ideal figurehead to carry the BOA forward and is the one person who might facilitate a vital handout for the cash-strapped body from his close friends in Government.

Howard's unfunny way

Stand-up comic Russell Howard alleges that the BBC "censored" jokes about the Olympics during the Games, when his own BBC Three show, Russell Howard's Good News, was put on hold.

Funny that, because surely we are not alone in finding the shouty Mr Howard himself somewhat less than amusing?