Inside Lines: It's home for James, and others who have chosen to box cleverly
Sunday 07 February 2010
Boxing's return to Wembley next Saturday night will have a special significance for the future of the sport and for one of its main attractions, the Olympic middleweight champion James DeGale. It will be the first time he has fought in London since winning gold, and Frank Warren's first major promotion since the defection of flagship fighter Amir Khan to the United States. Warren intends to demonstrate with his parade of young stars that British boxing still has talent, and the loyalty card is not to be discarded like a used ticket stub. DeGale, who meets fellow southpaw Matthew Barr in his sixth pro fight, agrees: "I see this as my homecoming. Wembley is a stone's throw away from me and I've sold heaps of tickets. I'm determined to put on a performance to show just how good the game is right now." Like others in Warren's stable, DeGale, 25, is critical of Khan's move. "I respect Amir, he's a mate, but he could have shown more loyalty after what Frank did for him, especially after he was knocked out and Frank brought him right back to win the world title." Headliner Nathan Cleverly, who will challenge Italian Antonio Brancalion for the vacant European title, reveals that he, too, could have split with Warren when his then stablemate Joe Calzaghe walked away. But the brainy Welsh maths student did his sums and found it didn't add up. "If I was going to do it, it would have been then but we stuck together and the rewards are coming in," he said. The similarly unbeaten lightweight Kevin Mitchell, fresh from outsmarting Khan's nemesis Breidis Prescott, has signed a new deal with Warren and is on the brink of a world-title fight. First he has to dispose of the leading WBO contender, Ignacio Mendoza.
Sport's lordly ladies
Congratulations to Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, our greatest Paralympian, on her elevation to the House of Lords. She will sit with Britain's only other female sporting peer, Baroness Sue Campbell, chair of UK Sport. Curiously, both are renowned Labour supporters yet have chosen to occupy the cross-benches, wisely making a point, no doubt, that sport needs to rise above politics in Parliament.
Rugby's man of Steele
So successful has John Steele been as chief executive at UK Sport that he is certain to be in the frame to succeed Francis Baron as head of the Rugby Football Union. He is a rugby man at heart, a player, coach and then CEO at Northampton Saints, a director of Premier Rugby and the English Rugby Board and an England A fly-half. Perfect qualifications. But will the 44-year-old, who has climbed Everest, want to scale the giddy heights at the RFU with 2012, in which he has a key role in athletes' funding and welfare, looming?
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