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Page last updated at 16:03 GMT, Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Olympic champion DeGale turns pro

DeGale excited by pro challenge

By Ben Dirs

Olympic champion James DeGale has signed a pro contract with Frank Warren and fired a parting shot at the Amateur Boxing Association of England.

DeGale, 22, won middleweight gold in Beijing and is joined in Warren's promotional stable by fellow Olympians Billy Joe Saunders and Frankie Gavin.

"The big entrances, the stadiums, that is me and I know deep down I'll be a world champion," DeGale told BBC Sport.

"The ABA have taken us for idiots - they've let us down, broken promises."

All their accommodation, sparring, physio, sports science, sports medicine, meals, flights, coaching - if that's not being well looked after, I don't know what is

ABA chief executive Paul King
DeGale, who said his pro deal would guarantee him almost 2m over two years, continued: "The ABA still owe me a very, very big bonus for winning the gold medal.

"They're telling me now that I won't get it because I'm turning professional and coming up with the most silly excuses.

"Everyone who's been to a major tournament has had their bonuses and all of a sudden they're trying to say it's stopped. People have got to know it isn't all 'cushty' there [in the ABA]."

Beijing bronze medallist Tony Jeffries also criticised the organisation after signing pro forms with Dennis Hobson last week, although ABA chief executive Paul King said it "has no responsibility for the elite boxing programme".

"I don't know where they're getting this stuff from," King told BBC Sport. "There were never any bonuses in place [at the Olympics] because we didn't have control of the UK Sport budget."

However, Hatfield welterweight Saunders and Birmingham light-welterweight Gavin also weighed in on the issue, with 19-year-old Saunders saying the ABA "weren't providing what we wanted".

"None of the ABA's promises were coming true," added Gavin, 23, who won Britain's first ever world amateur gold in 2007 but who failed to make the weight in Beijing.

606: DEBATE
Frank Warren poses with his new fighters - Saunders, DeGale and Gavin
BBC Sport's Phil Gordos
"They promised more money, sponsorship, cars, and none of it came. UK Sport stuck to its promises, but the ABA were just a joke."

But King countered: "The ABA never promised any of that, but the investment that has gone into these guys is unbelievable.

"Over the past six years, the government and the ABA have probably invested in the region of 400,000-500,000 each into DeGale, Gavin and Jeffries.

"All their accommodation, sparring, physio, sports science, sports medicine, meals, flights, coaching - if that's not being well looked after, I don't know what is.

"Our main responsibility is to grow the sport - do we start throwing money at people who are clearly going to turn professional anyway?"

The row overshadowed Warren's big unveiling in London, where it was revealed that his newly-acquired trio would probably make their paid debuts next February before embarking on a nationwide tour.

And DeGale added: "Deep in my soul I wanted to turn pro, but there was something in me saying stay for London 2012. But in the end I've got to think about myself and my family. I can secure the rest of my life, money-wise."

Meanwhile, Saunders and Gavin revealed they had spurned the advances of promoters across the globe to sign with Warren, who has been Britain's biggest promoter since the 1990s.

I'm delighted to have signed James, Frankie and Billy Joe. I'm very excited about working with them in the future

Promoter Frank Warren
"I turned down better offers, financially, from other promoters, but Frank is the best promoter in Britain," said Saunders, who fell in the second round of the welterweight competition in Beijing.

Gavin added: "I've gone with the best promoter in Britain, probably the world. I had talks with Dennis Hobson, Mick Hennessy, Oscar de la Hoya, but there was only one man in the end."

For his part, Warren said he was confident all three fighters would reach the very top.

"I'm delighted to have signed James, Frankie and Billy Joe. I'm very excited about working with them in the future," he said.

"I think they will all become world champions. After their success as amateurs, the public is really going to get behind them and will want to watch their progress through the ranks."

see also
Superb DeGale lands boxing gold
23 Aug 08 |  Boxing


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