MR talks to the new British super-middleweight champion and 2008 Olympic gold-medallist James DeGale about road work, hard work and pre-fight fornication.
James, what a year it’s been. How did it feel when the ring announcer said you were the new British super-middleweight champion?
What a fantastic Christmas present that was, to end the year as British champion. I knew I was going to hear those words and it sounded sweet mate.
Indeed it did. Now then, running and boxing are common bedfellows are they not? We’ve all seen Rocky.
Running is a big, big part of my training. I tend to run five times a week, sometimes six, then when I’m making weight it usually goes up to every day of the week. Half of it is just recovery running – slow steady runs of six or eight miles.
Presumably there is a lot of speed work involved as well?
We do all different kinds of interval work on the track. One session I did recently was eight 400m sprints all under 75secs with a minute’s rest in between. That sounds pretty easy when you say it but when you’re on the track doing it that’s hard.
How far are your long runs?
Well, this morning I was up at 6.00am and I did 1hr 28mins at a steady pace for about eight and a half miles in Epping Forest.
So does every boxer do the same? Not all in Epping Forest, obviously.
In the majority of boxers’ training plans, running is an important part but I was reading the other day that the only fighter who doesn’t do long runs is David Haye. He does all sprint work and interval work. That’s mad, it’s like he’s breaking with history. Sugar Ray Leonard, Sugar Ray Robinson, Ali – all the greats spent time pounding the road. That may be why he sometimes has a bit of a stamina problem. It’s known that he can blow up a little bit after six rounds and start breathing heavily. That could be the reason.
We’ll never know if he keeps fighting chancers like the ‘A-Farce’. How big a change was it in terms of training when you became a professional fighter?
Amateur to professional is like changing between two different sports. With amateur boxing, it’s all short and sharp stuff – get in and get out. Now, with the possibility of a fight lasting 12 three-minute rounds, training is longer so we do six minute rounds to keep concentration and I run for an hour and a half now, whereas as an amateur the longest I’d run for was probably 45mins tops, so everything’s longer and more intense. I’m with one of the best trainers in world – Jim McDonnell – and he’s known for fitness and endurance and the way he works fighters.
What constitutes a regular day’s training for James DeGale?
Up at 5.30am, run for 90mins, back home, sleep, shower, have something to eat, go to the gym around 1.00pm for two hours and do either strength and conditioning work, technique, sparring or pads. Another day might start at 12 noon when I go straight to the track for an interval session there, then straight to gym for an hour to an hour and a half.
Do you balloon in weight when you’re not training for a fight?
I probably go up to 13st 2lbs or 13st 3lbs, but wont go much heavier than that, so that’s just over a stone I usually put on, but I think that’s the case for the majority of fighters. You won’t find many that don’t go overweight.
So you don’t subscribe to the Ricky Hatton post-fight binge method?
That was crazy. I can’t say for sure, but maybe that’s what shortened his career, fluctuating in weight and the drinking? It can’t be good.
So watching what you put in your mouth is a massive part of training?
It’s a big part of my regime. I normally go on my strict diet four weeks prior to a fight but obviously I have to always watch my weight. I will still have the odd portion of chips but four weeks prior I cut it all out and do it properly. I eat three decent, healthy meals a day and cut out all rubbish.
Give us an idea of your daily food intake then.
I’ll have porridge for breakfast, maybe a bowl of pasta for lunch and meat and three veg for dinner. If I snack it’s on fruit or maybe some nuts and raisins or bag of Snack-a-Jacks. When I’m training twice a day I might miss a meal but I have a recovery drink and a protein bar.
Is there anything you really miss when you’re on a strict diet?
I love my food, I love good, big wholesome meals. I’m not really a sweet or dessert man, but I love a nice big roast dinner. I can eat that when I’m on a diet, but I miss other big meals like pies and chips, stuff like that. I’m a dreadful cook but I’m spoilt by my mum.
What about the bedroom – do you stay away from any how’s-your-father for months before a fight?
Every boxer is different but I don’t go all those mad, long weeks without sex. I do maybe five days a week for the mental side of it. David Haye goes months without it, I don’t.
What’s next for James DeGale?
I want to fight Ugly Kid.
George Groves. I call him Ugly Kid or Ugly Ginger Kid. I would take him to pieces and it wouldn’t last four rounds. Deep in his heart he knows that as well. I want to defend my British title and by 2012 I’ve always said I want to be knocking on the door for a World title, so everything’s on course.
It would certainly seem that way. Thanks James.