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JAMES DeGALE is having to defend his chances of making it as a pro even before tonight's paid debut.

DeGale feels he has received undeserved flak since winning the Olympic middleweight gold medal in Beijing last year.

The 23-year-old Londoner fights without a headguard for the first time in Birmingham alongside Team GB pal Billy Joe Saunders and Frankie Gavin.

But critics, including Chris Eubank and Joe Calzaghe, have already rubbished his chances. Eubank even said "I guarantee you he will fail".

DeGale insists he will not become another Olympic gold medallist who fails to live up to his promise like Audley Harrison.

He said: "Maybe people want me to fail but I can't wait to prove them wrong.

"People think I am big headed when I say things like becoming British champion in 18 months and winning a world title in 2012, but they have got it twisted.

"I am just so confident in myself. Boxing is tough and if you don't believe in yourself you get nowhere.

"I hear people say I just hit and run. You don't win an Olympic gold medal for nothing and I can't wait to prove the doubters wrong.

DeGale fights Georgian Vepkhia Tchilaia on the same bill as light-welterweight Gavin. The 23-year-old Brummie was favourite for gold in Beijing but had to pull out after failing to make the weight.

He said: "I'm in the same position as James. We are both expected to do well. It takes pressure off me knowing the three of us are turning professional together."

Saunders 19, fights at lightmiddleweight and is aiming to become Britain's first Romany gypsy to win a world title.


CRITIC Eubank says DeGale will fail as a pro
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 28, 2009
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