Mum’s the word for James DeGale as he heads into his IBF super middleweight eliminator against undefeated American Brandon Gonzales on Saturday with his career back on track and heading in the right direction.
The Englishman admits it took a wake-up call from his mother last year to make him realize that, rather than quit boxing, which he was seriously considering following a string of low-key, low-profile bouts in half-full venues around the UK, he needed to pull himself together mentally and start fulfilling his undoubted potential.
“I'm a whole new person, I'm the real James DeGale now – I haven't felt like this since the first time I started boxing as a pro,” said the 28-year-old Londoner. “A couple of months back I was in a difficult situation and there was a period where I was thinking, 'I'm going to give up'.
“I had three months last autumn when I was doing the sums, and talking to my parents about leaving the sport. I really was deeply depressed about it all. Boxing has been my life since I was 11-years old and it was all I knew. I’d invested in a couple of properties from the money I’d earned in boxing as a professional and wondered if it was time to walk away.
“I was horrible to be around, always moaning and depressed. Then Mum said to me: ‘Stop being stupid, everything's going to work out right’, and I just snapped out of it. Now, I'm just a whole new person, loving life and loving boxing."
DeGale (18-1, 12 knockouts), having recently signed for Britain’s leading promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom, is one victory away from securing a shot at the winner of the IBF 168-pound title rematch between English holder Carl Froch and compatriot George Groves.
Which is why THE RING’s No.8-ranked super middleweight knows there can no be setback this weekend at Wembley Stadium, north west London, when he takes on Gonzales (18-0-1, 10 KOs) as the main undercard attraction for highly-anticipated Froch-Groves II.
An 80,000 crowd, a record for British boxing, will be at the Engand football team’s national stadium, just a stone’s throw from DeGale’s Harlesden home and all a far cry from the 500-odd who witnessed his last outing in March – an 11th round TKO over previously-unbeaten Dutchman Gevorg Khatchikian in Bristol, south Gloucestershire. He expects 30-year-old Gonzales, from California, to be a whole lot tougher.
"You can definitely say that it is make or break, 100 per cent,” said DeGale, whose only defeat came exactly three years ago against long-time rival Groves via a narrow majority decision. “If I win this fight I get the winner of Froch and Groves and I'm making it. But if I lose, where do I go? I'm back to rebuilding. So this is win or bust, really. I just have to win this fight.
“Brandon Gonzales is no joke; he's unbeaten, he has a good trainer in Virgil Hunter and mixes in the gym with Andre Ward and Amir Khan. He's serious and I’m taking him that way.
“I've watched a lot of footage of him and I'm feeling good about the fight. I'm injury-free, and mentally I am in a good place – I'm happy. They say that a happy fighter is a good fighter. I believe that and you will see that at Wembley.”
Harry Pratt is on Twitter: @gharrypratt