Olympic pair pick East London trainers
East London boxing trainers Jimmy Tibbs and Jim McDonnell have been handpicked to guide British Olympic duo James DeGale and Billy Joe Saunders in their pro careers
By LEN WHALEY
East London boxing trainers Jimmy Tibbs and Jim McDonnell have been handpicked to guide British Olympic duo James DeGale and Billy Joe Saunders in their pro careers.
DeGale, who won Olympic gold in Beijing last summer, and fellow Olympian Saunders have both turned professional under promoter Frank Warren and are set to appear in four-round contests at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham on February 28.
The promising pair are now both being prepared for the pro debuts by East London trainers after Saunders spent the past two weeks with Tibbs at the Peacock Gym in Canning Town.
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The 19-year-old, who was considered the outstanding talent of Britain's Olympic boxing squad by many observers, was initially working with amateur trainer Danny Hoy.
But Hoy was forced to break up the partnership because of personal commitments, allowing Tibbs to take over the supervision of a fighter he considers a rare talent.
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"In just a short time working with me, Billy Joe has already picked up so much. He is as good as any of the young fighters I have trained - he really is a hot prospect," Tibbs said.
The respect between the pair is mutual and Saunders, who will also spar at the Ultrachem TKO Gym in Canning Town ahead of his pro debut, is eager to learn from one of the sport's most respected trainers.
"Jimmy has worked with the biggest names in British boxing over the last 30 years and if anyone can get me to the top, it's him," said Saunders.
Olympic hero DeGale is also confident he has been paired with the right trainer in McDonnell, who once earned title honours in his own career as a member of the Terry Lawless stable at East London's famous Royal Oak gym.
"I don't think I've ever worked as much as I have done in the last few weeks, and Jim is leaving no stone unturned to get me in the best possible shape," DeGale said.
"Things have been going fantastic in the gym - I could have my first pro fight tomorrow I feel so good."
Saunders and DeGale will be joined by fellow Olympian Frankie Gavin on the Birmingham bill, which is headlined by Matt Skelton's Commonwealth title clash with Martin Rogan.