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James DeGale knows he cannot afford any lapse in concentration when he finally defends his European super-middleweight title in Denmark on Saturday night.

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DeGale has not fought in the six months since he wrested the EBU belt from Piotr Wilczewski, largely due to an ongoing contractual dispute with promoter Frank Warren.

And, as he prepares to face former European champion Cristian Sanavia, the Harlesden star admits it has often been difficult to maintain his focus during the most frustrating period of his professional career.

As well as holding two European crowns, 37-year-old Sanavia was also briefly WBC world champion back in 2004, and DeGale told london24.com: “The pedigree’s there – he’s been there and done it.

“Maybe this is his last hurrah and that’s when a fighter can be at his most dangerous. I’ve trained hard, I’ve had good sparring with people like Billy Joe Saunders and John Ryder and I’ve left no stone unturned.

“I know I’m going to have to be switched on, but it can be hard to keep motivated when there’s no fight coming up. I thought I was going to be fighting in February and I had a 10-week training camp for that.

“Six months of inactivity at this point in my career is stupid. I should be having five or six fights a year and to not box for that length of time is hard.

“The more I think about it, maybe I’ve been fast-tracked too quickly, but hopefully soon we can get the ball rolling again. I’m European champion and with a couple more fights I could be boxing for a world title.”

For legal reasons, DeGale is unable to discuss the Warren issue, but he expects the matter to be resolved during the coming weeks.

Provided he can see off the challenge of Sanavia at Frederikshavn’s Nord Arena, DeGale is well aware that speculation will soon resume about the likelihood of a rematch with former Dale Youth ABC rival George Groves, who relieved him of the British title last year.

Groves announced earlier this week that an injury had forced him to withdraw from his WBO world title fight with Robert Stieglitz, which had been scheduled for next month.

A new date for the fight is yet to be announced and DeGale added: “I’m sure if Groves does win it, people will be calling for him to fight me again because they know the rivalry’s there. It’s a genuine rivalry and it’s always going to be there.

“I need more experience but, depending on the situation after a few more fights, let’s see. I’m on my own path and if Groves happens to be on that path as well, I’ll have to deal with him.”

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