WEST LONDON BOXING HAS NEVER BEEN BETTER. TO PROVE IT HERE ARE THREE CERTS FOR 2009 - AND NO MENTION OF JAMES DEGALE!
THIS time John O'Donnell is prepared to believe all the hype about himself.
The Shepherd's Bush welter-weight joined an elite list of five bright new things for 2009 this week in a national magazine picked out by no less than former world champion Duke McKenzie to be the next big British hitter in every sense of the word.
In fact, O'Donnell is two years behind his own audacious schedule.
The former Dale Youth amateur champion had planned to be British champion at just 21, but things wilted in the heat of a Las Vegas summer two years ago.
Mind elsewhere by his own admission, O'Donnell suffered a two-round stoppage (his first defeat in 14 fights) by Mexican nobody Christian Solano, who gallingly lost his next three bouts on the road back to obscurity.
"I was missing my wife and kid," explained O'Donnell this week," and I just wasn't up for it. It was my own fault."
But now the pressure is really on having been bigged up by McKenzie - not that it worries the Bush Irishman.
Since a return from the shock defeat, he's stopped four of his five opponents, and now O'Donnell is awaiting news on his next ring visit that will inch him a bit closer to British champion Kell Brook.
"I'm hoping for a big opponent next month," he said, "and then maybe an eliminator, probably against Mark Thompson in the early summer."
The Manchester man stands in the way of the west Londoner and Brook, but if he climbs over that hurdle then Brook and he will have no surprises for each other.
Southpaw O'Donnell agreed to be Brook's sparring partner in his November preparations against Kevin McIntyre. And yup, O'Donn also thought he was opening his secrets box a bit too early.
"I wasn't sure at first, you know ..." he said. "You want to keep something back. But then again I learned a fair bit about him.
"It's nice what Duke said. He's obviously taken to me for some reason.
"But it looks as if I'm getting credit for the first time for all my hard work, and I'm delighted to be told how good I am. It won't go to my head - it just makes me feel better."
* CHRISTMAS for Hammersmith boxer George Groves was anything but pies and port - it was more blood and sweat in the gym, writes Max Rapkin.
The Hammersmith middleweight will contest his second pro-fight at York Hall on February 1, the venue where he won his second ABA title last May, against an opponent yet to be named.
This time he tops the bill, rather than fit in around seven other amateur champions.
And with fight-day looming over the festive period, there will was no let-up in Groves' training as he enters the power phase with strength trainer 'Jez'.
He said: "Us boxers aren't into the cakes and all that over Christmas, the biggest treat I gave myself was a nice early morning jog on Christmas Day.
"This week I've kicked up the power training because the only thing that pro boxers respect is power."
Groves' middleweight quest coincides with David Haye's assault on the heavyweight division, and the west Londoner revealed how much he's benefited from the Hayemaker setup.
Groves sailed through his debut at the 02 Arena in November with a six-round points decision over tough Lithuanian, Kirill Pshonko.
"When I was in Cyprus training with David Haye, I got to spar with some of the heavyweights they brought for him (to spar) - and when they hit you you really feel it. That really prepares you for battle," said Groves.
"I learn so much from David and people are saying I'm like his shadow because I'm pulling off his moves in the ring, side-stepping like he does - it's becoming second nature."
* DALE YOUTH CLUB waltzed nine of its young talents into the London finals of the ABA Schools Championships on Sunday - but spare a thought for Alfie Stanley.
The 15-year-old from the North Kensington club had been suffering over Christmas and went into his semi-final and final bouts far from 100 per cent fit.
Nevertheless, he gamely carved out a 2-1 win on the judges' card against R Carr from Ruislip before meeting M Miah (Northolt) in the area final.
But young Stanley's stamina ran out in the third round.
His two-point lead was instantly erased when the tiring fighter was warned for holding - and a further single point to Miah decided the outcome.
Charlie Puddles has learned the lessons of a rash past when he charged in and lost bouts.
The 15-year-old in the weight category above Stanley's fought two very controlled fights, picking his men off, and was a comfortable winner in his final over O El-Rous.
Sean Robinson didn't have it so easy against Alfie Saunders from Tottenham.
But the Dale 13-year-old heeded his corner's advice and stepped up a gear in the final round.
Robinson's determination allied with his sharp hands eased him ahead to beat a previously unbeaten fighter.
Zach Shellil licked his lips when he saw that C Worley was in the other corner of their 57 kilo fight.
Shellil had already flattened the St Pancras boxer in the summer in just two rounds.
This time, the Dale boy did the job on Worley in less than a round.
There were walkover wins for a clutch of Dale fighters whose reputation went before them.
Defending champion Tommy McDonough sailed straight through to the London leg of the Campionships, now sponsored by the Royal Navy, as do Harry Connolly, Patsy Corcoran, Martin Ward, Max Fenn, and Andrew Smith. Sadly, they won't be joined by John McFadden and Michael McDonough, who both lost.