Winning that first title must be the proudest moment of a boxer’s life. They can forget all about the gym and spend a few days showing off the rewards of years of hard work to friends and family.
After winning the British title last November, Denzel Bentley took his Lonsdale Belt on an extended victory lap.
Bentley (14-0-1, 12 KO’s) took his hard earned prize back to Ghana where he was greeted like a conquering hero. The arrival of a British champion with such strong Ghanaian roots caused a stir and the Battersea-born middleweight was given the opportunity to show off the spoils of war to the King of the Ashanti Kingdom, Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu II.
“That was nerve wracking,” Bentley told 32Red. “I think I was more nervous for that than the fight. I was meeting royalty. He gave me his blessings and congratulated me and told me to carry on. He said he was proud of me and that meant a lot. I’m Ashanti and it’s where my parents are from.”
As if meeting a real King wasn’t enough, Bentley was also granted an audience with boxing royalty, Ghanaian great Azumah Nelson.
“He’s not just a legend in Ghana he’s a legend everywhere. If he were to walk in a room anywhere people are going to want photos. I got to sit with him and talk.
“I didn’t know what to expect. We met him with my family and while everybody was getting on with their own thing he just turned around and started talking to me. We were just having a normal conversation. He said this was a very nice belt but we need more. We need the world title and if I can be better than him, go on and do it.”
Not many fighters have managed to raise their profile over the past year but the stripped back shows have allowed Bentley’s exuberant personality and hard hitting, exciting style to shine through. The Londoner had already caught the eye of avid boxing fans but since boxing went behind closed doors he has captivated them.
This weekend he hopes to add Felix Cash’s Commonwealth title to his treasured Lonsdale belt. For all the latest fight odds, visit our sportsbook.
The fight has everything. Two colourful exciting fighters putting their unbeaten records on the line and proudly battling for possession of two of the most prestigious belts around. Bentley fights under the Frank Warren banner on BT Sports while Cash has built his career on Sky Sports for Matchroom.
“It has grabbed the attention,” Bentley said. “When I fought Mark some people might have thought it was too soon for me. There was nowhere to see me fight and all of a sudden this kid’s stepped up to fight for the British title. Felix is somebody who people know because he’s been on Matchroom shows all through his career and there aren’t really many domestic middleweights with a high profile like that. He’s stood out to everyone and because of my last performance this fight caught the attention. I don’t think Felix has fought anybody as good as me either. I think that’s another reason it’s caught on.”
He might be entering the biggest fight of his life but even though he only recently established himself at title level, Bentley has already been able to switch to business mode. He isn’t over excited, he isn’t doubting himself, he isn’t over thinking things. He is just calmly preparing himself to the best of his ability.
“People know more about Felix, blah, blah, blah. In terms of levels, who has he fought that I couldn’t beat?
“It’s the same level as the Mark Heffron fights in my opinion, that domestic British level. We’ve both fought similar opponents, have similar records, all these things. Who he won the Commonwealth title off compared to who I won the British title off, well, I think I had the harder fight. He’s a good fighter. I can’t take that away from him but this is similar level of fight I think.
“I’ve just gotta do everything right. Same sort of mindset, same sort of preparation. Of course we wanna move forward so we’re putting in even more work but there’s nothing really new here.”
Few sports lend themselves to cliché more than boxing so let’s clear a couple up. Firstly, is it true that a fighter improves by 20% the moment they become a champion?
“It is,” Bentley said. “As soon as I got back in the gym I was thinking, ‘I’m not letting any sparring partners come in here and do a number on me. I can’t have them thinking they did a number on the British champion.’ I don’t want anybody to be able to say anything on my name so it’s stepped me up mentally.
“Now I know that I’m at this level I know I can go further. It’s different. It’s not like before where I thought I could do it. Now I know.
“It’s made me a lot more confident and comfortable. There’s less worry. I have tunnel vision now and for this fight there might be a few less nerves. I’m still taking it seriously but I know I’m here at this level now. Let’s go.”
Bentley can confirm a second cliché. In a plot stolen from countless movies and books, the first seeds of the rivalry between he and Cash were indeed sewn after a heated sparring session years ago.
“100%. I already thought we’d fight but then I began thinking that I actually want to fight this guy and when the time is right, I will.
“He’d been in the sport longer than me with the amateurs and everything. When we sparred I’d only had two fights and he’d had about five. He had a bit of hype and I didn’t have a promoter at the time and was still boxing on dinner shows and the small halls so he thought he’d probably never see me.
“Lots of fighters wait around for things to be put in place but I’ve said a few times, what am I waiting around for? I’ve been openly saying I want this fight or that and I’ve got myself into position.”
Bentley may be the most modern of fighters but the pride he takes in one of Boxing’s most traditional titles has really endeared him to fans. From Battersea to Ghana and back again, he is rarely seen without that beautiful Lonsdale belt.
“This one’s special now. It’s been on a world tour and got its blessings from everybody. I need to make sure it’s still in the house after April 24th.
“I’m champion. He’s gotta take it from me. It’s mine. He’s gotta come to my home on BT Sports and I’m the champion. He’s gotta take it off me and unless he’s a special fighter that’s not gonna happen. This is here to stay.
“I’m protecting this with my life, it’s mine.”