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Denzel Bentley exclusive: we’re both fighting for our careers

Denzel Bentley


Denzel Bentley exclusive: we’re both fighting for our careers

Denzel Bentley exclusive: we’re both fighting for our careers

Denzel Bentley is getting ready to remind people exactly what he is capable of.

Bentley has been here before. He pulled himself back together after a stoppage loss to Felix Cash to regain the British middleweight title.

And rather than allowing a decision defeat to world middleweight champion, Janibek Alimkhanuly, to dent his self belief and limit his ambitions, he took confidence after getting the better of the excellent Kazakh over the second half of the fight. He then proved his quality by stopping Keiran Smith in 45 seconds just a few months later.

Now, he needs to rebuild again. On Saturday night, Bentley, 18-3-1 (15 KO’s) makes his first appearance since losing his British middleweight title to Nathan Heaney. He fights Danny Dignum in a real crossroads fight. For all the latest fight odds, visit our sportsbook.

Boxing fans can be fickle and, despite his history, Bentley once again finds himself in the ‘prove it’ category. The 29-year-old doesn’t take offence. He has resigned himself to the fact that in the same way that artists are only good as their last album and footballers are only as good as their last 90 minutes, boxers are only as good as their last performance.

“I learned to detach myself”

“It’s funny and annoying. I learned to detach myself from that stuff after the Cash loss. Whatever anyone said, I had to tell myself that it wasn’t personal. They don’t know me. They’re talking about the entertainer. They weren’t happy with that performance and that’s fine. As long as they aren’t talking about me as a person it’s fine,” he told 32Red.

“You see it and it’s hard to get annoyed but I don’t bite back, I know I have to prove it in my next fight and things will change again. Before Janibek, everyone was saying I was walking to my death. Why am I taking this fight? Frank Warren has set me up. After the fight, the same people were saying I’d proved I was at that level.

“Nobody really knows what they think they know. When people say the maths doesn’t add up, well boxing maths never adds up. Whatever people see is what they judge.”

As Bentley says, those who are writing him off are basing their opinion on the twelve rounds he shared with Heaney last November.

As an inspired Heaney stuck rigidly to his gameplan, an out-of-sorts Bentley trudged after him, loading up with big punches and never looking like turning the tide of the fight. Heaney won a deserved decision and became the new British champion.

“Boxing really is 90% mental”

Bentley isn’t the type to make excuses but it emerged after the fight that his focus – understandably – hadn’t been on Heaney.

A few weeks before the fight, the Londoner’s first son had been born prematurely and Bentley’s mind had been with the newborn and his partner. The infant spent ten days in intensive care and Bentley had to split his time between the hospital and the gym.

A few weeks after the fight with Heaney and with his son in full health, Bentley made his way back to the Peacock Gym and got straight back to work. Safe in the knowledge that he knew exactly why he had produced such a flat performance and determined to get straight back on the horse, Bentley shut down talk of coming back with a confidence boosting tick over fight and picked up right where he had left off.

“It wasn’t anything like thinking I’m a shot fighter. Boxing’s one of those sports that people tell you it’s 90% mental and it is,” he said. “You can be physically better for anything but if you can’t mentally lock in – and that was my problem – then everything just goes out of the window.

“The way I fought in that fight, I’ve never fought like that before. I was just walking forward throwing punches. I didn’t change anything to try and capitalise on Heaney’s work, I know that. It’s just a case of being able to lock in. I feel very confident and comfortable that I’ll be able to do that in this fight.

“I want a real fight to come back with”

Denzel Bentley

“The loss hasn’t affected me apart from the fact that it’s taken me down a grade and now I need to build back up. It didn’t make me think, ‘Oh my days. I’m not good enough.’ It’s just affected in boxing with the level of opponent, my pay and where do I move next? Those kind of things. I’m not questioning myself mentally. I’m in a good place.”

Dignum, 16-1 (9 KO’s), certainly isn’t a gimme comeback fight. Bentley rates the Londoner as a better fighter than Heaney and having fallen short in his own world title fight with Alimkhanuly, the 32-year-old is fighting for his own future.

Bentley knows it is a high risk fight but he is also aware that an impressive performance will catapult him right back to where he was before the loss to Heaney.

“That’s what I wanted a competitive fight to come back with. I told Martin [Bowers, his trainer] I didn’t need an eight round comeback fight to boost my confidence. My confidence isn’t gone. That’s not the problem. I want a real fight to come back with and that’ll put me right back where I was before the Heaney fight,” he said.

“We’ve sparred loads of rounds. He’s been around and he’s a good fighter but that’s what I want. It’s given me a kick up the arse. I’ve gotta be on it.

“We’ve both ended up at the same point and we’re both fighting for our careers essentially. We’re both one win away from moving on and potentially getting another title shot.”

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