By Oliver McManus @OliverGMcManus
Super-featherweight prospect Dennis Wahome is eighteen months into his professional career and looking to advance his record to 6-0 this month when he faces Michael Horabin. When I first crossed paths with the 30 year old, just over a year ago, he was just getting settled as a paid boxer so I began by asking him if he had fully found his feet.
“I understood what it was I signed up to and there’s nothing that really shocked me other than how much time ticket selling actually takes. I’m in my sixth fight now so I’ve had the ball rolling (for a while) and I’m starting to build some momentum and, whilst it’s not the glitz and glamour of the O2, a lot of people love coming to York Hall for the shows. I always think how glad I am that I get to fight at the York Hall because you can hear everyone from the changing room and instantly you’ve got a buzz.”
Following a slight niggle that saw him abandon a planned fight in September, Wahome has looked to hasten his development at this early stage of his career by accepting fights with opponents who, despite their record, fight with gusto and come to win. His last contest was against Aleksandrs Birkenbergs – a mean spirited Latvian – in March and the southpaw believes the contest was a culmination of ‘learning on the job’.
“I often look back and see the steps I’ve taken from debut to my last fight and I try to improve on little bits from each fight. I think in my last fight (against Aleksandrs Birkengergs) you could see all of that sort of piece together. He really came with a purpose on that night and from the first minute I knew it was going to be an interesting one in terms of he was actually going to test me and not let it be a walk in the park.
For the first time I was boxing on the backfoot and having to think about where my feet were going, the shots I was throwing, and I was able to see how I’d react to that situation and what better time to find out than at this stage in my career.”
I was on the backfoot for most of it
Having been forced to be more adventurous across his opening couple of bouts, due to the contrasting style of his opponents, fighting on the backfoot was a welcome reversal to his roots.
“As an amateur I preferred to box on the backfoot and be a counter-puncher so I just had to revert to those old tactics and the mentality I had as an amateur. I was able to stay calm because of that and, actually, I quite enjoyed it. I had begun getting used to forcing the action (due to the negativity of his previous opponents) so when I ran into Aleksandars it was as though I was able to box more naturally and everything seemed to flow. It’s funny because considering I was on the backfoot for most of it I was actually a lot more comfortable than in any of my other fights, I felt like I had more rounds in me so I don’t think stepping up in rounds will be any issue.”
The six rounders continue with his contest against Horabin (2-11), himself an awkward challenger, but the platform provided is one Wahome is determined to take advantage of.
“Against Michael Horabin I’m expecting another interesting fight – and by interesting I mean challenging – because of the type of opponent he is. I’m not putting anything negative towards him but I’m expecting a lot more from me in terms of landing punches and my composure. Especially given my last fight I think I’m well-equipped going into this one and I want to fight not just one step better but the whole staircase!”
Indeed they are the sort of fights that Goodwin Boxing fighter is hoping to get more of throughout the calendar year. With an eye towards titles in 2020 he is understanding of the need to get tested and is eager to keep on advancing the level of his opposition.
“I like the fact that I’m going back to back with fights and just having a short break in between camps because it’s giving me that momentum where I can keep learning in the gym and then test it in the ring. I’ve got to say, as well, I’ve had people say ‘you can’t learn that much from so and so’ (in terms of the record of an opponent) but they want to come and see the fights I’ve been a part of. I’m definitely learning in the ring because most of these guys are coming to win and to try and cause me trouble; within the six rounders I expect to learn a lot more about my body and see how much I can push it within that time frame. If I can have three or four more of that sort of fight this year then I think that’ll suit me down to the ground.”
The confidence instilled in Wahome comes from consistency, he told me, having started training with Xavier Miller from when he was an amateur, with the team around him all being tapped into the same wavelength.
“I first met him when I was asked to spar him several years ago but since then it’s become an almost father-son relationship. Obviously when we’re grinding in the gym it’s all serious but I can see he has the best intentions for me in and out of the ring so he always keeps an eye out for me. (Having been with Xavier since an amateur) has made me really comfortable because of that knowledge he has not just about boxing but about the way I fight and obviously my previous fights.”
From those solid foundations he is then able to focus solely on doing the ‘job’ come fight night and with impressive performances, albeit against opposition he is expected to beat, the full-time plumber has now settled at super featherweight and is keen to pipe-burst his way into the title mix.
“I feel pretty big for super featherweight in terms of my build but I’m not necessarily the tallest for the weight; in my last fight I was looking up at the guy and I’m 5”9’ but his Boxrec said he was 5”7’ so one of us is definitely lying, I’ll tell you that! In seriousness, though, I make the weight easily and I’m comfortable now so we can start looking at titles.
If Liam (Dillon, the current Southern Area title holder) still has the title by the end of the year then I think that’s a fight I’d be looking for. It’s nothing against him but obviously he’s signed with Steve (Goodwin) and it’s a natural stepping stone for me in terms of getting a title so that could be easy to make.”