Oliver McManus @OliverGMcManus
Six fights unbeaten in the professional ranks, Denzel Bentley is fast making a name for himself across the small-hall scene in Britain with five of his wins coming explosively inside the distance.
Last time out, back in September, the 23 year old smashed his way past Daniel Urbanski, dropping his man three times within the first round to end the bout after a mere 71 seconds. Highly touted and with a burgeoning fan base, Bentley is loving life at the moment and , as my dad quipped from ringside on at York Hall, “he’s well worth the £60”.
Anyway Denzel agreed to speak to me before I disappeared on holiday so let’s delve straight into what he had to say!
Denzel, a pleasure to speak to you, let’s start off at the very beginning, how did you first get into boxing and at what point did you think about turning professional?
When I was about 15 my older brother bought gloves just so we can fight each other in the block or in the house, we had friends come over all the time and we used to just fight each other but we were beating everyone up whether they were bigger or older than us, it didn’t matter.
A few years later , when I got to college, I was brought to a boxing class but there was no sparring or pads so I stopped going there then he brought me to Fisher ABC – my first and only amateur club -and that’s where my journey started.
I never really knew about amateur boxing so turning pro was always the aim but I had to learn the trade first.
When it came to your debut, how were you feeling?
On my debut I was nervous, I sold about 200 tickets and thought to myself “ahh man I’ve got to put on a show now”. I knew I was going to win but I just didn’t know how, I didn’t want to be in a boring fight but luckily I got the knockout in the first round and everyone went mad but half the crowd missed it and that was a bit annoying!
Since then, though, you’ve notched up six wins on the bounce – are you pleased with your progress?
Well I set targets for myself and I visualised the way I wanted my career to go; originally I wanted the Southern Area by the end of the year, that’s obviously not happening now, but yeah I’m very happy with my progress so far.
And actually those six fights came with 12 months of each other, how happy are you to be fighting so regularly?
I’m happy that I’m fighting regularly, it keeps me in the gym and that way I’m always learning. Not so much in the fights because they haven’t really lasted long except my 5th one but it is building my profile and I’m learning in the gym nonstop.
I’ve been knocking everyone out
It’s something we touched on after your last fight, but how much of you goes into contests hoping to get rounds and how much wants the knockout?
Erm… to be honest I don’t think about neither I just want to win, I’d like a few rounds just to entertain the crowd a bit but overall nothing beats a knockout victory.
Looking at your fights, then, what has been the most pleasing performance for you?
My favourite performance was the one that went the distance because it’s the only one I can look back on and reflect on. I can look at things I done well and things I didn’t do so well, even though I don’t think opponents on that level should be able to live with me, I feel like I got to show some skill and I learnt a lot about myself. Every time I watch it on YouTube it gets better and better.
If we talk development, what areas do you feel you’ve made the most progress in?
Even though you haven’t seen it yet I feel like my fitness has improved the most and also my ring IQ.
What has been the biggest surprise for you in professional boxing?
That fact that I’ve been knocking everyone out to be honest. In the amateurs I hardly knocked anybody out, I didn’t know I was a big puncher until I put those 10oz gloves on.
You’ve got quite a big following, does that add any extra pressure when you get in the ring or is it all just motivation to perform?
It doesn’t add any pressure at all, I feed off of all of their energy and just can’t wait to put on a big performance for them.
Okay so you are 23, how long would you like to be in the game for?
I’ve got a solid 10yrs minimum left maybe more if I look after my body and avoid injuries but you never know those things you leave in Gods hands and just do what you can to make your career as successful as possible.
Let’s talk titles, what is the belt you want the most in the immediate future?
As of right now I’ve got my eyes on the Southern Area title, I think it will be a nice title to win this early in my career but overall if I don’t get a shot at that there will be other titles I can get my hands on in the near future.
Would you rather fight a high-profile opponent for no belt or a lesser-profile fighter but with a title on the line?
Well it depends because both fights make sense – I’d love to fight for a title because the aim is to be a champion but I’d also love to fight a high profile fighter because I love a challenge and I’m in this game to fight, but which ever one gives me more exposure will be best.
Do you think we see too many fighters unwilling to take risks in case they lose their 0?
100% but that comes with the game I guess and those fighters will only go as far as their bravery takes them I’m in it for the legacy I don’t plan to lose so with every challenge that comes my way I’d put in that extra work to make sure my 0 and legacy stays protected.
Talk to me about life outside of boxing, is it easy to switch off and what keeps you focussed?
It’s sometimes easy to switch of because I still live at home with my family so we get on with other things but at the same time people always want to know what’s next for me in boxing and hat also includes family and I’m always watching boxing so it’s hard to stay away from it by when I need to I can just keep myself to myself and just switch off when I need to.
Finally, then, what is your target for 2019?
Titles, Titles and more Titles… and more exposure.