DECEMBER 2023

SHARP - The Denzel Bentley Interview

DECEMBER 2023 <h2>SHARP - The Denzel Bentley Interview</h2>

‘The experience of fighting for a world title taught me that anything is possible. If you would have said to me I was going to be fighting for a world title a few years ago when I started as a pro, I would have thought, maybe further down the line. Anything can happen at any given moment. You need to always be ready to take a challenge.’

Denzel Bentley

In 22 fights, Denzel Bentley has gone from being a novice professional to a two-time British middleweight champion and even challenging for world honours. British Vintage Boxing caught up with the affable Londoner to gather more detail on his journey to date.

 At 28 years of age, how and why did the Bentley first don the gloves? The 5ft 11 inch middleweight explained. ‘That’s a tricky question because there’s two ages. At 15, my brother went to Nine Elms market, bought some gloves and headguards, and we would put them on and scrap each other and some friends on the estate we lived on. Then when I got to college, when I was about 17 or 18, my friend introduced me to his gym, which was Fisher ABC and that’s when I got introduced to real boxing.’

‘I had my first amateur fight when I was 19, however my amateur career wasn’t very long. I only had 17 fights, which included getting to the quarter finals of the Under 20 Novices. I also started training at the Peacock Gym in Canning Town halfway through my three year amateur career and then at one point I decided to turn pro.’

Bentley turned pro on 14 October 2017 and three years later beat Mark Heffron to be crowned British middleweight champion. Unfortunately, a few months later, he lost the title to Feliz Cash, however, a year later he regained the title after a Fight of the Year contender against Linus Udofia. Bentley recalled being crowned a two-time British middleweight champion. ‘Ahhh. It was very satisfying. That was one of the high moments of my career. I’m at the point of my career where I am now, because of that fight against Linus. That was an incredible fight and people still talk about it to this day. What a fight that was. It brought me back on track with my career.’


On 12 November 2022, Bentley found himself standing across the ring from tough Kazakh, Zhanibek Alimkhanuly at the Palms Casino Resort, Las Vegas. It’s worth noting that Alimkhanuly’s three opponents prior to Bentley were of good stock and none of them saw the final bell. Former WBA world champions, Rob Brant and Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam, both failed to go beyond the eight round, and Britain’s very own Danny Dignum was knocked out in the second session in May 2022. Bentley explained how the opportunity arose to challenge for the world crown and the speed at which it all occurred. ‘I was doing an interview with Richard Hubbard a few weeks before the Marcus Morrison fight in September [2022] and in the interview he mentioned Zhanibek and I said, ‘Yeah. I could be fighting him end of next year [2023].’ Then Martin [Bowers] walked past and looked me in the face, but I paid no notice and carried on with the interview.

‘I went home and was taking a nap and next thing my phone goes and it was Martin. ‘Denzel – I didn’t want to say anything, but I’ve got a fight for you. I didn’t want to say anything about it, but when I heard you mention his name in that interview, I had to say something. You’ve been offered the world title fight against Alimkhanuly!’ I said, ‘You joking?’ He said, ‘I’m serious.’ I was kind of half-awake and then I said, ‘Say that again.’ He said, ‘You’ve been offered to fight for the WBO world middleweight title in Las Vegas.’ Now I was fully awake. He sent me this guy’s Boxrec details and said, ‘Don’t make a decision yet. One step at a time. We’ve still got the Morrison fight on our hands. After that, let’s decide.’ I said, ‘Cool.’

‘I go into the fight with Morrison with the other fight at the back of my mind, knowing it was a possibility, but thankfully I stopped Morrison in the fourth, defending my British title. ‘After the fight I said to Martin, ‘Let’s do it! Vegas, baby!’

‘Going to Vegas was an experience. Boxing out of the Mayweather gym, a place I’d only really seen on YouTube or television and here I was now training out of this gym in a world title, that I was about to compete in. It was surreal, but I was so locked in, nothing phased me. Well maybe a little. As I was walking past my name on the Vegas strip and saw my face on billboards, that’s when I started to think, ‘Wow. This is crazy.’

Bentley recalled the fight and what Alimkhanuly brought to the table. ‘He was more of a sharp, accurate puncher, than a hard puncher. I didn’t really feel the power until the last round when he caught me straight on the button and he rocked me, that’s when I thought, ‘I ain’t felt it the whole fight - but there it is!’

Bentley put up a very gritty performance, but unfortunately fell short on the scorecards after the full 12 rounds, which is a distance none of Alimkhanuly’s opponents have reached. Bentley added. ‘After the fight, people were coming up to me saying. ‘What a fight man. We’d love to see that again. You boxed out of your skin.’ I was loving it, just soaking it all up, as I was thinking, ‘I’ve just boxed for a world title in Las Vegas.’ After the Bentley victory, Alimkhanuly knocked out his next two opponents in early rounds and added the IBF strap to his WBO.

cont...

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Hamzah Sheeraz has expressed an interest to fight Bentley. Denzel explained how he would see the fight panning out. ‘That’s a fight I would need to be one hundred percent for. He’s a good fighter and it would be a good fight, but I know I’d stop him.’

Behind every fighter, there’s a trainer. Bentley explained the merits of having long term trainer, Martin Bowers in his corner. ‘Martin brings a lot of self-confidence and a lot of self-belief, which has consequently given me self-belief. He’s made me believe in my power more as time’s gone on, whereas early in my career I didn’t think I was a puncher, I just thought, ‘Why’s everyone going over when I’m hitting them, and I don’t mean that arrogantly. With Martin’s calm and relaxed way, he gives that belief, but also shows the faith he has in me, by putting me in these big fights. He believes in my ability, which makes me believe in it also.

Bentley lost his British title on 18 November 2023 in a close majority decision to Nathan Heaney. Challenge in the face of adversity is not alien territory for the south London resident and his ability to bounce back and regain honours is something that he’s not only capable of, but able to do with gusto. At 28 years of age, big fights await him domestically, at European level and no doubt at world level again. We wish him all the best.

In October 2023, Bentley took part in a photoshoot for British Vintage Boxing. The courteous Londoner recalled the day. ‘That was the first time I’d ever done a photoshoot and I had a great time, even though it was pretty cold that day! It was nice to do the shoot with Charlie Duffield, who also trained at the Peacock, because it was someone I was familiar with and I enjoyed catching up with him. I enjoyed the poses and I think I could make a new career out of this!’

Bentley gave his verdict on the threads. ‘It’s great quality gear. It feels soft on your skin, it’s comfortable and for a sweater, it wasn’t like so many pullovers that are stiff, this felt like I’d had it for ages. Most importantly, it was a really warm top, which was great, because it was cold out there that day. Love the design, that old school feel. That slightly washed out, vintage feel. I’ll be using that tracksuit to sweat out in the future.’

From old school garments to bygone greats. If given the opportunity to spar with any past boxing legend, Bentley quickly gave his choice. ‘Marvin Hagler. Absolutely no doubt about it. He’d probably batter me, but that’s how you learn. He could switch from southpaw to orthodox so easily and I’d want to see what skills he possessed and physically, and just how strong his punching power was. That would be the best experience ever.’

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