By Frank Warren
WE’VE GOT A proper British title middleweight banger on the cards this Saturday night from York Hall when our man Denzel Bentley defends his Lonsdale belt, while at the same time attempting to seize the Commonwealth crown of his opponent, Felix Cash.
It is a fight that I, along with a multitude of boxing fans, cannot wait to see unfold. There was excitement over the prospect of the match-up right from the time it was initially floated on the BBBofC circular. We were determined to back our fighter and showcase the encounter on our BT Sport platform, so we pushed the boat out and won a competitive purse bid.
There were some doubts over whether Cash and his team would fulfil the challenge initially, but Felix is clearly made of the right stuff and, as fighters say themselves, a ring is a ring, after all.
Middleweight has long been a marquee division in this country and there have been some epic and memorable battles over the years. Some great names from our relatively recent history have held the British title, such as Alan Minter, Tony Sibson, Mark Kaylor, Herol Graham and, much more recently, Martin Murray and Billy Joe Saunders.
I believe Denzel has got what it takes to stand tall in such company and emulate the achievements of those famous British names.
The Battersea boy has come a long way in a short space of time. He was one of the first back on our summer post-lockdown shows last year and actually looked a bit sluggish in securing victory over Mick Hall.
The obvious match to make then was against our other middleweight contender, Mark Heffron, and it was a fight that had been talked about for some time. Both were more than happy to battle it out over ten rounds and, in my opinion, a draw was a fair outcome following a terrific domestic dust-up.
The return deserved a significant reward for the winner and we got the British title sanctioned following Liam Williams vacating his belt in readiness for his world title shot.
Second time around, Denzel appeared sharper and fought with far greater spite and intensity than he did in the first. The shot in the second round that ultimately closed the left eye of Mark proved decisive and won him his first belt as both an amateur and pro.
Denzel, by his own admission, was not a great amateur and his success demonstrates once again that you do not have to carry an Olympic pedigree to make a go of it in this game. What he did do was work bloody hard and put the time in to learn his craft.
Denzel combined his amateur experience at Fisher by, at the same time, also developing professional skills at the Peacock Gym with his mentor Ray Bull. His hard work is paying dividends, yet he is a long way from being the finished article and I believe he can go a long way in the sport.
We won’t get ahead of ourselves though because he is up against a formidable opponent in Felix, who really yet to put a foot wrong in the pro ranks.
He was a good amateur with lots of experience and his pro record of nine KOs from his 13 wins suggests his punches carry some pop. You would probably say, opponents-wise, there is not too much in it as far as their respective records are concerned. Denzel’s best win is obviously over Mark Heffron, while Felix took on and beat a good fighter in Jack Cullen, stopping him in eight at the end of 2019.
This is an opportunity for both to step to the next level. I hope, and suspect we are, in for a classic. The ingredients are all there, two unbeaten middleweights with a little sparring score to settle from a few years back, make this a fight not to be missed.
OUR FORMER BRITISH middleweight champion, Liam Williams, was ultimately unsuccessful in his tilt at the WBO world title owned by Demetrius Andrade. However, in defeat, Liam’s stock has not diminished one bit and his warrior-like approach has certainly won him some new fans.
Unfortunately, Liam was always up against it after the first couple of rounds, which included a knockdown, but despite his bravery and being fearless on the front foot, a slick operator like Andrade was never likely to surrender his advantage.
I hold my hands up, I thought Liam would go one better than his previous attempts at world title level and I believed his firebrand approach would knock the champion out of his cultured stride. Sadly it was not to be.
When he has had time to recuperate – and following that fantastic welcome home – we will get Liam back to work and he remains a hugely popular attraction who the BT Sport viewers tune in to watch in numbers.