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I Don’t Want People, I Want Titles: Denzel Bentley Interview

Denzel Bentley is a man who does things quickly. The Battersea middleweight known as “2 Sharp” has burned though eight fights in his first fourteen months as a professional, all wins. He has finished seven of those quickly, five in the first round. On any level that’s impressive, on the small hall circuit it’s astonishing for a middleweight.

Bentley has rapidly amassed a huge following, building from selling two hundred tickets to his debut. He ended the fight so soon some of them missed it.

Just twenty three years old, Denzel also talks at 100 miles an hour, rattling off answers so fast my keyboard glows and smokes as I type, attempting to keep pace. Having spoken to Bentley a few times, including immediately after his debut when he was mobbed like a film star; I knew to expect a friendly, polite and chatty interview. What I was not expecting was such candour from the man in a talent rich division.

The Southern Area Title is being contested in March by two men, Linus Udofia and Tey Lynn Jones, who are both on the upward trajectory of their careers. There’s only one loss between the two in a combined twenty fights. Looking to the future, Bentley doesn’t seem fazed by the prospect of facing either,

“It’s a good fight, two prospects fighting each other which is always good, I think Linus Udofia is a bit better, he moves really well and has that power. Tey Lynn Jones does everything well, but I think Linus should win.

If he wins it, I’d be happy to be next, but they’re not fighting till March so we’ll see but yes, 100% yes I’m taking that on. We’ll meet down the line anyway, neither of us are going anywhere.”

Pushed gently, Bentley admits he has confidence in his talent above Southern Area, too. English champion Elliot Matthews is twenty two fights unbeaten, but at thirty seven is enjoying the tail end of his career, “I’d fancy Elliot Matthews, if he’ll put it [the English Title] on the line, that’s a good fight.”

For Denzel though, none of this is personal,

“I don’t want people, I want titles… Titles, titles, titles. I don’t care about nothing else, I wanna put my name in them books.”

Some recent history by numbers. 2 Sharp’s last two fights were just two and a half weeks apart. The first was a second round stoppage of Serge Ambomo, who had never been halted before. The bout was on a Frank Warren dinner show at The Hilton in Mayfair. Bentley, who doesn’t have a promoter currently, surely caught the eye of Warren. Not only did he rack up an impressive win, he took it at short notice. Here comes the number two again,

“I took the Warren show on about two hours notice! They had someone pull out and they called my manager Martin [Bowers]. I’d done ten rounds sparring in the morning, not gonna lie after I took the fight I said to myself ‘what am I doing?’”

Still, it turned out alright for Denzel. I wonder aloud though if all these blowouts, regardless of how impressive, are denying him something. Experience. What is Bentley learning from completing just seven of forty four scheduled rounds in his career. Again, he’s refreshingly truthful,

“Erm, to be honest, I don’t feel like I’m learning. I am picking up things that I do on video afterwards, but that’s why I’m hassling Ed Muscat, my matchmaker. I want guys who give me rounds, that gets me buzzing. We’re always looking, saying let’s get this let’s do that, but the results are all ending the same.

“I need some fights, if I was to get a 50-50 and still win in the first round I’d be happy with that.”

Bentley does believe he’s there “ability wise” but knows realistically he’s looking at near the end of 2019 for a title. He’s mildly frustrated, but overall “happy with how it’s gone”, and understanding that this is the business he’s in.

Photos by Scott Rawsthorne / @unknown_boxers

Where he is learning, Denzel tells me, is at the Peacock Gym in Canning Town where he trains. The gym boasts a murderer’s row of iron fisted knockout artists; Anthony Yarde, Lawrence Okolie, Daniel Dubois and Andre Sterling all train there. There’s an aura about the gym, the fighters seem close, friendly. However, these are professional athletes, there’s an edge to them, no matter how friendly. Having heard from others how good the sparring is, I ask what Bentley thinks,

“I couldn’t think of a place to get better sparring, except maybe in America somewhere. But here, I’m in the best place I could think of.

It’s a family gym, it’s a family, welcoming. Everyone makes weight so maybe that’s why it’s so relaxed! They’ve even got a cafe, it’s brilliant when you’re mad hungry after training.”

Peacock has more than just the big names, and Bentley is diplomatic when asked about ones to watch,

“Obviously everyone there is a top talent, but James Branch and Dan Azeez, they’re making noise right now, performing well and I like their styles.”

Back to him. Having just sold two of his stable mates, I ask Denzel to tell the uninitiated about his own style and why people would want to watch him box (apart from seven knockouts in eight wins). “They’re gonna wanna come and watch me ‘cos its an entertaining fight. At the moment I’m more known in the industry, rather than to the casual fan.

“I can box and if it comes I can take them out, but I’ll get the chance, I’m just waiting.”

Waiting. Boxing can be a waiting game, it can also be one where if you take your chances you don’t always get your shot. However, connections count. With his gym mates, and recent showing on Frank Warren’s dinner show, 2 Sharp is incisive enough to know with no promoter, it may have helped to impress the Hall of Fame manager and promoter.

“If I could be [with Warren] I’d be excited and obviously I’d do it, I haven’t spoken to Frank but we’ll see what happens. To be on a Warren undercard, on BT Sport and that, that’d be really good.”

There is genuine, growing excitement about the man known at Peacock’s as “Dazzlin”. If he continues to knock people over while getting some rounds to sharpen those boxing skills, it won’t be long before he’s collecting leather and metal straps of escalating importance. For now, after a busy year, he plans on spending Christmas with family, staying “kinda fit” and looking forward to a February or March date.

Keep your eyes peeled, Dazzling Denzel Bentley could break out in 2019.

Denzel Bentley is on social media:

Twitter: @2Sharp_d

Instagram: @2Sharp_d

All pictures by the talented Scott Rawsthorne / @unknown_boxers

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