Denzel Bentley v Felix Cash was a fight that had the British boxing trade excited. A seal of approval from the majority of fans doesn’t come along too often nor does a bout pairing boxers from Queensbury Promotions and Matchroom.
The rising talent of Bentley had won the British middleweight title in his 15th fight while the tried and tested Cash brought to the party his Commonwealth strap. The York Hall was set for what appeared like being a thrilling domestic tussle that would have saw us wax lyrical about the sport the day after.
Cash wiped out all of that promise with a bunch of right hands just over halfway through round three. Bentley never really got an opportunity to show what he intended to do in the fight. One thudding shot gave Cash an opening which he smashed through. Some had predicted an emphatic win for Eddie Hearn’s middleweight but for most of us it was a feeling of shock at how early proceedings were concluded.
Bentley returns on tonight, on BT Sport, for the first time since his sole professional defeat when he takes on Sam Evans. Evans had initially been set to face British super-middleweight champion Lennox Clarke before the 30-year-old’s first defence was pulled due to an injury he sustained.
Boxing Social caught up with Bentley recently and asked him if he has moved on from the loss to Cash.
“Not really. It’s not stopping me from doing what I’m doing or making me feel aw I can’t achieve anything in the sport or it’s going to be hard to come back, not in that sense but the sense of a loss. He’s the only person to beat me at this point and it’s like I want to get that back. I’m not over it in a sense of it is what it is, it happens. I need to prove myself again and get back to where I was. I’m over it but I’m not over it if that makes sense.”
September 11 had been the original date for Bentley’s comeback, but opponent Andrew Robinson pulled out leaving the former British champion to tick over in the gym until a new slot could be found. The opportunity for Sam Evans, who holds a win over Kaisee Benjamin at welterweight, is one that will be his first fight since April 2018. He has campaigned near the middleweight limit in the past, but this represents a seismic task for the Midlander given his time away from the ring. Whatever is down on paper is irrelevant to Bentley, he refuses to look past Evans or take him lightly.
“He had a shot at a British title, so he’s been training, been in camp and getting ready so he’s not a pushover. One loss, one draw, he’s not coming to just lay down and take part. He’s coming to push for bigger things. If he beats me, he can get the opportunity to fight Lennox Clarke for the British and Commonwealth like he was meant to do.”
Is Bentley looking to remind the boxing public of how good he is by doing a job on Evans?
“With me every fight I’m trying to put on a statement,” he says. “I’m looking to impress, just to show people that I’m here to take over. I’m not just here to tippy-tap about which is why I took those fights with Mick Hall, Heffron and Felix because I’m trying to up the levels every time.
“If I’m going to be who I say I’m going to be [then] Sam Evans shouldn’t stand a chance against me but also I’m seeing it as this is his chance to turn his career around and be a household name.
“I’m not taking any chances. I’m going to prepare the best I can as if I’m fighting Heffron and Cash and all them guys at that level and deal with him how I feel I’m supposed to deal with him and that’s no disrespect to him. I just feel the level I’m at he’s not at that level, but he will fight his life away right now to be at that level. I can’t slack or think it’s an easy fight, but I just feel like going into this fight I have to perform, I have to shine, and I have to look good. Especially coming off a loss and trying to get back in the swing of things.”
The swing of things comes with a pinch realism which Bentley is at ease with attaching to his future. A rematch with Cash is an itch he’d like to scratch down the road but knows it will never happen unless he has something significant to offer the still unbeaten 28-year-old.
“I’ve got to do a lot more than win a couple of fights to get a rematch with him again,” he says.
“I’ve got to more or less be touching world level to make it worth it for both of us, especially for him because why is he going to come back and give me another chance especially beating me in the fashion he did. It wasn’t like it was a good fight and everyone wants to see it again and they’re going to pay for it. I’ve got to do a lot more and I can accept that.
“It’s about me getting back into contention, getting back to the top of that list of fighters in my division. Being the best in my division but I can’t be the best till I beat Felix. I’m going to keep chasing that and eventually when I do get there, I can get that [win] back. I don’t just want to focus my whole career on that but that’s just something that I want to do for myself.”
While Bentley’s attention is on Sam Evans in Birmingham tonight a reasonably high-profile British title loss is a sore one to take for the losing fighter. An inquest can quickly begin behind the mic courtesy of analysts and pundits and in some cases a fallout can occur. Bentley puts his hands up and openly admits that the better man won on the night but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a time to review what went wrong. However, as he explains, not long after losing his British title he began to seriously doubt himself.
“I felt like I’m done here. It was a bad loss. Wasn’t even like a loss in a close fight, a tough fight. I didn’t get to perform. He done a good job not allowing me to get anything off, but I felt like yeah man what’s going on here. Obviously as time goes on you just have to think about it, people speak to you, you hear certain things and you’re like you know what it’s not the end of the world. I’m only young in my career. I won the British title early and we go again and push even further forward from that. It’s just about learning and taking things from that fight and coming back better and stronger than I had before already.”
‘It’s not the end of the world’ was a phrase put in his ear by his brother and Bentley’s promoter Frank Warren. Regardless of how much it was hurting he was reminded that what happened was he simply lost a fight. Someone has to lose and when you put together a fight where the stakes are as high as the expectations then someone will fall one way or another. So, if a loss is a lesson was there anything Bentley learned from the fight against Cash?
“More so stuff outside of the ring. Wasn’t a lot in the ring because it only went three rounds, apart from keep your hands up!”
Some changes have taken place, however, and advice has been taken on board.
“Just me looking after myself properly outside of the ring. Recovery, for example, and other things that I wasn’t doing before. I was just training and going home. I wasn’t doing anything extra to treat my body if that makes sense. I’m doing a bit more outside of the ring to make sure I go in as healthy as possible, as fit as possible, as focused as possible. Everything down to a tee.
“I’ve listened to my team and those that guide me, but I’ve had a few people in the industry that’s seen me outside and pulled me to the side and told me a few things or have rung me, yo listen, this, this and that. Some of the advice I took on board, some of the advice ah whatever but I appreciate it. At the end of the day, I have had some advice and listened to all of it, it’s just which advice I want to take.
“The better man won on the night, he had better preparation than me. That’s what it is, he prepared for a certain style and succeeded. I’ve prepared for a certain style and didn’t succeed. It is what it is. The better man won but it is something I want to get back down the line for my career.”