Looking after his two young sisters, Dennis turned pro late, he is now 5-0 and looking to progress to title level soon under Steve Goodwin.
Dennis Wahome’s entry into boxing was a covert one. With his Mum disapproving of the activity, he had to ensure that there were no tell-tale signs showing when he returned home from the gym that could alert her to his apparently misspent evening.
“When I went to the club I didn’t even want to spar,” the 29-year-old tells British Boxers. “I didn’t want to go home looking all bruised, so I would just go there and train. It was that way for a long time. Eventually, one time I agreed to do a couple of spars, but I would really just try to avoid getting hit. I guess it worked out ok,” he laughs.
Wahome talks fondly about these times, almost as if they relate to a different lifetime. They were the last days before his world was thrown into flux with the untimely death of his mother. With admirable candour he reflects on these dark days: “It was crazy,” he remembers.
“I was at uni at the time and everything was going well, so we thought, anyway. When it happened I just didn’t want to do anything anymore. I dropped out of Uni [studying Civil Engineering] and got involved in some silly stuff. I lived a bit recklessly for a while.”
But ultimately Wahome found salvation through his family and identified a future through a renewed focus in boxing. “I was only 20, but I had to take care of my sisters who were still in High school. I always knew that sooner or later I would have to get things together,” he says.
“So, I had to grow up a lot faster. I couldn’t go back to the old normality or whatever you want to call it. I wanted my sisters to go to Uni, so I had to do what I had to do to make sure they finished their schooling and got into a better position. I know that is what my Mum would have wanted. She would have wanted me to get myself together and to put them on a straight path. But I guess at some point everyone has to go through something like that.”
Despite his obvious and justified pride in honouring his mother’s hopes for both himself and his family, there is an understandable hint of sadness for those lost years of his youth. The carefree times that he could have had before familial responsibility was unwantedly thrust upon him. “I look at my sisters who are 23 and 24 now. I never had what they have now,” he recalls wistfully.
“That whole period of my life, from 20 to 26, I didn’t get to go out partying and stuff like that. I missed out on all that. I had to be a grownup earlier than I wanted. Everything changed for me then.”
Opting not to return to education and eager to stay out of trouble the Northolt based fighter stepped up his commitment to boxing under the watchful guidance of Xavier Miller at Neasden boxing club. The 29-year-olds respect for Miller and the patience he showed his troubled younger self is obvious.
“Xavier has been there since I started doing it for real. I’ve been with him since 2012. It’s weird because in the early stages I was obviously still very young and things were difficult. Sometimes I would go off the rails. But he never told me to leave or get out of the gym or anything.
“Even now I ask him ‘What made you keep me?’ If I was in his position I would never have kept someone that caused so much hassle. I’m a bit more mature now, so things get handled differently. We can laugh about it all now.”
Operating at super featherweight, Wahome has registered five uninterrupted wins since debuting at the end of 2017. He is realistic as to his current status and aware that in this developmental phase of his career that he needs to impress against this more limited level of opposition. “It’s going pretty well, though,” he acknowledges.
“I train properly and make sure I eat right. I do everything and don’t cut any corners. But I understand that at the level I am at now that I have to prove myself. You can’t be struggling at this stage. That is at the forefront of everything. But, so long as I am happy with my performance, then I guess I am doing good.”
For the Steve Goodwin managed fighter, every night under the lights presents a new learning opportunity. But despite the acknowledgment that his career is still in the “build” phase, he sets himself high personal standards regarding his ring output. Continuously assessing and analysing his performance, he reveals, “I learn so much from every fight.” But he readily identifies scope for further improvement.
“My last fight [W6 Vs. durable Latvian Aleksandrs Birkenbergs] was a definite step up in competition. I look back on it now and think it was terrible in terms of my performance. I wasn’t happy with it and I am probably my biggest critic. I always believe that I can do better. The guy was awkward, but I don’t make excuses and I know I can do better than that.
“I did what I had to do and as long as I won, then that’s ok. But there are things I can improve on and will work on ahead of the next one. I will improve with every fight. Boxing is a marathon, not a sprint.”
Wahome will next be seen on the Goodwin Sports promotion at York Hall on 29 June. A card headlined by Sean Robinson’s defence of his Southern Area Super welterweight title against challenger John Brennan.
The southern area strap is something that Wahome covets for himself before the year is out. But prior to that, he is keen to settle any lingering doubts remaining from what he still considers as his own sub-standard performance last time out. “I want a Southern Area shot within the year. I have spoken to Steve [Goodwin] and I’ve been told there’s a possibility,” he reveals.
“But I need one more fight before then to prove to myself that last time was just a one-off. I don’t want to go in there doubting myself or second-guessing things. That’s how people get hurt. I’m so brutally honest and expect more of myself. I didn’t produce everything last time and will rectify that next time. “
The self-styled ‘Dennis the Menace” isn’t worried that his KO column is still blank. An omission that he is confident will change as he moves up the gears into longer fights and away from the four rounder nursery slopes. He also acknowledges the value of seeing how his body reacts to a full complement of sessions rather than a quick big ticket knockout. “The less you get hit the longer you can last in this game. It’s all about defence. I like to think that my defence is my offense,” he muses.
Wahome confirms that significant chunks of his style were leveraged from old videos of Mike Tyson and Ray Leonard. In respect of the former, it is typically his destructive knockout power that is most admired by fighters and fans alike, but Wahome finds his adulation in the less obvious defensive prowess of the early vintage Tyson. With Leonard, it Is all about using the jab and emulating his fleet-footed, silver heeled eloquence.
But for all this talk of his style being informed by these pugilistic legends of yesteryear, one cannot help but think its essence comes from somewhere else. From someone that never stepped into a ring and objected to her son doing so.
With every punch that he evades he pays her his own personal tribute.