It was just business, now it’s personal. Super Featherweight Alex Dimalghani (19-1, 9 Kos) is used to turn setbacks into opportunities and the fall out of his scheduled September meeting with world title challenger Francisco Fonseca (25-2-1, 19 KOs) due to the former’s last-minute alleged illness has paved the way for a bigger event with the IBO title on the line at York Hall this Saturday, live on Channel 5 from 9PM. But it’s not really about the belts either for them or for co-headliner John Joe Nevin (13-0, 4 KOs) who faces Fonseca’s brother Freddy (27-4-1, 18 KOs) for the WBA International title in the same weight class. These four fighters come from different backgrounds and levels of experience but share the same hunger and determination in pursuing a common objective: to crash the top of the division and manoeuvre themselves into title contention with the main sanctioning bodies. Nevertheless, each of them brings a personal and unique extra bit of motivation into the ring. We had a chance to hear it straight from the horses’ mouth at Hennessy press conference in London today.
York Hall was the stage for Dimalghani’s only defeat against Mickey Coveney in 2011. Although he surely is a completely different animal and unaffected by superstition, there is a feeling something about that night still does not sit well with him and that he can’t wait to put on a performance on Saturday to finally leave it behind for good.
BB: You came into the fight with Coveney after fourteen months out of the ring. Was inactivity the main factor in the result? If not, what else did not work for you on the night?
AD: Inactivity surely had an effect on my performance and also my focus at the time was more on university than boxing, but I still don’t think I lost that fight to be honest. It is what it is. As it turns out, that result was a blessing in disguise. Had it not happened, I would have not gone to Mexico and become the fighter that I am today.
BB: Why did you choose Mexico of all places to rebuild your career?
AD: I always admired the Mexican fighting style and the Mexican Culture in general. Plus, I had friends out there.
BB: Was it always on the cards to come back to the UK eventually?
AD: Yes, I was just waiting for the right circumstances. By fighting abroad, I basically skipped the stage where you have to sell tickets and walked straight into a TV deal with Mick Hennessy, which is a perfect platform to fast track me to the level where I belong and want to be.
BB: Fonseca only lost to Gervonta Davis and Tevin Famer, two proven world champions. Does a victory over him put you in the same class?
AD: Of course. Especially if I do it in style.
BB: Do you consider the IBO a legitimate title or just a stepping stone to the major belts?
AD: I think the IBO is a legitimate title in itself, given the calibre of some of the champions who owned it, such as Gennady Golovkin or Jarrett Hurd. But the fight would still make sense if it wasn’t on the line.
BB: Do you plan on defending it if you win?
AD: One step at the time. Let’s win it first and then we’ll see what Mick says.
BB: Who do you consider the true world champion at Super Feather amongst the current title holders?
AD: Gervonta Davis was the real champion. With him out of the equation, the landscape is completely open and that’s where I come in.
Francisco Fonseca is a proud man and dismissed vehemently any insinuation he might have faked illness for fear of losing. Now he feels his reputation is on the line, on top of everything else, and he is coming to the ring with bad intentions.
BB: What happened exactly in the changing room last time around and how are you feeling today?
FF: I had a virus whose name I cannot pronounce, but that was only established when I got back home and went through a full examination. The decision of the medical commission to pull me out on the night was based on the symptoms I displayed. Their decision, not mine. I am in perfect condition now and cannot wait to shut up Dimalghani and put an end to his nonsense. I would have not taken the fight again if I had any fear of him.
BB: Is he a step down from the likes of Davis and Famer?
FF: I don’t take anyone lightly. Every fight is important. Plus, there is a belt on the line and that is the souvenir I want to bring home from London.
BB: Do you value the IBO belt in itself or is it just a mean to get closer to a shot at the major sanctioning bodies?
FF: Many great names in boxing have held an IBO title but to me is just a key to unlock bigger opportunities.
BB: Are you comfortable with being the away fighter? Do you feel you will need to produce something extra to get a decision?
FF: What decision? I did not come for a decision. Only one of us will be standing at the end.
On the other hand, John Joe Nevin does not feel he has anything to prove to anybody and believes he already belongs at the top. This is his chance to get people to acknowledge what he already knows to be true about himself.
BB: You spent most of your professional career fighting in the USA. Was that a conscious choice or determined by circumstances?
JN: My choice. The USA is where you want to end up eventually in your career so I put myself ahead and already built a big following in the American Irish community.
BB: From a technical point of view, did you think you would get a better level of experience than at home?
JN: Not necessarily better but diverse. They have completely different styles over there and I felt I had covered the European ones as an Amateur. I have done my homework, now it’s time for business. I’m not interested in domestic titles, I aim straight to the top.
BB: Do you see Dimalghani as a potential rival further down the line?
JN: Who knows? Maybe so. Right now, he is not a priority. I have business to take care of with Fonseca.
BB: Do you feel any pressure to outperform your stablemate?
JN: I’m not boxing him, I’m boxing Fonseca. That is all there is to it. And I am sure Alex is not concerned about me either. At the moment, both the stable and the division are big enough for both of us.
BB: Did you study Fonseca?
JN: Yes. He is experienced and carries a big punch. But I feel they underestimate me because my pro record looks shorter than his on paper. They really are not looking at what I achieved in the Amateurs, where I fought at the highest level and sparred with the likes of Lomachenko. My natural style will be enough to beat him, there is no need to implement anything extra. Plus, Jim McDonnell has done a great job with my fitness. I am the whole package.
BB: Who would you target among the current world champions in the division?
JN: It has to be Farmer. He would be the perfect fight for me from a commercial point of view as he beat some Irish fighters and there is a big Irish community in his own town of Philadelphia. I can draw a larger crowd than him in his own back yard.
Freddy Fonseca has a less emotional attitude towards his designated opponent than Francisco. This is actually an opportunity for him to step out of his brother’s shadow and experience world level first hand rather than vicariously.
BB: What do you know about Nevin? Did you study him?
FF: I watched some videos and trained accordingly. I am not giving away too much but I am prepared for his style. He thinks I will have problems figuring him out but I believe my southpaw stance will be the key in out boxing him.
BB: Is this an opportunity to steal the show even from your own brother and go for a world title yourself?
FF: Yes, it’s a great opportunity for me to crash the top 10 and I’m thankful it presented. I am going to grab it with both hands.
BB: Are you concerned about Nevin’s home advantage?
FF: It’s not my first time travelling but it is definitely the most important. I’m aware that any close round might go Nevin’s way so I will make sure my performance leaves no doubts. If the knockout happens, it happens but I’m not going to look for it.
Throughout the years, promoter Mick Hennessy has proven himself as one of the most resilient operators in British boxing. Once again, he was not deterred by the September pull out and came back with a stronger card that is actually generating more interest and intrigue because of the circumstances. He believes his two charges on the night are not far from each other in terms of potential.
BB: Dimalghani and Nevin had similar career trajectories having perfected their craft abroad and now coming back to the UK at same time, in the same division and with the same objectives. Are they on the same level and is there a chance a fight between the two might happen down the line?
MH: I put them on the exact same level. John’s Amateur pedigree is phenomenal and he faced good opposition in the USA. If he hadn’t suffered a setback due to injury, he would probably be already a world champion. It’s his destiny. Dimalghani’s background is different but he is definitely ready to take on anyone in the division. I could see a potential clash happening, although Alex might be going down to Feather.
BB: Who else from your stable should we be keeping an eye on come Saturday?
MH: Everyone on the bill is very talented. On top of my head, I would recommend Islington middleweight Billy Underwood and Rumanian heavyweight Lucian Atani, who is a 6ft 9 muscle mountain and ko artist. My son, who is campaigning at Middleweight and very suited to the pros, is also on the bill.
BB: Throughout your career, you had many ups and downs and possibly some disillusions but you always found a way to come back and remain relevant. After so many years in such a tough business, what is giving you the drive to keep moving forward?
MH: What drives me is still what brought me into this business in the first place: I simply love the sport. Fact is that even after all I’ve done in my career, I still haven’t fulfilled my ambitions. I have not even got close to what I really want to do. I am no quitter, so keep watching this space.
BB: On an unrelated note, we saw Savannah Marshall and Claressa Shields come face to face last weekend in London. How far are we from that fight?
MH: Give us another six months to a year. She needs to win a title first so she can bring something to the table. I think she handled herself very well in their meeting and oozed confidence. I believe Claressa is very aware of Savannah’s power and skills. When it happens, it will be a great fight for boxing in general, not just for the female Middleweight/Supermiddleweight divisions.
As his father mentioned his appearance on the bill, we took time to speak with Mick Hennessy Jr as well.
BB: Was it a given for you to pick up boxing, having been exposed to it all your life through your father activity?
MH Jr: Of course. I have been going to the shows and was around the fighters since I was five. I already knew then it was my path. I joined the Amateurs at eleven years of age and had my first fight 2 weeks after joining the gym. I compiled a record of 70 wins out of 100 bouts and gained a lot of good experience.
BB: What are your short-term objectives as a pro?
MH Jr: I am definitely after titles. I give my self another 1 or 2 years. I got my sights on the WBC Youth first, while I still have the age to qualify for it, then it will be the traditional route from Southern Area to British.
BB: Can you describe your own style?
MH Jr: A boxer/fighter with a good engine and a tendency to stand and trade.
BB: Who do you consider the best middleweight of all time and in the current scene?
MH Jr: Hagler, Tommy Hearns, although he spent more time at Welter, and Canelo.
BB: Anything else you would like to share?
MH Jr: Tune in on 5Spike on Saturday at 20:00 to see me fight!
Get tickets here: Tickets are available from MyFightTickets: https://myfighttickets.com/shop-1?olsPage=products%2Fhennessy-york-hall
Promoted by Mick Hennessy in association with Infinitum, Channel 5 and Priority Promotions, Dilmaghani v Fonseca will be televised exclusively live in the UK on free-to-air Channel 5 from 21:00 and 5Spike.