World Champ in Waiting – In-Depth with Dennis Hogan


Dennis Hogan was ringside for a surprise last night.

The WBO #2 light middleweight was at the Turning Stone Casino in Verona in Upstate New York to witness late replacement Jaime Munguia demolish champion Sadam Ali inside four rounds to take the 154lbs title.

It’s yet another unexpected turn in Hogan’s journey to a world title but it’s no issue whatsoever for the headstrong Kildare fighter.

A big proponent of visualisation, Hogan [27(7)-1(0)-1] spends an hour or so every day thinking about the world title, the celebrations, a homecoming in Ireland, blurring the lines between dreams and reality to the degree where, he feels, he is already a world champion.

“It’s already happened – I’m just bridging the gap,” the Brisbane-based fighter told Irish-Boxing.com.

“I fully believe there are no obstacles in my way, it’s happening, it’s already happened, and I’m just enjoying the ride.”

“I’ve that much confidence. I’ve completely relinquished all emotion towards it and I just feel like it’s happening.”

This is all not to say that Hogan is arrogant or over-confident, far from it.

The 33-year-old Kilcullen man has had his share of hardships, setbacks, and disappointments but has met these with an ever-increasing desire and work-ethic.

December 5th 2015 has been the turning point. Here, an over-cooked Hogan lost a competitive fight with Jack Culcay in Germany, a result which saw him implement widespread changes in his team and in himself.

hogan culcay

Speaking to Irish-Boxing.com recently in Dublin, Hogan explained how “I haven’t been back to Ireland in two and a half years so it’s good to be back, see the family, and get the vibe of it. After that fight, I didn’t want to do anything but keep my head down until I got back up to the top again.”

“Now, here we are, ready for the world title. I feel unreal. I’m blessed I lost the fight in Germany because of all the changes I’ve made and had to make for the betterment of myself. Now here we are and I have full belief and confidence in everyone around me, I couldn’t ask for a better team right now.”

Central to this team is trainer Glenn Rushton, the veteran coach of a martial arts background who won plaudits for guiding Jeff Horn to a shock WBO welterweight title win over the legendary Manny Pacquiao in Brisbane last year.

Describing how the match-up came about, Hogan outlined how “I had already been sparring with Jeff for a couple of years. I knew Glenn but I didn’t actually realise how good he was.”

“When we sat down and first had a chat he told me ‘Dennis, you can easily be a world champion but you just lack a little bit of finesse’. He said he could run through the training that could give me that so I got the head down and I trained at least five hours a day for four months to go over all his skills and drills and programme those things in. It was night and day and he then told me ‘you can now beat anyone, let’s put daylight now between you and the champions’.”

“I do believe I’m the hardest worker in boxing, in any sport. I get in there and give it my all every single day. I’m 33 but I’m getting fitter, my mind is fresh. If you asked me what age I feel, I’d say 22, 23, honest to God. I have five years at my best, still gaining momentum, left.”

While he does indeed train hard, as Horn has attested to on numerous occasions, Hogan sees his mind as he most important asset, by far.

“People say ‘what percentage is mental? what percentage is physical?'” he questions. “I say it’s one hundred percent mental because your body will only do what your mind will allow.”

“I know how to monitor how I’m feeling, how I’m going. My recovery is good, I keep my mind fresh, I do things that inspire me, I live my values, I’m on top of it and, by doing that, I’m happy – and a happy fighter is a dangerous fighter as they say.”

hogan team

Of course, the mind and the body can be right but boxing is a dirty business and a fighter needs solid backing if he is to make it anywhere. For Hogan, this comes in the form of Paul Keegan and Danny Dimas, former sponsors who now promote Hogan and have guided him to the cusp of a title shot.

“Paul and Danny, these guys are like family to me,” he admits.

“They came on board as sponsors and made it so that I could train and not work so I could put all my energy into boxing. All the way along they’ve contributed more and more and more, we’ve built, and now here we are with DDP Sports. These guys are phenomenal and I’m proud to be associated with the company.”

“It’s a great story and it’s certainly something that inspires me. I can’t wait to be holding the world title with the boys, my team from Stretton Boxing, with Glenn Rushton, all around me – it’s going to feel great holding the belt with all those boys around me.”

Based in Australia, Hogan also is now able to realise that his fight with Culcay perhaps came too soon and this, he believes, is a trend common to many boxers based Down Under who rule the roost domestically but jump to world level with nothing in between.

‘The Hurricane’ reasoned that “that fight with Culcay, to go from where I was to there – I believe there was at least one good fight, probably two, between a guy of that calibre and the guys I had just fought.”

“Other fighters, they will fight at a level and then be thrown straight into world title fights. Look at Jeff Horn, he’s a perfect example of someone who has been stepped up, stepped up, and then beating the likes of Manny Pacquiao. It goes to show what can be achieved by taking the right steps. I looked at that, we’ve taken the right steps, and now we’re ready. We targeted the best we could get, we got the #7 in Yuki Nonaka, the #3 in Jimmy Kelly, and we want a world title now.”

This world title, the WBO belt, has been on a journey of its own over the past few months.

The legendary Miguel Cotto had held it last year and put it on the line one more time for his farewell bout in December. Hogan and his team envisioned the belt going vacant and had already had preliminary talks with the team of Liam Smith for a title fight. Then Sadam Ali arrived, with the New Yorker shocking Cotto and taking the crown.

Frustrating, perhaps, but just a delay of the inevitable claimed Hogan who then fought Jimmy Kelly to ensure he was the next in line for a shot at the winner of Ali’s mandatory defence versus Smith last night.

Then, another delay.

An allergic reaction suffered by Scouser Smith a few weeks out saw him pull out and in stepped Jaime Munguia, a Mexican hotshot who was recently in the frame to fight middleweight king Gennady Golovkin.

Hogan and his team still went over to the fight, even speaking to Golden Boy – who promote Ali – before the absolutely massive Munguia obliterated the champion, dropping him four times to win the belt in stunning fashion.

munguia

Hogan and his team have stated their willingness to be a first defence for the fearsome-looking Munguia – although Smith remains mandatory and will no doubt be looking for a shot at the belt himself.

Then there is an issue of Munguia’s size, a frequent topic of conversation last night. With the Ring Magazine Prospect of the Year already having come close to a move up to face Golovkin, he could be on the way up to 160lbs permanently – perhaps clearing the way for a vacant title fight between Smith and Hogan.

These are all just minor details for Hogan though who knows where he’s going – just not how exactly he will get there.

The lilywhite outlined how “I don’t know what way it works. There is no set procedure in professional boxing as we all know. Do they have to fight Smith first? Sometimes people get to fight a voluntary before they fight a mandatory… I don’t know, I’ll be ready.”

“There possibly could be [a keep-busy fight], it’s not what we’re looking at but I’m not going to sit and gather rust when I’ve so much momentum building. If it looks like we’re going to have to wait nine months for a shot, I certainly will look for a fight in between.”

“I certainly do believe that I can beat anyone, and I will beat anyone.”

Indeed, the world title win won’t be the big one for Hogan – that will be his first defence, the image he has in his head every morning he wakes up, the speech he already knows word-for-word

“My dream, always, when I was leaving Ireland was to win a world title and to come back to Ireland and defend it at the 3Arena in Dublin in front of my home crowd.”

“That’s the one I see the most. It’s been seven years… I think it was the O2 Arena when I started visualising it. I have my song, I have everything in my head.”

“I see it every day.”

Kildare Boxing is proudly supported by Liffey Crane Hire

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Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie