THERE’S excitement in the trade about the meeting of Denzel Bentley and Felix Cash – the British and Commonwealth middleweight champions respectively – on Saturday night (April 24).
Queensberry Promotions won the purse bids for a 50/50 fight that goes ahead at the York Hall in Bethnal Green in front of the BT Sport cameras.
Bentley and Cash are both stylish boxers who can punch – and they have history. Around three years ago, Battersea’s Bentley (14-0-1) and Cash (13-0) sparred at the Peacock gym where Bentley is based and their trainers had to pull them apart.
As is to be expected, the fighters have different versions of what happened.
The taller fighter by a couple of inches, Cash said: “I stuck it all over him, he was hanging on for dear life and it got out of hand.”
While Bentley said: “He was hitting me low, behind the back of the head.
“I kept taking it and it got worse. He kept rubbing his head in my face and I ended up getting him in a head lock. He picked me up and we both crashed down.
“The coaches had to get in the ring and sort it out. He’s on a mad one. He can’t control his temper.”
They were prospects then – and now they are both champions. Wokingham’s Cash makes his third defence of the Commonwealth title, while Bentley defends the British belt he won by forcing Oldham’s powerful Mark Heffron (25-1-1) to retire after four rounds last November. Heffron was ruled out with his left eye swollen shut, the wound being inflicted in the second round when Bentley countered a jab to the body with a sharp right hand. He immediately placed another right hand on the same spot and Heffron’s eye started to swell.
There was a look of disbelief on Bentley’s face as he mouthed: “New British champion” afterwards and it’s fair to say that when he made his pro debut in October, 2017 it was with lower expectations than Cash.
The South Londoner had 17 amateur bouts for Fisher ABC after starting at 19, while Cash won Junior honours and reached the 2013 Elite middleweight final and spent three-and-a-half years with the Great Britain set up in Sheffield.
As pros, Cash has possibly proved more. He’s been past six rounds three times, including his 2019 domestic fight-of-the-year contender against Jack Cullen (17-1), while Bentley has only gone beyond six rounds once and was held to a draw by Heffron.
Bentley made changes for the rematch, holding his feet more, and looks to be an improving fighter. The win over Heffron compares well with anything on Cash’s 13-0 record. But we saw Cash dig in to outlast Cullen and last time out he dominated 34-year-old Jason Welborn, a former British middleweight champion who had fought for world honours at 154lbs.
For most of the fight, Cash kept the Black Country veteran on the outside with his jab before forcing the stoppage in the fifth, smashing Welborn to his knees twice with rights.
Cash has stopped his last three opponents and has six wins inside three rounds, while Bentley has 10 wins inside two rounds and has stopped four of his last five.
Don’t expect a crazy shoot out. Cash has got early wins by putting it on opponents behind his jab and making them engage, while Bentley usually stands off and punishes mistakes.
It’s so hard to pick a winner because we haven’t seen either of them in many competitive fights and in this both could well be better than they have ever been before.
The bookmakers lean towards Cash presumably because he has the edge in size, schooling and experience beyond six rounds. While Bentley is looser around the shoulders, switches and uses the angles more, so he is possibly harder to read.
I’ll go with Bentley to edge this one on points but any result here wouldn’t be a surprise – which is always the sign of excellent matchmaking.
Light-heavyweight Callum Johnson (18-1) fights in a 10-rounder on the card. Now 35, Johnson, out for more than two years, is back with Frank Warren, whom he started his professional career with back in 2010 after winning a Commonwealth Games gold medal as an amateur. He is chasing another world title shot.
He had Artur Beterbiev down before being beaten in four rounds in October, 2018 and beating Emil Markic in a scheduled 10 rounder will put Boston’s Johnson back in the mix. The 37-year-old from Bosnia and Herzegovina is ranked No 15 by the WBO after a seven-fight winning run since being stopped in four by Russia’s quality Umar Salamov in May, 2017. Expect Johnson, once he’s shed the rust, to do the same sort of job on Markic.
The rest of the card is decorated by a selection of Frank Warren’s burgeoning pack of prospects. Heavyweight David Adeleye (5-0), light-heavyweight Karol Itauma (1-0), middleweight James Heneghan (4-0) are all in four-rounders while the promising super-welterweight George Davey (3-0) and super-lightweight Henry Turner (4-0) are scheduled for tests at six rounds.
Anthony Yarde, another light-heavyweight in Frank Warren’s stable, was due to return on this card after losing to Lyndon Arthur last year. But a tooth abscess means he will be unable to box on this bill. His comeback, against 17-0 German Emin Atra will now be subject to a short delay.
The Verdict Cracking old school matchup at the top of the bill – a real treat for the hardcore boxing fan.
ALSO ON SATURDAY
IN a fight designed to make Emanuel Navarette look good, the WBC featherweight belt-holder takes on the useful but undeserving Christopher Diaz atop a Top Rank bill.
Diaz has lost twice, wide decisions to Shakur Stevenson and Masayuki Ito, and it’s a stretch to imagine him defeating the in-form Navarette.
The pick is for Navarette to catch up with Diaz in the second half and retain his belt with a stoppage.
The event, which takes place at the Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee, Florida, also features knockout artist extraordinaire Edgar Berlanga bidding for his 17th consecutive first round KO when he takes on Demond Nicholson at super-middleweight.