HOURS before heavyweight Dave Allen landed the finest right hand he has ever thrown on the unprotected jaw of Nick Webb, a punch he claims to have now watched “five thousand times”, he wrestled with the idea of pulling out of the fight.
Allen, a people-pleaser, was hardly going to let folk down, yet, while sat in a hotel counting down the hours, the thought of fighting was the furthest thing from his mind and retirement – the Promised Land after Saturday’s (July 28) fight at London’s O2 Arena – couldn’t come soon enough. ‘The White Rhino’ was tired of it all: fight week, interviews, punches, headaches, stress, anxiety, the highs and lows.
To compound matters, Allen, five weeks earlier, had received half an hour’s worth of punishment from French Olympic champion Tony Yoka in Paris. It hurt. The defeat, the jabs, the hooks and crosses, the cloud hanging over it all. And now he was back. Ready to do it all over again.
“I knew I shouldn’t have taken the Nick Webb fight, but I did,” he told Boxing News. “My concern was that I knew fully fit I’d beat Nick Webb. I’m not saying I don’t rate him. I think he’s a decent fighter. But he’s just a big man who can punch. And if you’re just a big man who can punch, I will beat you.
“Yoka was a big man who can punch but he had other attributes as well. Nick Webb is literally only a big man who can punch. He’s not the greatest boxer. He’s not particularly strong. He can’t move. I knew 100 per cent I’d beat him fit. But I also knew I wasn’t fit.
“After the Yoka fight my confidence was shot to bits. On the day of the Webb fight, I was really worried. I didn’t even want to fight. I was sat with my mates in the hotel and I told them I didn’t want to fight. That was the first time I’d ever felt like that. I was really low on confidence.
“I hadn’t sparred or been hit since the Yoka fight. I’d hardly trained. The last time I was in a boxing ring, in any capacity, Tony Yoka was punching my head in. So, I was a bit worried. I did think it was a bit close to the Yoka fight. I wasn’t worried about my health, but I knew the fight wasn’t a good idea and wouldn’t be good for me.”
The turning point, he said, was when former world middleweight and super-middleweight champion Nigel Benn paid him a visit in his changing room. Fuelled by inspiration, Allen had no choice but to pull himself together, suck it up, and remind himself he was about to walk out in front of thousands of people, many of whom would have turned up just to see him, ahead of a winnable fight on a pay-per-view broadcast. Talk about incentive.
“Webb half punched himself out but, more than that, I know when I fight journeymen it’s sometimes harder to fight them than it is someone who comes to fight,” said Allen, having ended the fight in round four. “If someone’s not throwing any punches at you, you end up working a lot harder than you normally would.
“I knew I didn’t need to do much early. I landed the odd jab and every time it landed I could see it was hurting him. Every time I hit him with a jab his face changed. That told me he’d been knocked out a few times before. The look said, ‘F**king hell, I’m going to get knocked out again.’
“I was doing things to him. I was hitting him to the body. I was so relaxed. All the way through the fight I was thinking, f**king hell, it’s clicked here.
“I knew for a fact I was going to beat him 30 seconds into the fight. I knew he wasn’t at the level of the fighters I’d been sparring with.”
That Allen’s win over Webb was a clear highlight on a card chock-full of dramatic heavyweight fights, and bigger wins for bigger names, speaks volumes for the Doncaster’s man’s popularity. Moreover, it’s a testament to his journey – the ups and downs – and good old perseverance.
If anyone deserves it, Dave Allen deserves it. That was the consensus view in the aftermath. Semi-retired, he’d pulled off the biggest win of his career on the most unlikely of nights, having barely trained, and not a single person would begrudge him his moment.
“Twenty minutes after the fight, there was a comedown,” he admitted. “It’s like when you bang some really fit bird and you’re buzzing at first but then realise 20 minutes later she’s got chlamydia and now you’ve got it as well. I don’t know if that makes any sense but it’s how I feel.
“Fight week is a massive week and then you get home and you’re thinking, right, what do I do now? That’s the same whether you win or lose. But obviously it’s better to go back home on a win than a loss. I know that.”
A win isn’t only beneficial for Dave Allen’s physical and mental health. It’s also key to his career and bank balance. After all, while other British heavyweights strive for recognition and opportunities, Allen, 14-4-2 (11), is acutely aware that his standing as a popular, happy-go-lucky cult hero of the current scene stands him in good stead going forward, especially now that he’s adding high-profile knockout wins to the charm and self-deprecation.
“There was nowhere to go for me before Saturday,” he said. “I spar in the gym and I win rounds. I do things and people say, ‘F**king hell, you’re a good fighter.’ But then I go in the ring and don’t do the same things and it just gets really frustrating. Why can’t I do what I do in the gym?
“Also, the Yoka drug thing put me off massively. I’ve never been in the ring with a man that strong and fit. I’ve sparred some of the greatest heavyweights of the last 20 years and boxed some really good ones and Tony Yoka was a million times fitter and stronger than all of them. That made me wonder, what the f**k was going on?
“It sickened me a bit. He made Anthony Joshua seem like a light-heavyweight. He was that strong. Everyone told me he couldn’t punch in the amateurs, but when he was hitting me I was thinking, are they mad?”
Twenty minutes after the fight, Allen came to the realisation that a win over Nick Webb, as wonderful as it was, didn’t have to be his Everest moment. With just ten amateur fights and twenty pro fights to his name, Allen, 26, knew he was still learning, still improving, still capable. He then urged himself to care more, to want it more, to try harder, to make something of this breakthrough.
“People might think I’m mad, but I know if I get super fit and work on things in the gym, I can be a danger to anyone in the world. I really believe that,” he said.
“There’s some massive fights out there and with massive fights comes massive money. Hopefully now I can start to capitalise on my popularity and the Nick Webb win and get some massive fights.
“I like the Lucas Browne fight. Ideally, though, I’d like a few eight or ten-rounders against fighters at the same kind of level as Nick Webb. Nick Webb could win an English title and I think he could compete at British level with a bit more experience. That’s his level.
“I’d like fights against anyone in the British rankings really. Chris Burton is 15-3. He’d be good. So would Tom Little or Dorian Darch. I’m interested in any decent, tough names with a good record.
“But if Eddie says, ‘Here’s a six-figure sum to fight Lucas Browne or Joe Joyce,’ that will be taken into consideration as well. Because when I get 100 per cent fit, I fancy myself against any heavyweight in the world. I wouldn’t turn that kind of money down. I never turn anything down.”
Dave Allen, by his own admission, doesn’t turn anything down. Even when others say he should. Even when he knows he should. But that’s why the fans love him. That’s why promoters love him.
And that’s why the adventure continues.