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In praise of John Dennen, a man of integrity

An integral part of the Boxing News setup for over 12 years, John Dennen gave a voice to countless British amateur boxers and this week left the team for pastures new, writes Matt Christie

THERE are numerous things I could write about this week. Devin Haney being crowned the new lightweight king, Joe Cordina’s stunning one-punch finish in Cardiff, Stephen Fulton’s artful beatdown of Daniel Roman or Naoya Inoue walloping Nonito Donaire in their rematch. But what moves me the most is John Dennen’s departure from Boxing News.

We go back a long way, John and I. So much so it’s difficult for me to remember a time when he wasn’t both a friend and a colleague. We started at BN at approximately the same time, John walking through the doors of the old Cannon Street office in January 2010 and me following a fortnight later. From that point, aside from the odd holiday here and there, we have spoken to each other pretty much every day.

Anyone who reads this magazine or website regularly will have cherished John’s excellent writing skills. He can bang out a quality ‘on the whistle’ fight report in mere minutes or spend a little longer cultivating an award-winning feature. Anyone who’s met him, or follows his endearing ramblings on Twitter, will know what a funny, talented and truly genuine human being he is. To say he’ll be missed is a big understatement.

There have of course been highs and lows in those 12 years. When John started he went through a terrible run when it came to previews, getting all of his predictions wrong, the odd one spectacularly so. Anyone in the business of picking winners in a boxing match will be able to empathise. But in those early days he was understandably eager to make a good impression. When he got his first one right –  Herbie Hide to win a Prizefighter tournament in April 2010 – the whole BN office reacted like Manchester United fans celebrating an end to their league championship drought in 1993.

John really found his feet when he became editor of the amateur section. He’s always at his happiest at amateur clubs and competitions. When he returned to the office after weeks of being camped out at London 2012, he endured an immense comedown, sitting forlornly at his desk, wearing his Olympics cap and staring at his giant foam hand, desperate to turn back the clock. From that point on, about a year before every major tournament, he would bend my ear (or that of my predecessor, Tris Dixon) about why we had to find some money in the budget to attend.

He gave voices to clubs, personalities and causes that deserved to be heard. He got to know the fighters, spending time with them long before most had even heard their names. I remember him coming into the office one day talking about Anthony Joshua, this raw but talented heavyweight who could go places. Joshua’s name is one of many he picked for the top.

Now, in 2022, John is surely the most knowledgeable journalist when it comes to amateur boxing. Several esteemed figures in the media will drop John a line to check facts or get his point of view on the vested code. And needless to say, he is always happy to help.

I worked alongside John at numerous events around the world. Along the way we drank in many pubs and sank too many beers, over which we would talk about all manner of nonsense, like our receding hairlines and advancing years. His ability to eat copious amounts of bar snacks, while drinking through the side of his mouth, is another of his many talents. He was and will remain tremendous company. In his new position as a writer with Sky Sports Digital, I’m sure our paths will cross regularly.

When I became the editor in 2015, John became online editor. In 2019, our website was named as the Best Sports Website at the SJA British Sports Journalism Awards, the gold standard in our industry. John played a huge part in that triumph.

Perhaps the biggest compliment I can pay to John is his sense of integrity. For me, it is the most crucial component in a good journalist and one sadly lacking in too many. Even though he once sat down with Wladimir Klitschko for 45 minutes, and failed to record a single second of the interview, John has carried out his job with Boxing News in a way that John Murray, the founder and first editor of this publication in 1909, would have been immensely proud.

Thanks for everything, JD.

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