Climbing the ladder: Danny Dignum interview
Having graduated from childhood scraps with his twin brother to representing Great Britain at amateur level, 5-0 super middleweight Danny Dignum tells James Lupton he is aiming for the top...
A high percentage of boxers will tell you stories of a troubled youth riddled with clashes with the law, before redemption arrived in the shape of boxing.
It's something of a rarity, then, to speak to a boxer who has lived their life by the book, but Matchroom prospect Danny Dignum is one such boxer, as well as a fighter who has flown somewhat under the radar.
The 26-year-old could be described as a home bird almost. Growing up in Basildon, Essex he was schooled locally, worked in the family trade and is now a full-time professional boxer who, you guessed it, trains just down the road from home in the Fight Farm gym with coach Kevin Lilley.
"I grew up in Pound Lane in Bowers Gifford," the 5-0 super middleweight told Boxing Monthly. "I went to St Margaret's school just up the road, then my secondary school I went to Appleton which was in Benfleet. I was educated obviously, but work-wise I'm more educated, I used to go and work with my dad when we was kids, my dad's a tarmacer and concreter - we done that for a few years.
"I started boxing because me and my twin brother [John] kept fighting each other when we was kids. My mum and dad got sick of it. We had a single bed [with] a gap [in between] and another single bed - he would have one glove, I'd have one glove and it would be who ever quits [first]. We would be fighting honestly for twenty to thirty minutes. I used to quit all the time, he would give me bad body shots.
"My dad said: 'look if you want to keep fighting each other I'm going to take you to the boxing gym'. The gym was Newham boxing club and he said, 'I'm gonna make you go for six weeks and [then] you can give up.' We started when we were nine all the way through until we were 17."
That first trip to the gym was a life-changing moment for the young Dignum brothers - John successfully boxed at amateur level and also had four professional bouts in 2012-13, while Danny also had a very successful amateur career before turning pro in 2016.
"I won the golden gloves there [at Newham] and I got a silver in the Four Nations," Danny explained. "Then I moved on to Brentwood boxing club and at Brentwood I won the junior ABAs, the NABCs, the senior ABAs.
"Not forgetting my brother, my brother won it [the senior ABAs] in 2011 at middleweight and I won it in 2012 at middleweight. I don't think it's ever happened before - twins winning it in consecutive years at the same weight. I think it's happened now though with the McCormacks, they are class them but me and my brother would've been the first. I do try and remind them, the McCormacks are my mates but I do remind them!"
After collecting many medals at amateur level, Danny also achieved the pinnacle of being rated among the best in the country.
"I was in the Great Britain team for two years. I went to a few international tournaments, got bronze in the Golden Belt in Romania - I beat the Russian and I beat the Cuban Olympic silver medalist then I lost to a Moldovan.
'I got a bronze in the World Combat Games, I went to the European Unions and beat the Spanish boy but lost to a French boy who was the eventual winner. I [also] went to Rio [for the 2016 Olympics] with the GB team - I went out there as a sparring partner."
Dignum's tight-knit family upbringing has clearly resulted in a sensible head on the young man's shoulders - a quality which becomes apparent when he speaks of his career goals.
"My ambition is to make sacrifices now so that in the future I can live a comfortable life for me and my family. Obviously I want to be a world champion and I want to win titles, but when I'm older I'd like to live a comfortable life with my family and the people surrounding me as well."
Apart from talent a major factor in a successful career in the toughest sport in the world is to have backing, not just from fans, but financially from sponsors and also promotional backing too. As far as Dignum is concerned, there is no one better to have in his corner than Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing.
"It's a massive help, they are the biggest platform in boxing I think," he said. "My manager is a very good manager too. I've been boxing on some very big shows. I've boxed at the O2 arena twice, York Hall twice and Wembley arena. My fights have been live on Sky. It's going well for me, it's such a big platform and I've got more chance of getting sponsors if they are seeing me on Sky and shows like that - it helps get my name out there, it's good.
"I can't thank my sponsors enough [TLM Management, Veretile flooring, Fingersafe, Acorn Roofing, Acorn Printing, South East Fencing, Legion Scaffolding, Saferock Minerals, GV Contractors, Pro Medical and Fitaddikt], because if it wasn't for them I couldn't afford to box so a massive, massive thanks to them and to my support.
"Every single fight I don't struggle to sell tickets I have at least 200 to 250 people come to support me every single fight and I couldn't ask for better supporters."
Although in the early stages of his career Dignum is looking to move quickly through the domestic level of the super-middleweight division.
"There is talk of a show in May so hopefully I can get on that and step up my [level of] opponent," he said. "I was meant to have a good opponent in my last fight but then he pulled out a week before at short notice so my next fight I definitely want a big step-up and I want to climb the ranks.
"I was gutted, the opponent I had was a Scottish boy [Rhys Pagan] - he lost a ten-round decision to Lerrone Richards and it would've been a big step-up for me. Lerrone Richards boxed him in his tenth fight but I was boxing him in my fifth fight.
"All the super middleweights out there, listen, I'm coming for them! I beat Lerrone Richards three times as an amateur, I've beaten Zach Parker. I'm not saying I'm at their level yet but I will be there.
"That's without any disrespect because they are top boys, I don't mean that to sound disrespectful or anything like that - Lerrone Richards is a very, very good fighter he's very smart, Zach Parker is also very smart but it gives me confidence knowing I beat them as an amateur. I believe I can beat them as a pro as well."
Looking to climb the ladder that is the British rankings, Dignum even has a target date in mind for a shot at his first pro title.
"End of the year. Cello Renda is Southern Area [champion] - listen whenever Charlie [Sims] or Kev [Lilley] says: 'you are ready for that fight'," Dignum looks me in the eyes... "I'm ready."