White Rhino ready to tackle King Kong
In an in-depth interview with Luke Byron, Doncaster heavyweight Dave Allen looks ahead to his contest against Luis Ortiz on Saturday night in Manchester ...
All too often boxing fans find themselves looking back at previous eras in which our beloved sport was driven by the ethos of 'the best fighting the best', and hungry contenders looked for the chance to display the skills they believed they possessed, on the biggest stage possible.
Some believe the sport has reached something of a stagnant point recently, as all too often we find prospects being matched against opponents far beneath the level they should be fighting in order to create a padded unbeaten record.
So it’s a breath of fresh air to see a young fighter like Dave Allen; in just the eleventh fight of his professional career, and without any hype preceding him, the Doncaster man stepped up and faced highly rated Dillian Whyte.
Despite losing a ten-round decision to 'The Body Snatcher', Allen felt there was no use in taking a backwards step. Instead, for his next contest, he has taken another significant leap into top class and will face off against the man who some believe to be the best heavyweight on the planet in Tyson Fury's absence – Luis Ortiz. The Allen vs Ortiz bout will take place in the Manchester Arena, this Saturday 10 December on the undercard to Anthony Joshua’s IBF title defence against Eric Molina.
On 26 March earlier this year, Allen beat Jason Gavern in what was a frustrating night for the Yorkshireman, but one of the learning fights that every aspiring prospect needs to go through to improve them for the tougher tasks that lie in wait. If you had told him then that he would go on to face Dillian Whyte and Luis Ortiz in his next two fights, then it’s likely he’d have laughed at you.
Speaking to Boxing Monthly, he confesses that he was shocked to land the Whyte fight, let alone the Ortiz bout following a loss on the bigger stage. "As far as I’m concerned, I’m just a little fat kid from Doncaster and I’m fighting the world’s best – it’s ridiculous really, but I’m really excited about it," he says.
‘The White Rhino’ lives by the motto ‘Win or Learn’ and insists that he’s taken on board the lessons learnt from the fight with ‘The Body Snatcher’: "I’ve come on 100 per cent from that," he assures me, before adding: "The ability has always been there, but it’s been the experience and the belief that’s been lacking." Allen now knows that he can hang in there with a live, credible opponent and go for ten hard rounds.
It’s strange how boxing works, in July of this year, in the build-up to their fight, Whyte and Allen exchanged personal barbs which went back and forth in press conferences and interviews. Since the ten-round affair though, the rhetoric has ceased, the two boxers have kept in touch and even sparred each other in the build-up to the Manchester bill, which also sees Whyte in action against Dereck Chisora.
"Yeah that’s boxing," Allen admits. "We did ten rounds and there’s a lot of respect there now. There was no dislike from my end before the fight, it was just a fight that I wanted and I did what I had to do to get it."
Even prior to his last bout, Dave tweets regularly; he replies to almost everyone that tweets him and travels up and down the country to interact with those that message him, supporting them at amateur boxing shows and charity bouts. He tells me enjoys speaking with new people.
"Whether I was boxing or not, I’d still be exactly the same on there," he argues. "I do it just because I enjoy speaking to new people. I love Twitter and it’s been very good to me." Certainly Allen has successfully built up a fan base through the social network and it’s clear that promoter Eddie Hearn saw the noise that was being made online, which helped Allen land the Whyte contest in Leeds.
Although admirable, it is strange for a prospect to go out on a limb and face such tough tests so early in a career; whilst most heavyweights have been running away from Luis Ortiz, Allen has been running towards him. ‘The White Rhino’ does his best to explain to me his train of thought in accepting the contest. "It’s not for anything else but the opportunity, it’s not about money, it’s not about fighting on Sky, I just want to fight the best," he explains. "That’s what I believe you should be in boxing for.
"I’ve had my learning fights now, I’ve beat the journeymen, I beat the French champion and I beat Jason Gavern, now I believe I should be fighting the best. If I don’t win, then I haven’t lost, I’ve learnt; and if I can’t learn a lot from fighting Luis Ortiz then there’s definitely something wrong. It’s a crazy fight on paper, but it’s not one that I can’t win."
When Ortiz fought Malik Scott in his last contest, it was supposed to be something of a breakthrough contest for the big Cuban – his first fight with Matchroom, a headline fight being sold to the British public and also being broadcast in America. However Scott's unwillingness to engage made it an extremely boring contest, as the American crossed the line of being evasive, and instead literally ran for the majority of the rounds.
As is often the case in boxing, the pundits and paying public alike often deal in extremities, and post-fight ‘King Kong’ went from being lauded as the obvious number one in Fury’s absence, to suddenly being over-hyped and over-rated.
Allen, however, takes no notice of this. "For myself looking at him, I’m not looking at the Malik Scott fight; I’m looking at the Tony Thompson fight, the Bryant Jennings fight, and the other fights before that," he points out. "Scott didn’t come to fight, he came to run and he’s a very good fighter; he came to do what he did, and if he wants to be negative, then he’ll go twelve rounds with anyone in the world.
"I do think he [Ortiz] is being underrated now, in one fight he’s gone from being the most avoided heavyweight in the world, to people saying that I can beat him. I’m certainly not being fooled by that performance."
Allen would never attempt to implement the same tactics as Scott, it’s just not his way, so it’s quite a meaningless contest to reflect on, but it’s certainly done nothing to deflect any confidence from Allen, who had begged for the Ortiz fight even before that.
"I’ve got confidence in myself," Allen explains. "I’ve got a good chin, I’m very tough, I’m very strong. I’m a hard night's work for anyone – yes Dillian beat me, but come rounds eight, nine and ten, it was getting hard in there for him. If Luis Ortiz can’t bang me out of there in two or three rounds then he’ll be in for a hard night as well. I’m going in there with nothing really to lose, nobody’s really giving me a chance, but I’ll be disappointed coming away with anything other than a win."
Before this match-up was made, a fight between Allen and David Price had been rumoured. Allen's take on why the contest failed to materialise is clear. "I was offered the fight and I accepted it," he claims. "I thought it was on, but then the Price team said they’d heard nothing about it, although I’d taken it on two weeks’ notice. Then he got the win in Germany, and they came back with a week's notice and said you can have the fight now, but I said I didn’t want it then.
"I’d have had no time to prepare, and he ended up pulling off the Liverpool show anyway. I’ve met him before, he’s a nice guy, but it’s just a fight I’ve wanted, and still would like to have."
For the time being though, Allen isn’t looking ahead to any future contests, as he knows that, win or lose, he needs to put on an exciting performance against Ortiz or his days on Sky Sports could be numbered, and that’s exactly what he intends to do.
In many ways, the 24-year-old is a promoter's dream – he talks enough to sell a fight, he’ll take a fight with anyone and he successfully promotes himself through social media.
"I [have] said to Eddie [Hearn] myself, ‘why don’t you work with me, you can get me the right fights at the right time and we can do this properly?’" Allen reveals. "I believe that I can talk, I’m good looking as far as heavyweights and boxers go, and I can fight a bit as well.
"Things haven’t worked out like that, so I’m gonna go about that the way I know and just fight the best and see what happens. The goal is to be British Heavyweight Champion, and that will happen one day."
For those that are wondering, by the way, Allen's ‘White Rhino’ nickname was first coined by his previous manager Dennis Hobson. Allen recalls that he was doing sit-ups in the gym when Hobson abruptly barbed "you look like a rhino!" before explaining "you’ve got a big head, and a big nose" and from there the nickname has just stuck.
Having previously sparred a ‘who’s who?’ of heavyweight contenders, from Joshua, to Fury to Klitschko, to Helenius, Allen is hoping that everything comes together on Saturday and that he is able to spring one of the biggest shocks in recent heavyweight history.
It’s certainly refreshing to see a boxer so keen to step up and face a challenge, and I’d like to wish him all the luck in the world on the night when 'The White Rhino’ is looking to announce himself on the world heavyweight scene.