Jazza Dickens: The avoided champion

John Evans
26/10/2015 12:38pm

As a clever, fit and skilful southpaw, it would be easy to understand Liverpool’s Jazza Dickens being placed firmly in the ‘Who Needs Him’ club. As the reigning British super-bantamweight champion, however, the 24 year-old Dickens imagined that he would have a queue of eager challengers desperate to take the famous Lonsdale belt off him. That hasn’t quite been the case. In fact, eight months after outpointing Josh Wale for the vacant belt, he has yet to defend the title.

Dickens finally gets the chance to put a first notch on the belt when he faces former Commonwealth bantamweight champion and IBF world title challenger Martin Ward (22-2-1, 5 KOs) at Tyne-and-Wear’s Rainton Meadows Arena on 20 November. 

Should things pan out the way Dickens (20-1, 6 KOs) expects against Ward, he will once again start the search for a worthy opponent as be looks to move onwards and upwards quickly but, for now, he is simply happy to be fighting.

“I think I could look good against Martin Ward and I love fighting southpaws but I just appreciate the fact that Martin and his team actually wanted to fight,” Dickens told Boxing Monthly. “Since we’ve had the title, we’ve been waiting for months for somebody to put themselves forward to box for it. That isn’t usually the case with the British belt as I know myself. Ever since I lost my fight for it [Dickens was stopped after 10 rounds of his fight with Kid Galahad when ahead on the scorecards in September 2013], I wanted my shot at it again right away. Nobody has put themselves forward for it until now though.”

Last Saturday night, Gavin McDonnell outpointed Jeremy Parodi to retain his European super-bantamweight title. The victory will increase McDonnell’s standing in the sport and make him an increasingly visible presence in the 8st 10lb division. Dickens has been hot on the Doncaster man’s tail for some time now, but insists that McDonnell suddenly becomes a tough man to find when a potential match up is discussed. Dickens is now the mandatory challenger for McDonnell’s European strap but still isn’t holding his breath.

“Gavin McDonnell is a hard man to pin down. He’s like ‘Where’s Wally!’ I’ve trained for McDonnell twice before and I’ve been let down. I don’t wanna put myself in that position again unless I know for certain that I’m definitely fighting him. I put myself in camp for Lewis Pettit and that flopped as well [after Pettit was recently upset by Bobby Jenkinson] but I’ve got a belt now and the beauty of that is that people have got to fight you for it. I appreciate that Martin Ward and his team have manned up and taken the fight.”

Things may have been quiet since Dickens picked up the title, but he has high hopes for the future. As one of a group of fighters from Liverpool’s Everton Red Triangle gym who recently linked up with the burgeoning team at MGM Marbella, Dickens has aligned himself with a team making big strides in the boxing world. So far, however, he has been concentrating on the benefits the move may have on his training. Dickens is renowned for a fanatical approach to his training and strength and conditioning work but won’t be trading his long runs around the cold, damp streets of Liverpool for a pleasant trot up and down a sun kissed promenade this winter.

“It’s not gonna be like that for me,” he laughed. “We still train here in Liverpool at the Everton Red Triangle. We’re just being managed by the guys over there and, when we do go over there, it’ll be purely for business. You won’t see the ERT on the beach in Marbella. As of now I can’t see things changing. I have my own family here in Liverpool and a close knit team so if I were to go over I’d be leaving everything plus Paul and Mick [Stevenson. Dickens’ coaches] have an amateur club to run. We’re happy here and being managed by them. With the way the world is now you only need a phone to stay in touch. We’re all enjoying it and we went across a few weeks ago for a weekend to see the whole set up. The MGM have a good set up and, with fighters like [WBO Junior Middleweight champion] Liam Smith, it’s going great for them. We’re happy to be a part of it.

“I’m just in camp and I’m upping my sparring now. I’ve been sparring Adam Ismail from Liverpool and [MGM teammate] Declan Geraghty. There are some good fighters around at MGM. Not so much at my weight but a couple of weights up. Luckily, I always spar heavier men. Adam Ismail is a welterweight and I think Declan is a lightweight or super-feather. There are a lot of good lads over there. I was over there a few weeks ago and Paulie Malignaggi was there and my eyes lit up. I thought I might be able to get some rounds in with him but he wasn’t sparring at the time.” 

Dickens isn’t the type to try and talk his way into a fight. He simply relishes the day-to-day grind of training and knows that he must be ready to take any opportunities that come his way. When a chance does present itself, he will enter the ring a more confident fighter than he did before being crowned domestic champion.

“It doesn’t make you a better fighter because you’ve got a belt around your waist, but I do think that doing 12 rounds under those lights with the added pressure of fighting for the British title gives you a reassurance,” he said. “It’s something that every fighter has to come across in their careers. Answering those ‘Can I do the 12 rounds?’ and ‘What will it be like?’ questions.  Making a championship weight for a championship fight is also another part of it. You get a lot of answers. I think having a belt does help you to move forward in your career, but I don’t think it makes you a better fighter.”