BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Denzel Bentley’s priority is to defend his British middleweight title against Nathan Heaney tomorrow but the South Londoner admits the WBA Continental belt being up for grabs as well is a nice little bonus.
Bentley (18-2-1, 15 KOs) puts his domestic strap on the line at Manchester Arena as part of a stacked Queensberry Promotions show.
The Battersea fighter, 28, is a two-time British champion and has also challenged for a world title, losing on points to unbeaten Kazakhstan southpaw Zhanibek Alimkhanuly in November 2022. WBO king Alimkhanuly has gone on to record back-to-back stoppages and add the IBF belt to his collection.
Bentley’s sights are on another shot at a world champion but unbeaten Heaney (17-0, six KOs) stands in his way.
The Stoke man is a big ticket seller with plenty of the city’s football club fans making sure he has boisterous backing.
“I can’t allow someone to achieve their lifelong dream off the back of my career,” Bentley told Unibet The Lowdown. “If he’s not facing me then I’d wish him all the best – but it is him and me.
“This is my ticket to a world title fight. I’m taking it as seriously as he is.
“It’s another step in the right direction. It gets me ranked with the WBA, because of the international belt, and moves me closer to a world title with them. I’m only ranked by the WBC and WBO and I want to be ranked by all four of the governing bodies.
“This is a good profile fight for me. He sells lots of tickets, so there will be lots of eyes on it. If I put on a performance and show what I can do then it gets a lot of people following my career.
“I’ve never boxed for any of the international titles that everyone else is getting. It will be practise for me, for when I look at the real world title – that this is what they look like.
“I’m happy it is on the line but the British title is the main belt in this fight. It will be nice to take the other one home.”
Heaney, 34, has never tasted defeat in the paid ranks but also readily admits that Bentley is the biggest test of his career.
“He is tougher than people give him credit for and I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes longer than people expect it to,” said Bentley.
“I can’t overlook him. He’s a fighting man. He is a little bit taller than me and quite big for a middleweight but that doesn’t matter much, does it? We’re both going to weigh the same on the night and it’s about skills.
“I’m more powerful, sharper and I’ve got the better punch selection. If I’m sharp I’m going to beat him to the punch and if I’m more powerful I’m going to hurt him. If I’ve got a better shot selection there are going to be punches coming from everywhere.
“It’s hard to spot weaknesses because you don’t see him overdo it and box beyond his abilities.
“We’ll have to see how he holds his shape in the later rounds, if it gets that far. Does he get tired and start falling apart? These are the things I need to look at while we’re in the fight.
“If you look at my last five fights I’ve always said I’m going to go for the knockout. My power is real. If I catch him early he could go – just like I did that to Kieran Smith.
“I feel like I’m a world champion in waiting, definitely. When I do get my hands on a title then I’ll be ready to fight all those guys to unify. There isn’t a fight I’ve turned down or don’t want.”
Heaney – nicknamed Hitman – has been respectful in the build up but has Bentley in his sights.
“I’m the nicest, hard b****** you’ll ever meet,” said Heaney. “I know he’ll have really bad intentions when he comes to the fight. He’s there for the knockout and it’s for me to do what I need to do.”
MAIN PICTURE: QUEENSBERRY PROMOTION
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