By Terence Dooley
Denton Vassell lost his father Mancel prior to the last defence of his Commonwealth welterweight crown, a decision win over the tricky Bethuel Uushona in March, the 27-year-old defends the belt for the second time tonight in a fight that will be dedicated to his dad.
Bob Shannon, the trainer of Vassell, is no stranger to loss; Bob lost his son and namesake Robert to a car crash in 2003, the two worked together at Shannon’s Fighting Fit gymnasium prior to Robert’s untimely death. Bob knows the pain that Denton went through earlier this year, revealing that his charge will produce his best as a testament to his late father.
“Denton is still missing his dad, he’s pining for him as it was a big shock for him. Hopefully he performs for Mancel tonight against a lively opponent who will get the best out of him,” said Shannon when talking to me over the phone on the eve of the fight.
“Denton has been sharp on the pads and in sparring, he can really go places and upset a lot of people. It is tough, he misses his dad and people in his life that he’s lost – I’m there for him but it isn’t the same.”
Denton takes on Samuel Colomban live on Sky Sports 2 from 8pm tonight on a Ricky Hatton-promoted show. ‘Quiet Storm’ is 18-0 (9) and will hope to hand Colomban his first stoppage loss; the 26-year-old Australian is 20-3 (10). Shannon believes that the outing will present Vassell with an opportunity to shine.
“I hope he can come out the shadows now,” he said. “Perform tonight and show people that he’s the same Denton Vassell. The guy is a big lad with a really good physique and he’s come to win, he will get the best out of Denton tonight. It is on Sky as well so that is brilliant.”
Adding: “I want Denton at the next level so he has to get past this fight and move on. My years of experience plays a part at a time like this.”
Indeed, experience is one of the keys to a calm corner. Shannon opened the doors of his gym over a decade ago after spending his entire life steeped in the sport. Champions have come and gone, however Denton and British 154lb boss Prince Arron are currently flying the title flags for Shannon. It is a tough slog yet one that the veteran trainer believes will eventually result in a world champion.
“When I first opened the gym I thought I’d have all kinds of champions after five years,” he recalled. “You look back and realize you were a bit naïve. You think you know it all and don’t realise that sometimes you will have champions and sometimes not. All my years have helped me understand what it takes to get there.”
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