Denzel Bentley still believes he is a better fighter than Felix Cash.
The British middleweight made some changes, though, after suffering a third-round, technical-knockout defeat to Cash that initially bounced Bentley out of position for a 160-pound title shot. Eighteen months and three wins later, it is Bentley, not Cash, who will challenge unbeaten WBO middleweight champion Janibek Alimkhanuly on Saturday night in Las Vegas.
“I learned quite a lot,” Bentley told BoxingScene.com of his loss to Cash. “I learned that more can be done. You know, I felt like I was doing enough in my training, but I learned more can be done. I changed a few things in my camp. I’ve improved my game. I’m more focused. I’m more hungry. I’m more dedicated.”
The 27-year-old Bentley beat British veteran Marcus Morrison (25-6, 16 KOs) by fourth-round TKO in his last fight to secure his shot at Alimkhanuly’s championship. London’s Bentley (17-1-1, 14 KOs) edged previously unbeaten Brit Linus Udofia (17-1, 9 KOs) by split decision in his prior appearance to regain some momentum he lost when Cash caught him with several damaging right hands and stopped Bentley while he was on his feet in April 2021 at York Hall in London.
“You know, a loss like that can either make you or break you,” Bentley said. “It can either be that, ‘Ah, this ain’t for me. That was embarrassing. I’m gone.’ Or you can be like, ‘You know what? I can’t end on that note. I need to come back 10 times stronger.’ And that’s what I’ve done, I came back 10 times stronger. Now I’m fighting for a world title.”
Kazakhstan’s Alimkhanuly (12-0, 8 KOs) is listed by most sportsbooks as at least a 20-1 favorite to beat Bentley, who had only 17 amateur fights. The huge underdog understands most fans and media dismissed him after England’s Cash (15-0, 10 KOs) stopped him, yet that only has provided Bentley with more motivation as he prepared for the most significant fight of his career.
“I think every fight I went into after [losing to Cash] I was the underdog,” Bentley said. “Even before that, to be honest. But people say I was not as good as I thought I was, I’ve moved too fast because my career really picked up during lockdown. I took a lot of 50-50 fights, maybe fights where I was the underdog, and came out on top. So, it was like, you know, my career kind of took off quite quickly because of lockdown and there weren’t a lot of fights available.
“So, I took a lot of fights where, you know, people thought I would lose and stuff like that. But I got written off big time [after losing to Cash]. I’m probably still written off today, but it doesn’t matter. I’m all right with that.”
Alimkhanuly-Bentley is the main event of a card ESPN+ will stream Saturday night from Pearl Concert Theater at Palms Casino Resort (7:15 p.m. ET; 4:15 p.m. PT). In the 10-round co-feature, East Los Angeles’ Seniesa Estrada (22-0, 9 KOs) will defend her WBA minimumweight championship against Argentina’s Jazmin Gala Villarino (6-1-2, 1 KO).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.