There is one word that sums up Alex Dilmaghani days in Mexico a lesson taught by some of the world’s best fighters after he swapped a sleepy seaside resort for a gym in a city where he couldn’t speak the language.
“Hunger,” Dilmaghani said. “Mexico showed me what I needed to do to make it to the top in boxing.”
The 28-year-old bids to win the vacant IBO super-featherweight title when he faces Francisco Fonseca, of Nicaragua, at York Hall, East London, on Saturday. It should be a big night for Dilmaghani – a title, live on terrestrial television – but the truth is that he is hardly known in his homeland, having spent most of the past five years based on the other side of the Atlantic.
After finishing law degree, Dilmaghani swapped his home in Worthing, the kind of coastal town where people go to retire, for Mexico City, training at Nacho Beristain’s gym.
“I went out there to learn my trade,” Dilmaghani said. “Every day, it wasn’t an option not to train. You knew what you had to do to make it. There was a good blend of fighters in the gym, from young guys starting out to proven world champions.
“I sparred with Juan Manuel Marquez, I sparred many, many rounds with Jhonny Gonzalez. I couldn’t even speak Spanish when I went out there, I can speak a bit now. When I went to Mexico I was a part-time boxer, I was a full-time student. But that experience made me.”
The next stop was Canada, although eventually he wanted to go home. “I was homesick for England,” he said.
Dilmaghani and Fonseca were to have met last month, only for the fight to be called off at the last minute when the Nicaraguan threw up in the dressing room.
Fonseca said tests showed that he had been suffering from a liver virus and that he had been willing to box, only for the British Boxing Board of Control to refuse to let him.
“I wasn’t acting, I was really ill,” Fonseca said. “I had been training for two months, I was very motivated as it was my way of getting back into the world rankings. I am not scared of him and I will show him on Saturday night that he was wrong in thinking that I was simulating.”
It took a bit of time for Dilmaghani to get over the cancellation.
“I was hot-headed, I was angry, I was annoyed, about money, time spent,” he said. “I somewhat point the blame because every athlete knows what they put in their body and if he overate, that’s his problem. But what’s done is done. I was back in the gym two days later striving for the next one.
“It doesn’t matter if I am angry, happy or sad. I’ve got a job in front of me to do.”
The ambitions of Dilmaghani stretch beyond an IBO title. He says he has no intention of ever using his law degree and hopes victory on Saturday will open up all sorts of opportunities.
“This puts me right up there,” Dilmaghani said. “I want people to be saying Gervonta Davis is there Tevin Farmer is there, Jamel Herring is there, so am I.”