Home Boxing News Nathan Heaney upsets Denzel Bentley to claim British middleweight title

Nathan Heaney upsets Denzel Bentley to claim British middleweight title

Denzel Bentley and Nathan Heaney

Fringe middleweight contender Nathan ‘Hitman’ Heaney 18-0 (6) caused a minor boil over when he outpointed Denzel Bentley 18-3-1 (15) at the AO Arena in Manchester, England on Saturday night.

Despite being undefeated and ranked number 14 by the WBA, few gave Heaney a chance. But the 34-year-old from Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire put public opinion to one side to prove he can mix it with a better class of boxer than most thought possible.

One year ago almost to the day Londoner Bentley, 28, gave highly-regarded WBO middleweight champion Zhanibek ‘Qazaq Style’ Alimkhanuly 15-0 (10) his toughest test to date. Bentley became the the first boxer to last the 12-round championship distance with the 30-year-old Kazakh southpaw, losing a unanimous decision by scores of 112-116 twice and 110-118.

The conventional wisdom was that national champion Bentley would be too seasoned for Heaney. But no-one told that to the challenger, who banked enough of the early rounds to hold on to win by scores of 116-113, 117-111 and 114-114.

“It’s absolutely phenomenal. People always say ‘I dreamt of being a world champion’. I always dreamt of being a British champion,” Heaney said.

“I’ve got to be honest, I never thought I could.”

Bentley, who is ranked WBO numer nine and WBC number 12, was downcast about the loss.

“He had an opportunity and he took it, but I don’t know. Judges saw it how they saw it,” Bentley said.

“I don’t think he really landed anything compared to what I landed on him. A lot of the shots he threw I was catching on the gloves, but that’s how the judges scored it.”

Before the fight Bentley said he was planning to knockout Heaney, but in an interview with Boxing News before the bout, the eventual winner said he was ready for anything that was thrown at him.

“For him, the equaliser is his punching power,” Heaney said. “I think he’s knocked out 80 per cent of his opponents. Me and Bentley have boxed some of the same lads and I know he’s stopped some I couldn’t stop.

“There’s so many variables that go into someone getting stopped but that shows he can punch and he’s got that about him. I think he’s a decent boxer. I think he’s quite rangy, but so am I; I’m quite a large middleweight, so I think that neutralises that.”

Heaney is one of the feelgood stories of the sport.

“When I first started as a professional boxer, I was 27 and I thought I’ll give myself three years as a pro,” he said. “If I do something fantastic, great; if I don’t, at least I’ve got no regrets.”

Now with a recognisable name on his ledger and ensconced in the sanctioning body rankings, a world title shot for this likeable overachiever could be just around the corner.

It doesn’t hurt to dream, does it?