Denzel Bentley still believes he’s a better fighter than Felix Cash.
The British middleweight made some changes, however, after suffering a third-round technical knockout loss to Cash that initially bounced Bentley out of position for a 160-pound title shot. Eighteen months and three wins later, it’s Bentley, not Cash, who will challenge undefeated WBO middleweight champion Janibek Alimkhanuly on Saturday night in Las Vegas.
“I learned a lot,” Bentley told BoxingScene.com of his loss to Cash. “I learned that it was possible to do more. You know, I felt like I was doing enough in my training, but I learned that it was possible to do more. I changed a few things in my camp. I’ve improved my game. I’m more focused. I’m not hungry anymore. I am more devoted.
Bentley, 27, defeated British veteran Marcus Morrison (25-6, 16 KOs) by fourth-round TKO in his last fight to secure his shot at the Alimkhanuly championship. London’s Bentley (17-1-1, 14 KOs) edged out unbeaten Briton Linus Udofia (17-1, 9 KOs) by split decision in his previous appearance to regain some of the momentum he lost when Cash caught it with several damaging right hands and stopped Bentley while standing in April 2021 at York Hall in London.
“You know, a loss like that can make or break you,” Bentley said. “It can be that, ‘Ah, it’s not for me. It was embarrassing. I left.’ Or you can say, ‘You know what? I can’t end on this note. I have to come back 10 times stronger. And that’s what I did, I came back 10 times stronger. fight 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 has only had 17 amateur fights. The huge underdog understands most fans and media fired him after Cash (15-0, 10 KOs) stopped him, but that only served to motivate Bentley as he prepared for the most important 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 wasn’t as good as I thought I was, I moved too fast because my career really accelerated during the lockdown. I’ve taken a lot of 50-50 fights, maybe fights where I was the underdog, and I’ve come out on top. So it was like, you know, my career took off pretty quickly because of the 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’ve been written off a lot of time [after losing to Cash]. I’m probably still written off today, but that doesn’t matter. I agree with that.
Alimkhanuly-Bentley is the main event of an ESPN+ card airing Saturday night from the Pearl Concert Theater at the 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 senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be contacted on Twitter @Idecboxing.