Dennis Hogan is the unheralded Irish boxer on the brink of a world title
Kilcullen native has built quite a profile in Australia and fights in New York this weekend
Super welterweight boxer Dennis Hogan poses for a photo during his last public training session before traveling to Mexico to fight Jamie Munguia. Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
On a clammy night in Monterrey, Dennis Hogan waited. He had fearlessly entered his opponent’s den, and in doing so believed he had outfought the champion, and yet he sat in his dressing room knowing that he was the one who would leave empty-handed. He listened to the support of the crowd outside, the fans and the locals he won over, those happy to voice their disapproval at the decision. But none of it mattered – the belt would remain with Jaime Munguia.
And so here Hogan sat, obliged to wait for the anti-doping officials before disappearing into the Mexican night.
They never came.
Boxing isn’t without its heart-warming stories, of those who came from nowhere to hear the words “and the new” before their names, but it’s also marred by a shady reputation, one which wasn’t helped by events in Monterrey.
Nonetheless, Hogan found a way back, even if Munguia has spent the last few months, according to the Kildare-born fighter, running away from the rematch he promised. Australia’s adopted Irishman has moved on and on December 7th he will headline a show at the Barclays Center in New York where he will face Jermall Charlo for the WBC world middleweight title. The Kilcullen native will be hoping he experiences a fairer crack of the whip but he’s not naive; he knows nothing in his sport is guaranteed.
Last June Hogan signed up to Vada (Voluntary Anti-Doping Association), widely viewed as the mechanism best placed to deal with the sport’s doping underbelly. Fve months later, he’s still waiting to be tested, despite being days out from a world title bout against a champion with a questionable past. Charlo and his brother, Jermell, another world champion, were fined for missing tests conducted by Vada as recently as last year. It’s a situation which leaves many questions – few of which next month’s challenger has the answers for.
“I don’t know what the situation is there,” Hogan told The Irish Times before heading to Miami to complete his preparations. However, as recently as last week he saw still waiting to be tested. “I’ve heard from my advisor in the States that possibly there might be one test somewhere in camp, but there will definitely be a test for both of us straight after the fight.
“I have heard of other people doing all these things well in advance and by the time fight night comes it’s all out of their system. I don’t really know the ins-and-outs of it all.
“It’s like this, I’ve got two options: I take the fight and win it on pure-hardened will, determination and skill, or else I decide to kick up a fuss about more drug tests and then I don’t get the fight. If that is an issue and that is going on, then I don’t get the fight either way.
“I’m definitely not making any accusations and either way I’ll go and win it. If you look at it down in Mexico I do believe I outboxed him. I’ve improved again, I can beat anyone regardless. That’s how I feel about it.
“I’m just going to roll with it and we’ll be drug-tested after the fight – that much I was guaranteed.”
So Hogan remains focussed on his own game, driven by the prize, and until now he believes this camp has been his toughest yet, a marked improvement on preparations for his last fight against Munguia.
“This has definitely been the most intense I’ve been – most volume, most work. It’s been absolutely phenomenal, to be honest.
“Back before the Mexico fight we had only six weeks notice. I always stay relatively fit anyway. Even though I was getting all the work done it was still very hard and taxing on the body.
“Even in my sparring I’m so much further ahead than where I was back then as well. When I came back after the Mexico fight I really just kept training, kept improving on everything and it’s all come together beautifully.”
His last result, however, proved talent and confidence alone can be deemed irrelevant in this sport. These facts of the business mean challengers like Hogan may feel nothing other than a knockout decision will prove satisfactory, a reality he remains very conscious of.
“If I get the opportunity, I’ll take it. I wasn’t really seizing them in the Munguia fight.
“There were a couple of occasions, most famously in the 11th round when I clocked him on the side of the head. He went backwards and he was hurt for a second or two. I’m going to be a little bit smarter. If I land a big shot I will be looking to move forward, land another couple of quick ones and then, if needs be, set off into finish-off mode. We have been doing all of that.
“And I am going to make a cheeky little statement at the end. Munguia was meant to rematch me and he didn’t. Then he said he’s going to middleweight. He hasn’t gone to middleweight yet. He’s just fighting guys that are ranked well down the list on Boxrec.
“I’m going to say: ‘You said you were going to middleweight, that you couldn’t make weight. I’m at middleweight now and I’m WBC champion. I’ll give you a shot straight away right now. Let’s do it.’”
As it happens, Munguia has announced a move to middleweight where he will face Irishman Gary Spike O’Sullivan on January 11th. That won’t concern the 34-year-old over the next few days.
He’s a determined and resolute character who has spent his entire adult life dedicated to the cause. He’s now within 12 rounds of being a world champion, all of which makes his relatively low profile in Ireland rather inexplicable. As Katie Taylor is rightfully claiming coverage and adulation for the strides she has taken, much of the public remains unaware of the tigerish Irishman now punching his way through arguably the toughest division in the game.
Names like Canelo Alvarez, Gennady Golovkin and Daniel Jacobs have been claiming victims in the middleweight division; Hogan is now swinging in their midst and he still fails to command attention on the Irish backpages and bulletins, unlike in Australia where the media have been “following the journey” for a few years now.
“We will have Channel 7 and Channel 9 over again. They really get behind the athletes over here. It’s just not like that in Ireland – it’s not like that for me anyway. I don’t know any different and I don’t expect any different. And I’m okay with that.
“I can see why they might make the journey, albeit a 20-hour journey, while from Ireland it’s probably six hours. But I have begun to get a little coverage which I’m very grateful for. Whether people are there or not doesn’t really faze me.
“Get the win in New York and my next fight could be a rematch in the 3 Arena in Dublin. There has already been talk behind the scenes and we’ve posed the questions. Who knows, it may even be in with Katie Taylor.”
For now all eyes are on that prestigious green strap, the prospect of heading into McMahon’s Public House in Brooklyn as a world champion occasionally slipping into his mind. That’s not to say he has been distracted from the task. In the face of his toughest obstacle to date, he’s more steadfastly confident than ever.
“It hasn’t really kicked in yet and I believe it is [a good thing]. I’ve no emotion towards it really. It will kick in one day when I have the belt there. It will be a surreal moment.
“That green belt will be there and we will truly celebrate for a couple of weeks with everybody. Right now I’m just in this zone – let’s just give this everything I’ve got. Everything.
“And then we’ll hear the words: ‘And the new’.”