When the city of Davenport, Iowa is mentioned in boxing circles, most immediately think of former middleweight champion Michael Nunn and with good reason, but there is a “hidden gem” lurking in the heavyweight division that hopes to add his own name to the conversation.
On the undercard for this week’s ESPN Friday Night Fights from the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York, Davenport’s own Donovan Dennis 11-1 1NC (10 KO), looks to keep climbing up the heavyweight rankings when he meets undefeated fighter Nat Heaven 8-0 (6KO).
At 14 years of age, Dennis wandered into the legendary Pena’s Davenport Boxing Club and it was here under the tutelage of Alvino Pena that his journey began. Dennis credits Pena with mentoring him and leading him down a successful path not only in boxing, but in life. Said Dennis “Everything he taught me is the foundation of what I’m doing now”. Pena passed away last month at the age of 82 but his legacy will continue to live on through fighters like Dennis and the future generations who will pass through the doors of the club that he founded in 1968.
Dennis, 26 at 6’4 with a 79” reach surely fits the mold of today’s heavyweight but his training regimen and box first mentality are a bit uncharacteristic for the division. In an interview earlier this year, Dennis stated “I play to my stamina, that’s my ace in the hole” “Nobody’s going to out-train me” Although Dennis has knock outs in 10 out of his 11 wins, he knows that he must box as well. “I don’t want to be a Rocky” Dennis said, “Boxers who are Rockys don’t last long because they take such a beating. That’s not me. I want to be as smart a boxer I can be”. Dennis is very athletic for a heavyweight and can box or punch. His southpaw stance often creates advantages during a bout that Dennis seems to excel at exploiting.
Heaven, 28, 6’6 fought four times in 2013 winning three by knockout. This will be his first fight in 2014 and the first six rounder of his career. Heaven has a lumbering jab and quick right hand so he also has a few tools in his tool box that Dennis will have to be mindful of. If Heaven fights tall and uses his jab, Dennis will have to be every bit of that boxer to create opportunities for success.
If Dennis has an advantage early, it may be a result of his recent activity level. Dennis must be racking up the frequent flier miles as this will be his 7th fight in just under a year and his third fight in the past seven weeks! That is surely an “old school” type of schedule which used to be the norm with up and coming fighters. He must have his bags packed and waiting by the door because he’s always on the move fighting whenever called upon, keep an eye on this guy, he’s going to be a force in the division.
As Dennis moves up the rankings we need to start seeing him in ten round fights as the majority of his bouts have been six rounds as is the case on Friday night. If he continues to perfect the craft that Pena instilled in him long ago, it will not be such an oddity when the name Dennis is mentioned alongside Nunn when the city of Davenport is being discussed with regards to the squared circle.