An Interview With Dennis Wahome
By Paul Oltai
Some people have always dreamed of being a professional boxer, watching their heroes as they grow up and mimicking these fighters when play fighting in your bedroom. But not Dennis Wahome, who found himself more at home on the mats using his feet to strike an opponent. Growing up he was more skilled in the art of taekwondo where his lower limbs were used to help win fights.
Managing to get to a fairly high standard and competing internationally on the taekwondo circuit he only managed to stumble across boxing when he wanted to work a little more on his upper body movement to balance out how much work his lower body was doing during taekwondo.
Initially joining a club in Hayes, West London he found himself using boxing training to keep fit along with wanting to balance out the use upper and lower body.
“I was training with a coach and at first he was asking me if I wanted to spar with some boys he had and I never really wanted to at first. Coming from my background in the sport I was in I knew that if you didn’t know what you were doing you would get beat up and I didn’t know boxing.
“I would brush it off and say I was ok just hitting the pads and bag for a bit, but one day he managed to convince me to do a bit of sparring with somebody and yeah it wasn’t the best thing for me but I enjoyed it, he didn’t let me get beat up or anything cause we were just working on technique. So yeah I started sparring a bit more because it was mainly technical. As I progressed we got more into free sparring where you can go all out and let your hands go and simulate a fight. I did that then thought you know what I thought I actually quite like this let me take it seriously now. I had a coach called Noel and for the first month or two he had me in front of a mirror literally just throwing a jab. That is how it all started.”
Then tragedy struck with the passing of his Mum which led to him not knowing what purpose in life he had and which road he was to find himself going down. Finding himself in the middle of his time at university even that was not enough to stop him getting involved in a life that he knew would be detrimental to him but could not stop himself following. It was only then thinking about not himself but his sisters that Dennis found a way back.
“After a while had gone by I got thinking because I have sisters, I had to pretty much grow up pretty fast, I could have just sat there and thought of myself and been selfish and end up in prison because obviously doing what I was that is where I was going to end up and my sisters would have nobody then.
“I started off thinking I need to get them through college and I needed to make sure I got them to uni and all that. So I spoke to my coach that I first originally who got me started in boxing doing the jabs and he said if I wanted to take it seriously because I had what it takes I just needed to put the work in. He took me to a gym in north-west London called All Stars. I trained there and had a couple of fights out of that gym and it was the first time ever I had a boxing fight was with them. I remember going up to one fight and thinking to myself as I walked out ‘What am I doing here?’. I know the sport I was in before was also full contact but this felt different and this guy was coming to punch my head in. I had a couple of fights and wasn’t committing myself fully so they stopped putting me out.”
What finally clicked for you which made you realise this is what you wanted?
“I went to do a spar with a coach from All Stars at the Stonebridge boxing club and I sparred a guy called Xavier Miller who now funny enough is my coach today. He gave me some good pointers and spoke to him after and asked if he could train me and he could see what I was trying to do and not change me just give me pointers, see I had a coach before and he was trying to change everything I did and make me fight how he used to.
“But to me I feel that’s why I lost interest and wasn’t fully committing. When I saw that he could see what I wanted to do and was trying to tell me if you want to fight this type of style you need to do this and that certain ways. When I stayed with Xav things picked up and I won quite a lot of fights and had won fighter of the night twice, other times I was starting to get stoppages and just thought you know what I need to stay with this man.
“I am 5’9’’ish and fighting at lightweight/super feather and my previous coach was trying to make me fight like a brawler and that just was not suited to me. I trained with Xav for like two years and he opened up his own gym and I said where he goes I am because he has helped me grow by helping me be me and not try shape me into someone else. He never led me astray even with advice there was never not a time I went to him where he wouldn’t have time for me. We are always learning and Xav is constantly teaching me.
“We opened up a club in Neasden, and I was one of his original fighters. We trained there and I had a couple of fights and I won the England title with the alliance that broke away and won the national title for my weight in 2016 and then I had the nationals and made it to the London finals and the first I genuinely lost but the elites in 2017. I had a fight with a GB podium boxers and these times I was onto my like 26th or 27th fight but I had done sparring with fighters nearly hitting their 100th fights so I knew I could do this.
“That fight I won and because who he was and with me coming from a new club that wasn’t established long as soon as I heard it was a split decision I knew I hadn’t got it. I needed to knock him out to get a win there.”
‘After that I knew I wanted to turn pro because essentially we were doing the same thing I would be doing as a pro just not getting paid if you get me.”
Who else is part of your team along with Xavier?
“There is also a guy called Nick Prempeh who is another coach of mine like a 2nd. He is also there out of IQ Boxing. So there is just me Xav and Nick as the main team, I don’t really big teams and like to keep things small. There is no point in bringing anyone new in unless they have got stuff that will drastically enhance things, it has been this team since the amateurs and it works and I don’t really want to change it. The only person I may add in future is a strength and conditioning coach or if you add to many you just end up with an entourage.”
What level do you realistically see yourself getting to?
“I see myself claiming a world title in at least 3 divisions. Next year god willing I will challenge for the Super Featherweight Southern Area title and just take it from there. Once you have a title that means I am at that first level. They have belts for a reason and if you can claim a belt that says a lot about you, if you can then go up and claim the British that is another level. Then you can push on to a world title after that. Initially I want to at least get a world title at super feather then I can move up to lightweight and work my way up. I don’t want to go up to high in weight so would see super lightweight as my limit. We are not in it just to be here.”
Do you see yourself getting just that Southern Area in the next 12 months or beyond?
“I would like to also challenge for an English but you know it is all about timing and I just want to make sure I am not rushing myself, 27 fights as an amateurs and then a novice in the pros I just want to make sure I do things right and not mess myself up rushing to much.”
What do you do outside of the boxing world?
“I am a plumber actually. I am self-employed so it works better around my boxing. After work I go to training and then if I need days off it is alright because my boss is good and really understanding and it all works out. I was actually thinking the other day how in my old job I used to actually work at the airport doing security. And had I still been there and not doing what I am now I don’t think it would have all worked out. The airport hours where weird, starting stupid times and finishing the same. I wouldn’t have been able to have a week where it was all the same. It is all about timing.”
What has been your best moment so far within boxing?
“I would say my pro debut, that was pretty wicked. It was everyone who I cared about and who cared about me was there. I walked out with my son and my coach the same one I had a spar with who told me I could get far in this game if I put my head to it. It was real, I was backstage getting ready and it had still not hit me but then when they say your up then you are at the stage waiting, your music starts then you get out there and it is like yeah this is it, in front of everyone you just think WOW. I had actually made it and to me that was an achievement in its own. I never thought in my life I would ever do boxing even them early stages where I was doing the sparring and stuff.”
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
‘It is funny because when I started boxing I knew nothing about it at all and being honest I mean I knew zero apart from like Ali, Tyson and Sugar Ray Leonard that was it. When I was getting training I was watching like a Mike Tyson video and I would see what he was doing then go to gym and try to copy that and it got to the point where I got pretty good at copying what I had been watching and remembering what they were doing in certain situations to use in sparring.
“Then Sugar Ray Leonard I was trying to copy his footwork and hand speed, then obviously Ali with his jab. But to me when I really took boxing seriously I went back to watching more and more of Sugar Ray Leonard and I would be like yeah let me see how he does this and stuff. Trying to understand why he did what he did and how he did it.
“Also my coach because even though I didn’t have the best path I feel like it wasn’t even boxing that put me on the straight and narrow my coach did. He trained me at his work and he would take his time out to speak to me and when my Mum passed I did some bad stuff and that but he kept me and tried to keep my head straight and keep me off the roads. It worked and I listened to him. At time I would rebel but when it came to it I listened and it is all thanks to him because he has taught me so much and he actually believes in me. Actually it is crazy to think that having watched a lot of Tyson documentaries where he says how Cus saved him and helped him, I actually know what he means now.”
Do you have any sponsors you would like to give a mention to?
“Yes I would love to give a shout out to Combat Graphics. They work out of Social Elevate. They got in touch with me and chose to help me, and that to me I really appreciated. It is really hard to get sponsorship and they really help me a lot. I spoke to him at Combat Graphics and they put me through to Jordan from Portobello PR and he has really helped me out. At first I didn’t understand, and had just wanted a poster made and hadn’t found anyone so had went to them and it just went on from there. Also coach Xav and Nick without them who knows where I would be.”
Stuck for something to do this weekend in the South of the country? Why not get yourself down to York Hall and witness Dennis in his next step of his professional career where he fights on the Goodwin Boxing bill at York Hall titled London’s Calling, tickets can be purchased on the door and action starts from 17:30.
After picking up another points victory with ease against tough journeyman Andy Harris 40-36 Dennis has just moved to 4-0 and ends the year with great momentum, momentum that he will hope to carry on into the New Year in his quest towards that maiden title. super featherweights take note as this man has not let life get him down outside the ring and plans on not letting no man get him down within the squared circle either.