Alex Dilmaghani: A young fighter from an old school
Sometimes I think I got spoiled, growing up in and around the Kronk Gym, spending so much time around Emanuel Steward and his countless world champions. I will admit I do not watch much boxing anymore, like I once did, and it is not often I get excited about it too much these days either. However when I saw the United Kingdom’s Alex Dilmaghani, 16-1 (5), I immediately said to myself, “This kid is a natural!” Watching Alex has honestly given me someone to talk boxing with and something to be excited about again. He is one of the few people with whom I will pick up the phone and talk boxing and our conversations often go back to him picking my brain about some of the fighters I grew up around or worked with back in the day. Alex is many things: He is a student. He is a hard worker. He has the skills. He is humble and, most of all, in my opinion, he has the ability to become a world champion in the very near future. The lightweight prospect’s first outing of 2018 will be against Andy Almendras, 14-7-1 (6), in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, on February 10.
John Lepak: How did you get into boxing?
Alex Dilmaghani: I got into boxing because I always liked to watch it on the TV, so when I found out that a boxing gym was nearby, and I was able to go, I went.
JL: How has your journey in the world of boxing been thus far?
AD: I had a very brief amateur career of 16-1, turned pro very young soon after. Unfortunately due to certain contract disputes, not being able to sell tickets and fights falling through, I faced inactivity but I still kept in the gym learning. Because of this, and whilst studying law at university, I went to Mexico to see friends and I got the opportunity to work with Juan Manuel Marquez for the (Manny) Pacquiao fight. He and (Marquez trainer) Nacho (Beristain) were very impressed with me and wanted me back because of how things were, boxing-wise, in the U.K., and, after finishing Uni, I decided to move and base myself out there for a while. After learning under one of the greatest trainers in history but not being able to get as many fights I wanted, through chance I got into contact with a promoter and manager from Canada and the rest is history. Thankfully I’m extremely active. I’m a person who loves to fight as often as possible and I have been. Activity is key. I could be wrong but I believe Ray Leonard said, “Inactivity civilizes fighters.”
JL: I believe going away to training camps is a great experience for young fighters for so many reasons. What are some of the things you took away from that experience working with Marquez?
AD: His professionalism. Everyone in his team had a purpose and he trained very efficiently.
JL: Who is handling your professional career?
AD: Lee Baxter is handling my career.
JL: Who are some of your favorite boxers to watch?
AD: There are so many fighters I love to watch and there are so many fighters I admire. The recent fighters I must admire are Diego Corrales and Arturo Gatti. Pure heart and courage. Before then I admired guys like (Marvelous Marvin) Hagler, (Roberto) Duran, Sam Langford, (Muhammad) Ali, (George) Foreman, (Joe) Frazier, (Sugar Ray) Robinson, Archie Moore…There are a lot! (laughs) I love watching James Toney, Mike Tyson, (Pernell) Whitaker, The Fabulous Four (Duran, Hagler, Leonard and Thomas Hearns), Dwight Muhammad Qawi, (Ray) Mancini, (Alexis) Arguello, (Aaron) Pryor, Ezzard Charles, Henry Armstrong and Henry Hank.
JL: You are a very fan-friendly fighter but do you find it difficult to relate to some of the more modern-day fans, since you are more of an old-school fan yourself of the Sweet Science?
AD: I don’t know if I find it difficult to relate to modern-day fans. I just focus on learning my craft and looking to improve constantly, being an all-around fighter. I think any true boxing fan appreciates me.
JL: It can be argued in sports today that we have seen the overall performance of athletes improve in football, the NBA, hockey, etc., although I am not sold on that in boxing. Some in athletic ability, some in statistics, like speed, but I do not see it, when it comes to toughness. As for boxing, I say this respectfully, as I see all the new training methods, with the strength-and-conditioning guys and even the nutritionists, but it just does not translate to that old-school toughness I grew up watching. Maybe I am turning into that grouchy old man but I can’t see how guys are struggling to go 12 rounds, in some cases, with all this modern training science, and a guy like Hagler ran in work boots and did construction all day and went 15 rounds. Your thoughts?
AD: You’re right but I think the key difference you touched upon is that, athletically, guys are improving and, realistically, of course, they are and will. Nutritional knowledge is getting better – hence why fighters are much bigger for their weight class, i.e. look at Jake LaMotta, compared to Danny Jacobs. But the big thing is what I tell people: Fighters and athletes are different. Times were harder back then, therefore their mentality HAD to be harder. They have to adapt; you’re a product of your environment, at the end of the day. Fighters like Frazier, (Harry) Greb, Langford, they fought with one eye for some of their careers. LaMotta and Robinson fighting twice in a month, with horse hair gloves! It’s just crazy to even comprehend it. World champions used to fight once a month. It’s hard to statistically compete with guys like that and, as time progresses, I don’t think there’ll ever be someone to match the run of a Sugar Ray Robinson, for instance. So yeah, I think the key difference why I think old-school fighters were better too is the mentality they had and also the amount of competition. There were many more fighters before than now. Another reason why I believe fighters are better before than now is that there were more teachers and less trainers. Plus the reason why fighters could go more rounds at a pace but didn’t have strength work is because fighters fought more often and therefore were more relaxed.
JL: OK, you study boxing history. Build the most complete fighter possible.
AD: Hmm…difficult. Speed and athleticism: Roy Jones Jr. at 160. Ring smarts: Leonard, Jones Jr. or (Willie) Pep. Defense: Whitaker. Power: (Jack) Dempsey. Mental strength: Ali or Jack Johnson. Footwork: Jersey Joe Walcott or Pep. Stamina: Henry Armstrong. Jab: (Larry) Holmes. Right hand: Hearns. Uppercut: Tyson. Left hook: Frazier. Body punching: (Julio Cesar) Chavez (Sr.).
JL: You have mentioned some of the all-time greats. I am not sure, at times, if many of today’s fans really grasp how brilliant some of those guys were. So let’s move to the modern-day “old-school.” In your weight class, who wins and why?
140 pounds: Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr.
140 pounds: Aaron Pryor vs. Roberto Duran
135 pounds: Pernell Whitaker vs. Hector Camacho Sr.
135 pounds: Shane Mosley vs Diego Corrales
135 pounds: Alexis Arguello vs. Azumah Nelson?
AD: Damn, they’re all pick ’ems.
140: Duran – in probably the greatest fight in history (laughs)
JL: When and where are you fighting next?
AD: I’m fighting in Montreal or possibly in Toronto.
JL: What are your long-term plans for yourself in the sport of boxing?
AD: My long-term plans are to have a great career in boxing and be in very big fights. My short-term plans for the next year are to get a world title.
JL: I know you’re a pretty old-school guy but where can fans follow you on social media?
AD: I’m only on Instagram @alex_dilmaghani.