Every step of the way: Isaac Dogboe vs. Hidenori Otake
Isaac “Royal Storm” Dogboe is poised to make the first defense of his WBO junior featherweight title this Saturday night and, four months removed from making landfall in the United States, the self-proclaimed “Warrior from Africa” hopes to further his first impression.
“I’m making my first defense against Hidenori Otake, a Japanese warrior. It’s going to be fireworks,” Dogboe said in a press release, when the fight was announced. “I’m not stepping back. We’re on a quest to make this division exciting and great again. We’re shaking up the division. Isaac ‘Royal Storm’ Dogboe, you all know I bring lightning and thunder!”
The Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona will be the setting of Dogboe’s next fight and serves as the co-feature of an ESPN (10:30 p.m. ET/ 7:30 p.m. PT) broadcast on which Ray Beltran seeks to make his first defense of the WBO lightweight title versus Jose Pedraza, in the main event of a Top Rank card. Dogboe, 23, earned a co-promotional contract with Top Rank, in the wake of his knockout win over Jessie Magdaleno last April, which was a thrilling affair until its conclusion. The event not only gave American boxing fans the opportunity to learn the correct pronunciation of “Dogboe” but his performance showed that the Royal Storm isn’t a mere reference to the weather, rather an ode to his ambushing style of boxing.
“It’s been a long road,” Dogboe said immediately after winning the belt, in a post-fight interview by Marc Abrams:
“I went down. It was unbelievable. I never thought I was gonna go down. (Magdaleno) put me down for the first time. It’s a learning curve and I appreciate the lessons. It was a little mistake; I guess. Just a little slip up. He caught me with a good shot. I went down; I got back up and finished the job.”
Out of the orthodox stance, Dogboe is a heat-seeking power-puncher who is willing to trade and commands respect in the early going of fights. Against Magdaleno, that got him into trouble in the opening round, when he was caught on the temple with a right hand. However Dogboe took the knockdown with the utmost composure, even handing over a big right hand for his rival to think about, during his first trip to the stool.
Three months prior, in his birthplace of Accra, Ghana, Dogboe stopped Cesar Juarez to claim the WBO’s interim title and ultimately the win that got him the Magdaleno fight. Dogboe went right after the Mexican to spark a tremendous scrap in the middle of an overcrowded fighting pit. Dogboe’s left hand hurt Juarez early and often, dropping him in the second round, then once more in the fifth, before referee Tony Weeks determined Juarez was unfit to continue. If the place had a roof, it would’ve been blown off and, for many boxing fans, who happened to catch the fight on a beIN Sports Español tape-delay, it was a charming introduction for this action-seeking African with a boxer’s body, white knee-high socks and the brimming confidence of a preacher.
“Sometimes the only way to defend is to attack,” Dogboe said, after the Juarez victory, before calling out Magdaleno. “The only way to suppress your enemy is to go at him, let him feel that you are stronger than he is and eventually he’s gonna break down.”
Magdaleno, who beat Nonito Donaire to earn the WBO junior featherweight title (The “Filipino Flash’s” best weight), slowly succumbed to Dogboe’s hellbent attack in the proceeding rounds and, more importantly, was then lured into exchanges unfit for his style. Dogboe slowed Magdaleno with ripping hooks to the body until the fifth, when a perfectly timed right hand to the chin dropped him suddenly. It was also Magdaleno’s first time getting floored as a pro but, once he regained his footing, he hid behind his guard to recover, letting Dogboe wail on him with various combinations. Even with a hurt Magdaleno in front of him – who was begging him to “Come on,” with more fire, multiple times, the rest of the way – Dogboe maintained the same poise, not overindulging in shots or punching himself out. Dogboe put Magdaleno away in the 11th round, knocking him down twice and forcing an uncontested stoppage in which the now-former titlist was left on a knee in one neutral corner and Isaac down on both knees with his arms raised victoriously.
“In 20-something years, there hasn’t been a credible world champion (from Ghana),” Dogboe said, once winning the 122-pound world title. “I believe that, where (legendary two-division champion) Azumah Nelson left off, that’s where we are taking it. From there to the next level.”
At which level Dogboe is still remains to be seen but he will be a heavy favorite over the WBO’s No.6 ranked contender on Saturday night. Otake, 31-2-3 (14), is a 37-year-old veteran from Tokyo, who once competed for a version of the WBA title against Scott Quigg, four years ago. In his American debut, Otake will get his first shot at an untethered belt against Dogboe, riding a nine-fight win streak, and certainly the awareness that it’s likely his only chance.
“I would like to express my appreciation to everyone who made this fight possible. I am truly grateful for this opportunity,” Otake said in a press release. “In capturing the world title for my first time, on August 25, I’d like to show everyone that age does not matter. Since comments can reveal strategy, I can’t say anymore.”
Dogboe, 19-0 (13), is well aware of his position in facing Otake but that won’t get in the way of his exuberant personality that reaches for the stars. His father Paul, who also serves as his trainer, moved Isaac to London, as a young boy, for the sole purpose of grooming a fighter. Dogboe – who bear the alias “Braveson” – has royal lineage coursing through his veins and speaks like a proper English gentleman, whose confidence smudges the line between sanguine and threatening. He sings a chant on the way to the ring and is driven to be a messenger of his faith, proclaiming everything he does in the ring is by the grace of God. Leading up to this fight, the American media has gotten to know Dogboe better, like on the “In This Corner w/ Brian Campbell and Rafe Bartholemew” podcast, in which Dogboe gave an extended version of his post-fight interviews and reached the pinnacle of his confidence when expressing interest in becoming a world champion at five or six weight classes. He even yearns for pay-per-view stardom but this isn’t your braggadocios boxer looking to have his mouth help get him halfway there.
Dogboe’s fighting style alone can take him places, as long as he keeps winning and does so against well-known opponents. Those kinds of defining fights still remain in the future and will probably start at featherweight but every step of the way will still be shadowed by a lurking presence of danger, given his warrior-like mentality. It’s what makes Dogboe so intriguing, at the moment, because he has the tools that can spark a legitimately great fight out of another great fighter. Whether he is good enough to achieve the greatness he seeks hangs in the balance of those results but the tightrope there is sure to make things interesting.