Danny Dignum v Zhanibek Alimkhanuly: Meet Britain's interim world title challenger you’ve never heard of

Danny Dignum winks during a fight
Danny Dignum has 14 wins and one draw in his pro career

While accepted wisdom holds that modern fighters must busy themselves on social media and invest time building a profile, there remain a minority for whom boxing, in its purest sense, is their only concern.

Danny Dignum, from Bowers Gifford in Essex, is clearly one of those.

The unbeaten, well-schooled middleweight spoke to BBC Sport just after finishing the final training session of his training camp, with coach Kevin Lilley, and shortly before flying to Las Vegas to contest the interim WBO middleweight world championship against Zhanibek Alimkhanuly on 21 May.

The current champion Demetrius Andrade was due to move up to super middleweight but picked up an injury.

“If I could be an unknown world champion, I would be,” Dignum, 30, says. “I don’t want to be famous. You won’t get me in the jungle with Ant and Dec. I like the quiet life. I love my family. I don’t care about all that.

“The way I look at it, boxing is my job and it’s a job I love. I’ve been doing it since I was a boy and that’s what I am. I’m a boxer. End of. I’m not a celebrity, or a wannabe celebrity.

“Maybe a lot of fighters believe they get opportunities because they make noise on Twitter or whatever, but that’s just not me.

“But look at the position I’m in. I’m boxing for a world title in my 16th fight. That’s not bad going, so I guess I’ve been lucky.

“I’ve made progress in my career without needing to jump through those hoops.”

Dignum started boxing at nine years old alongside his twin brother, John, after his parents tired of them constantly fighting each other at home.

He then went on to become a standout amateur, winning multiple national titles as a junior and the senior national middleweight title (ABA) in 2012, before ultimately being selected to represent Team GB.

Despite that, since turning pro in 2016, the southpaw’s route to world level has been the less conventional one, bypassing regional and national belts to focus instead on international recognition.

As little as three years ago, Dignum appeared to be a likely contender for the British title but was lined up instead to box Northern Ireland’s Conrad Cummings for the WBO European belt.

“It just came up as an opportunity,” Dignum says.

Despite entering that 2019 contest as a slight underdog, Dignum turned in a breakout performance to stop Cummings in the fifth round and secure himself a spot at the upper end of the WBO rankings.

Several successful defences later, and now occupying the WBO number three position, he is just one fight away from calling himself a world champion.

Any excitement must be tempered with realism, however. The task ahead appears daunting.

Dignum needs to adjust from demolishing Kent’s Grant Dennis in February to meeting the highly fancied Alimkhanuly. This represents not only a significant upgrade of opponent, but a huge change of scene in Vegas.

Zhanibek, 29, has a perfect professional record of 11 straight wins, with seven of those coming inside the distance, and is a former amateur world champion.

Now based in California, where he trains with American coach Buddy McGirt, the Kazakh will also be considered the home fighter.

“I don’t want fame, but I do want this Danny Dignum v Zhanibek Alimkhanuly: Meet Britain's interim world title challenger you’ve never heard of,” says Dignum, who so far has 14 wins and a draw to his name.

“I travelled around in my amateur career, so boxing abroad doesn’t worry me. I know people say this opponent is a step up, but this is what I’ve dreamed of since I first started boxing.

Danny Dignum lands a punch on the ear of his opponent
Dignum fights in Las Vegas this Saturday for the WBO interim middleweight title

“I know what I’m up against and I know that Zhanibek is a very good fighter. He has a fantastic amateur pedigree, and his pro career has been impressive so far.

“There’s a lot of hype about him, especially in America, but I do believe that they are overlooking me, and that could play into my hands.”

“I’ve seen bits of interviews with Zhanibek where he seems to be saying this will be an easy night’s work,” Dignum continues.

“He’s already talking about fighting Chris Eubank Jr or Jermell Charlo after our fight, then winning world titles in other weight divisions, but I’m thinking, ‘hang on, you’ve got to beat me first’.

“I’m going over there, and I will bring everything I’ve got to that ring. He’s breezed through his opponents up to now, but we’re going to see how he copes when he doesn’t get it all his own way.

“You know, it’s the later rounds, I’m keeping him honest, I’ve hurt him a couple of times, let’s see how he likes that.”


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