2015 was a rollercoaster year for Manchester’s Denton Vassell. It was supposed to be a year to rebuild from two losses against high calibre opponents in Frankie Gavin and Sam Eggington.
However, it became a year of change after his loss to Viktor Plotnykov, an unexcited defeat to say the least. A new change in weight was met with a change of trainers. It’s a fresh start for Vassell, whose relishing the opportunity to get back into the ring again and stake a claim in Britain’s bright and prosperous junior middleweight division.
“After the Plotnykov fight, I had to make changes” he admits. “I felt weight drained, but I think it’s because I have been a Welterweight all my career. I know I could have hurt Plotnykov a few times, but whenever I was hitting him, I kept thinking to myself that I know I am stronger than this. Everything I am good at was not there, so I knew that I was ineffective at 147.”
The loss to Plotnykov was not only a shock to fans viewing the fight; it was also an eye opener for Vassell, who was extremely frustrated at his inability to control the fight. In the end, the scorecards read 118-108 by two judges and 115-111 by the remaining judge. It meant that the 31 year old had lost 3 of his lat 4 fights. Change was needed, and it was needed immediately.
The decision to move up in weight was not easy. The Manchester man was mulling over the verdict and needed some persuasion by fellow professionals. For someone, who has been in supreme condition all of his career, Vassell never found it particularly difficult to make the welterweight limit. He maintains that he could still fight at 147 pounds, but in order to increase strength and power, his decision was ultimately made up for him.
“After the Plotnykov fight I was speaking to two of my best mates, Anthony Crolla and Scott Quigg, and they said that they have moved up in weight too. They told me the decision was made to keep their strength and that I should think about doing the same thing.”
“After the conversation, I thought to myself that I have been a welterweight all my career, even as an amateur. I didn’t find the weight hard to make, because I always made it, but I thought to myself that my power was not there. I always spar with light middleweights when I am training for a fight, so when it comes to fight night I am losing half a stone and that makes a massive difference.”
Along with the change in weight, the Manchester born boxer decided a fresh start was needed in the gym. He speaks highly of his time with former trainer Bob Shannon and maintains that they parted on good terms. However, the 31 year old feels that the same methods week in and week out, allowed his body to get used to the training regime, meaning it was less of a challenge.
Upon looking for a new trainer, Vassell saw the progression of super middleweights, Rocky Fielding and Martin Murray. The progression persuaded him to step foot into Oliver Harrison’s gym to have a chat about a potential partnership. The conversation materialised and Harrison took on the duties of head trainer and began get to work with the newest student of his gym.
“I think I learnt all I could have with Bob (Shannon). My strength and endurance were the main things I learnt that would allow me to fight comfortably for 12 rounds. He did a fantastic job with me and helped me win the ABA’s. As you know with Oliver, he is world class. He has got the likes of Martin Murray and Rocky Fielding and he also trained Jamie Moore.”
“I am learning something new all the time. I have good feet, so I am learning make use of them and perfect my footwork. I am also working on not coming in head first. It’s all more to do with tactics and skills.”
The short term future is clear. It was essential for the weight to change, and essential to experience a fresh change in trainers. The rewards were evident in Vassell’s next two bouts. Although opponents, Gary Boulden and Chris Jenkinson would be considered as Journeymen, the ‘Quiet Storm’ felt an immediate difference in power, stamina and technique.
“My aim was to amaze Oliver in the two fights. I was trying to please him by showing him that I was not going to do the same old things we discussed in training. It has given me the confidence to try new things. I was using the uppercut a lot more in the fight and was also moving around the ring. Oliver actually liked the last two fights too!”
“My plan is to learn new things. All the greats are still learning. Look at Bernard Hopkins and where he is now. He is still learning and has a passion for it. So I think, as long as I have passion, I will continue to go as far as I can.”
However, the long term future is not as transparent. With no promoter and no bout planned, Vassell is still training day in and day out without a clear view on where his future lies. He still remains optimistic and rightfully so. He believes that with Oliver Harrison by his side, and quality sparring with Martin Murray and Rocky Fielding, he can overcome his losses to achieve success in the sport.
He is in an exciting division, with Liam Smith leading the way. The ‘Quiet Storm’ is relishing the opportunity to step into the ring and showcase a smarter, stronger and more skilled version. The alias he goes by says it all. Vassell is not prepared to trash talk or call out names, as he believes that Harrison can get him the right fights and the right time.