DENZEL BENTLEY admits he can find it difficult to get motivated for a fight that he is expected to win.

Distractions, or as he describes it, “outside noise” can get inside his head and divert his attention from the task at hand. Against Nathan Heaney in November Bentley was widely expected to defend his British middleweight title and be the one who put a full stop on Heaney’s underdog story.

In the main event at Manchester Arena, after the likes of Nick Ball, Liam Davies, Harry Scarff, Nathaniel Collins, and Solomon Dacres all conducted successful business in the ring, Heaney caused the biggest shock of the night and the year. The underdog snapped away at Bentley and eventually won a deserved decision to take the Lonsdale belt.

Bentley, 18-3-1 (15 KOs), did not want to offer excuses when he spoke to Boxing News several weeks after the loss but believed his wife’s pregnancy and the premature birth of his first child did affect his preparations.

At the time he said, “I didn’t want to say that on the night because it would seem like I’m making excuses. I wanted Heaney to enjoy his win. It’s still not excuses but it’s what was going on and I decided to get in the ring. I’ve got to deal with the outcome.”

Four months later, Bentley now faces Essex middleweight Danny Dignum, 16-1-1 (9 KOs), on Saturday night (May 11) at York Hall. Two years ago, the two men faced “Qazaq Style” Zhanibek Alimkhanuly six months apart in Las Vegas. Dignum was in over his head in May 2022, lasting two rounds, but Bentley went the distance and at the time proved his worth as a world title contender.

“If I go into the next fight and don’t win that, what’s my excuse, then,” Bentley laughed.

The 29-year-old initially spoke to BN about his experience last week with Steel Warriors, an anti-knife crime charity, but kindly gave up more time to talk about the Dignum fight which headlines the Saturday fight night on TNT Sports.

“I’ve got to be on point,” he said.

“If I don’t perform next time, I shouldn’t be in the ring. But I feel good this time. Danny Dignum’s a good fighter. In my opinion a better fighter than Nathan [Heaney]. I’m excited to put out a statement and get back to where I was because I was in a good position before that [loss], and I let Nathan take that from me. That stung me a little bit. I know that feeling and I don’t want it again. I need to put on a good performance and get back to where I was and move forward.”

Bentley vs. Dignum is the main event at the York Hall (Stephen Dunkley/Queensberry)

“He’s a good boxer, very technical,” Bentley said of Dignum.

“He’s a southpaw, got good straight shots, got a good shot selection and he only ever lost once. He’s a good fighter. I tell people this ain’t a comeback fight. This is a fight I could’ve had after Heaney if I couldn’t get a world title shot. This is a real competitive fight.

“I know we ain’t seen Dignum for a while and he ain’t been active, but I know he stays in the gym because I know where he trains. And I know in that gym they stay pretty active. I’m not expecting him to be rusty. I’m expecting a good version of him. I’m excited for this fight, I’m actually really excited, I can’t express how much.”

Like many boxing fans, Bentley is enjoying a period in the sport where the best fights are being made. Undefeated records are not wrapped up in protective materials because more and more fighters are willing to take a loss, knowing it’s not the end of their career. The financial injection from Saudi Arabia has likely made the risk factor easier to swallow but let’s not forget that boxing is also prizefighting.

“That’s the phase we’re in,” Bentley said.

“Good fighters are taking good fights and losing so that undefeated stuff is going out the window. They realise if you take the right fights, you get paid the right money. We’re in a good phase of boxing because we’re seeing good fights now.

“The main thing in boxing is if you put up a good fight and a good performance people are going to want to see you again, regardless. It’s a sport, it’s competition. You’re allowed to fall short in competition, it’s how you get back.

“I’m someone that likes competition,” he added. “If I’m fighting someone that’s not on my level, it’s kind of hard to get up for. I’m sometimes good at blocking outside noise if the task at hand is greater than what’s going on. When you’re fighting someone that you don’t feel is as good as you or not on your level, sometimes the outside noise can get inside, and you don’t pay attention. I know you should be professional, but that’s just human nature.

“Right now, Danny Dignum is a threat and can take something away from me. And all the outside noise that’s going on, it’s easy for me to block out because I’ve got the energy. There’s a threat in front of me and I need to focus.”