THE only logic that James “Jazza” Dickens listens to is his own. The 24-year-old from Liverpool is scheduled to march into battle with Guillermo Rigondeaux, one of recent history’s most gifted fighters, on July 16. On paper, Dickens has no chance. But Dickens knows the truth, he’s always known.
“I remember when I was in the gym when I was 12 years old, and I looked around and I thought, ‘I want to be world champion’,” the engaging Dickens tells Boxing News about the Frank Warren-promoted contest. “It was my first thought in the gym, and I still feel like that, I’ve stuck to that. I do believe that, and I’m quietly confident of that. There’s no point me telling you that I’m going to do this, this and this. You probably won’t believe me. It’s like the preachers on the street – no one listens to them. I can say whatever I want, and you might not believe me. Do you know what? If you don’t believe me, I don’t care. I know what I believe.”
Defensive southpaw Rigondeaux is one of the best amateurs of all time. As a professional, he has struggled to replicate the success, largely due to few wanting to fight him, but in his 16 bouts he has looked almost untouchable. There can be no doubt Guillermo, as spiteful as he is elusive, is taking on Dickens to stay busy, he will see no danger. Whatever the result, it’s a tremendous opportunity for “Jazza”. But any suggestion the devout Christian has ‘nothing to lose’ is not welcome.
“Maybe the people around me won’t have lost anything if I lose, because they can get me another fight, but I’m not going to lose this fight,” Dickens says, slightly offended by the whole concept. “Losing, to me, will never be anything other than a bad thing. To me, it’s the worst thing in the world. That’s why I won’t lose. People are already congratulating me for taking this fight, but that to me is like saying to a footballer, ‘Congratulations for taking the penalty.’ But that’s their job! If you want the rewards, you step up, if you’re a winner, you step up and win, and that’s what I’m doing.
“I’m blessed by God and I’m blessed to get this opportunity, especially against one of the best fighters, in front of my own people. I’m looking forward to this fight, I’m buzzing. But I’m in this fight to win, not just to take part. People have written me off already, tapped me on the back and said, ‘Nice one’ for taking it. I’m going to do more than take it, I’m going to win.
“He’s just the same as I am. He’s got two arms and two legs but it is a massive opportunity for me, to be where I want to be in life. I want to be world champion, so I have to take these fights and I don’t believe in ducking and diving opponents because the people that put me in the position that I’m in are the public. I’m happy to take these fights.”
But surely Dickens, ABA bantamweight champion in 2010, understands why punters favour Rigondeaux?
“The people that don’t give me a chance don’t know me. They don’t know the ambition that I’ve got for life, and they will never be in a position to fight Rigondeaux. I do understand why they say that, but they don’t understand me.”
Make no mistake, Dickens believes – like you and I believe that night follows day – he is going to score the upset of the year.
The fact it is just another fight to him is intensely admirable. It is the kind of self-belief that has spawned some of the most astonishing results in the sport.
“I’ll beat Rigondeaux because I’ve got a great team behind me,” Dickens continues. “I think it’s my destiny to win this fight, and I think God has got a plan for me – and it’s not just for my benefit. There’s a lot of under-privileged people in the city who
I can be an example to, I want to let them know that they’re from the same place as me, where anything is possible.”