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Jazza Dickens aiming for Golden Contract glory

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By Ian Aldous: As 2019 ends and a new year begins, Jazza Dickens (28-3) will look to continue his momentum that 2019 brought. Three wins, including one in the quarter-finals of MTK’s featherweight Golden Contract tournament has seen Dickens’ stock rise considerably. On February 21st, the tournament semi-finals will take place at the famous York Hall in London. Earlier this week, the IBF European titleholder spoke with me to reflect on his year and what 2020 will bring.

MTK’s aforementioned Golden Contract tournament began on October 4th where Dickens comfortably outpointed Spain’s Carlos Ramos to secure his position in the final four. The twenty-eight year-old had spotted a weakness in Ramos prior to fight night. “He’s a good fighter if you allow him to be (and you) don’t let him get ahead of himself,” he told me. “He’s young and vulnerable, I think. He was quite immature at the weigh-in and angry. He was very emotional. I’ve seen (that) I could play on that.”

“I’ve been that kid before at weigh-ins snarling at people and after a while you realise it doesn’t even work (laughs). You do yourself more damage, you know?”

The most intriguing part of the tournament is the fact that the competitors don’t find out their opponent until the draw which is made during fight week. It adds an element of unpredictability that Dickens believes suits him perfectly. “I’m not a fan of boxing and I don’t watch boxing,” the former British super-bantamweight champion admitted. “If I fight myself, I just watch it back once and that’s it. I just don’t find it very interesting to watch the sport. So, watching opponents and studying them – it’s something that I don’t really do. So, this suits me to be in this tournament. No-one gets the opportunity to study me and see what they think about me because they’ve got to worry about all of us.”

“I just love to box and the draw suits me perfect because I can just train as hard as I can, sacrifice as much as I can, do everything I need to do and come the draw, I’ll have a little look at them, then, that’s it.”

The featherweight semi-finalists consist of Tyrone McCullagh, Leigh Wood, British featherweight champion, Ryan Walsh and Liverpool’s Dickens. It’s a stellar field of domestic talent with the winner highly likely to get a shot at world honours late next year. Jazza was suitably impressed with what he saw in the quarter-finals. “I didn’t get to see all of it. I commented on Walshy’s fight and I thought the stoppage was brilliant,” Dickens explained. “The way he timed the stoppage and the way he waited until his opponent was ready to go. Then he stepped in and I thought it was very intelligent. I think Leigh Wood boxed lovely and he beat a really good lad. I think his performance was the best on the night because I think he beat a really good lad in David Oliver Joyce. He done a great job and he really impressed. I think they were the two standout fighters whereas myself, I had a routine win and so did Tyrone McCullagh. I didn’t see much of Tyrone’s fight. I was warming up and on next, so I didn’t see much of it.”

With Christmas just around the corner, it’s easy for a prizefighter to lose their way a little and take their eyes off that prize for a week or two. Whilst others may be enjoying a feast and drinking; Dickens will be doing what he loves to do – train. “I think this tournament is good as well because the winner will be the guy who is relentless, the guy who never switches off, the guy who lives as a fighter because to get this opportunity (of competitive opponents) fight after fight after fight – it takes it out of a fighter and he loses mental focus,” the southpaw told me. “So, if he can’t stay switched on because he’s not that kind of fighter, going out to parties and letting himself down, that’ll be told in the story of this whole tournament. I think the fighter who wins it will be the one who lives the life of a fighter.”

In 2018, Dickens spent some time away from home training in the U.S. gaining priceless sparring and experience on the way. After returning to Liverpool in 2019, things just seemed to fall into place as he stepped up his assault on the 126lbs division under the tutelage of Derry Mathews and George Vaughan. “I was only supposed to be home for a while before I went back,” he said. “I went to Spain and sparred with Jono Carroll and MTK said there was a show on in Liverpool, if I want to get on it, so I did. I was happy about that because I could go back to my club with Derry (Mathews) and George (Vaughan), my coaches. Before I went to America, I had to leave my own team because there weren’t the opportunities and then all of a sudden, there was the opportunity back home. So, I thought before I go back to America, I thought I’ll have this one fight with Derry and George and then came another fight straight away and then after that, another fight straight away.”

“Now we’re in the Golden Contract tournament and I’m with Derry and George again and I’m happy here with them. Now I’m in training in Scotland for this camp here with George and looking forward to it. It’s just that little bit more sacrifice, just coming away from my family, that gives you a little bit more of an edge as well.”

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