By Gary Purfield
On one hand. Denis Douglin is your typical prospect. He had a successful amateur career. The junior middleweight has good skills, speed, and power. But Douglin has one aspect of his career that is quite different from your typical boxer. In what has become a popular topic in boxing, Douglin, known as the “Mama’s Boy”, is trained by his mother Saphya Douglin.
Douglin 13-1 (8 KO) was on a roll after twelve wins and getting a lot of publicity. Then he stepped into the ring on February 18, 2011 with tough guy Doel Carrasquillo. After a solid first round where he dropped Carrasquillo with a body shot, everything unraveled. Instead of sticking to the game plan of boxing his opponent, he went winging for a knockout and got caught, suffering a third round knockout loss.
When I last spoke with Douglin, we discussed how quickly the fickle boxing crowd can turn on a dime when a prospect suffers a loss. Douglin took everything in a positive frame of mind. Getting back to winning will bring the fans back. Douglin was also well aware that the early loss can be a valuable learning experience that will benefit him in his boxing career.
On July 9, 2011, Douglin returned to the ring to win a six round unanimous decision over Philip McCants in Atlantic City on the Paul Williams-Erislandy Lara undercard. Douglin and his team chose to take on Philly’s hard-nosed McCants in their return instead of a soft touch. The win showed that Douglin had taken the first steps in moving past the loss and getting back on track.
This Saturday, Douglin will step back into the ring at the Aviator Sport Complex in Brooklyn, NY, against an opponent to be named. I talked with the prospect (and future teacher) about his intro to the sport from his mother, his return fight against McCants, and his outlook going forward. Douglin was incredibly straight forward and revealing, especially when discussing his feelings heading into the ring for the first time since the loss and his feelings about problems within boxing.
Boxing Tribune: How did you come to have your mother for a trainer?
Denis Douglin: Well, my mother was always into boxing. Since the time I was a baby she was boxing for herself, but there was no real future in female boxing. She was always in the gym. When I was eight years old, I got into a street fight. Things did not go to well so she decided to bring me to the gym. I originally started training with my uncle, because I didn’t want mom helping me out in the gym. I was training with my uncle Delen Parsley in Brooklyn. When I would get home my mother would show me stuff and we would work out at home. As I got older I just felt more comfortable working with her and as I got the confidence, I just asked her to be my trainer. Around thirteen she took over as my trainer.
BT: Is it tough for your mom in the corner when you get punched? Is it tough for her to separate being your mom and being your trainer at that moment?
DD: I would imagine that it is. I could sit here and tell you that it’s not. but at the end of the day when she tries to separate mom from coach, which she does a really good job of that in the gym and sparring, but I can imagine when I get hit in a fight it’s probably harder for her than a typical trainer because that mom is gonna come out.
BT: In the gym as a kid did you get made fun of or ripped on for being trained by mom?
DD: Of course, all the time. As a matter of fact that’s how I got the name “Mama’s Boy”. It actually started off as a joke. People used to call me mama’s boy in the gym because she was training me. It was not like we decided to call me mama’s boy when she started training me. People call me mama’s boy in the gym because I was always training with my mom so as a joke we put mama’s boy on my shorts just to make everybody laugh. Wearing them, people loved it. I got a lot of attention, people wanted to see me fight so it grew from there.
BT: Last time we talked about coming back from a loss and more specifically how the cruel fact in boxing is one minute you are a loved undefeated prospect, the next you are written off, exposed, etc. Was this playing in your mind at all before your first comeback fight against McCants in AC?
DD: Definitely, the loss, it did a lot. It changed my whole train of thought. You see the people that really think you can excel in this sport, you just see the people that are riding your coattails because you were undefeated. It cleared up a lot for me. I’m actually now grateful for the loss. Although it pushed my career back a few months and I have a lot of doubters now. It let me see who was really in my corner and it got me a lot more focused.
BT: Did the loss get rid of the negative people and hangers-on, allowing you to surround yourself with the people that really matter?
DD: Exactly, that’s exactly what it did. I seen the true colors of a lot of people since the loss. It just made the people that I’m close to closer. It helped me take my dedication and focus to the next level so it was a blessing in disguise for me.
BT: What were you thinking entering the ring vs. McCants? Was the Carrasquillo fight on your mind?
DD: To be honest with you, before the fight, the night before the fight, or wrapping my hands and stuff like that, I’m thinking I can’t lose. This is my last chance, if I lose this fight then my career is over. That entered my mind all night and I couldn’t sleep. Once I started warming up and walking out to the ring, the loss was not even on my mind. I was focusing on what was in front of me and having a good time. I feel comfortable in the ring so once I got in the ring I was just happy to be in there.
BT: How would you rate your performance in that last fight?
DD: I would give myself a B. I showed great heart. He kept coming forward. He is a tough, tough opponent. I’m glad we got such a tough opponent coming back from a loss so I could show everybody I’m not missing a beat, I’m here, and ready for anybody. So I am glad we got a tough opponent like that, not someone who I blow on and they fall down. I think that I showed great skill but there were a lot of times where I didn’t press the action when I thought I could have gotten him out of there. I didn’t know how my stamina was going to feel or if I should stay on him, pull back. I doubted myself a little too much in the fight so looking back on it I think there were a couple of times I could have ended the fight earlier. I played it safe for the decision.
BT: Do you think that’s natural coming off a loss to be a little hesitant or to hold back?
DD: I think so, that’s what it was. I was trying so hard not to get caught with shots so every time I have someone on the ropes and he’s clearly hurt but I back up off him because I don’t want to get careless or get tired because I feel that is what happened in the fight I lost. I was doing so great but I got tired and that lead me to be open. It’s a learning process, as I keep fighting I’ll get it down.
BT: Over time will you find a blend of the right amount of hesitancy you learned from the loss while also learning when to let go and go forward?
DD: To be honest with you I think I learned it now. That’s why I’m ready to get back in the ring and just try it out again. I have been training real hard and stepped up my strength and conditioning. I think I have taken my body to the next level. I am ready to let it all hang out and see how I feel.
BT: Was it a relief to have that one under your belt after the loss?
DD: It was relief but it was not a surprise. I knew I was going to win. I step into the ring every time thinking I am going to win, knowing I’m going to win. It was not like “whoo”. It was more of an excitement to be back. For everyone else to see he’s back and the loss is not phasing him.
BT: Compare this current training camp for the upcoming fight vs. the last camp following the loss. Is there less tension being back in the win column?
DD: I would not say less tension. I have a new mentality going into all my fights. I think that I trained extremely hard for that last fight and trained even harder for this fight. I am going to keep going and keep getting better. We’ve incorporated a new strength and conditioning coach. I got a lot more sparring. Just working on the techniques and just trying to get better. Establish the jab more and just work on everything that needs work on. I would not say it may have been less tense mentally, but physically it was harder.
BT: You mentioned the strength and conditioning coach. What has that added to your arsenal?
DD: Just a lot more explosiveness, a lot more stamina, a lot more strength. He’s helping me; I’ve been hurting guys sparring. It’s always competitive, I’ve always done well, but I feel like now I’m really hurting people with body shots. I fell a lot stronger and lasting a lot longer doing round after round. It was something I was missing. We always did strength and conditioning but to have someone who just specializes in that, who studied in that, it pushed me to the next level.
BT: Have you been sparring anyone of note?
DD: I have been working with undefeated prospect Glen Tapia.
BT: Tapia is a good young prospect. Do things get intense between the two of you?
DD: We definitely push it. We grew up together in the amateurs and knew each other for a while. We were always good friends and went to nationals together (in separate weight classes) but never fought. Now we are in the same weight class. We always want to see who would win so that is how we step into the ring each time. It’s always great sparring.
BT: Now you have the first win back, what is your outlook going forward?
DD: Just to stay this hungry. I let myself get into a lackadaisical state of mind because I just got signed by Al Haymon and I was undefeated. I just felt like the world was mine and I took everything for granted. Now I’m back hungry, I’m still with Al Haymon, but of course I’m not at the top of his list anymore which I understand 100%. I feel like even though I won my last fight I still have a lot to prove.
BT: Were you worried after the loss you would lose the support from Haymon or get dropped?
DD: Definitely, Al wasn’t actually at the fight, but his kids were there. I was definitely thinking like I just got signed with him and I lost so I was a little nervous he was going to drop me. I was happy that Sam was still impressed with the two rounds before I got caught so I appreciated they still had the confidence in me. It’s confidence, but it’s still a business, so obviously I’m happy they kept me but I have to work my way back up.
BT: Have you talked to Haymon since the loss and has he offered any words of encouragement or anything for you?
DD: He came to the McCants fight with Williams, Arreola, Rico Ramos, and we spoke for a while after the fight. He is a great advisor and everyone around him, Silvio Brown, Sam, real helpful. It keeps me focused, keeps me motivated and I just want to be impressive because the people he has under his belt are all impressive in my opinion.
BT: What do you hope to accomplish in the next year?
DD: I’m ready to step up. I mean I’m really tired of the fights with the people with the five hundred records or the out of ten fights they won six, but actually ready to step up and fight other prospects. I was actually just talking to him about that after this fight, I’m ready to step up and fight an undefeated fighter or a fighter with just one loss that went through the same thing I’m going through and is trying to get his way back. I don’t have an undefeated record to protect anymore so I’m ready to take chances because I feel like my skills are there. In the amateurs you fight everybody, you fight future world champions. I’m just ready to show what I’m capable of so that’s what the next step should be.
BT: It sounds like you prefer challenging yourself opposed to fighting someone you know you can beat.
DD: I think that’s what’s actually killing boxing and I don’t want to be another person to bring that into boxing. I want to be exciting and have exciting fights. I don’t want to have fights where you see me fighting on HBO and it is Denis Douglin vs. who is this guy. I want every fight that I fight once I am televised to be a headlining fight like wow, he would put his record on the line, because that is what the sport is about. That’s what MMA is about and that’s why it’s growing a lot faster than boxing is because boxing is all about protecting records.
BT: Before we finish up, are you still pursuing a degree in teaching?
DD: I’m actually starting back up at school next week. I took last semester off and just trying to get my head together. I just wanted to focus on my boxing. I am thirteen credits away from getting my bachelor’s degree and going back to school next week and stay focused on everything.
BT: Where are you going to school and what draws you to teaching.
DD: I take Rutgers classes. I want to teach because I want to give back. Growing up, I always enjoyed social studies and math. In social studies you have to have a good teacher to like that type of subject. It’s boring if you have someone just standing there with lectures. If you think about history, it is one big story. History is like a soap opera, actually, so if you have a good teacher it is a great subject. I want to be that great teacher that teaches kids. I had a great teacher and he made me fall in love with social studies and math and I want to be that kind of person to someone else.
BT: Anything you want put out to the boxing public?
DD: We covered everything. Fighting September 10th and not even sure who my opponent is yet because we are going back and forth with opponents and between the commission shooting them down and them saying no I don’t know who my opponent is. Hopefully, I will know who my opponent is by the end of the day. I’m just working and I want the boxing community to look out for me. I am trying to fight the best, I’m trying to be the best so any junior middleweight prospect out there. Lets go, let’s do it.
BT: Is it frustrating less than a week away your opponent is still TBA?
DD: Ya, it is definitely frustrating. It is definitely one of the most frustrating things to deal with because you’re dieting, you’re training hard, you’re cutting weight, and you are not even 100% sure your fighting. Then on top of that you have to worry about once you get the fight is he orthodox? Is he a southpaw? Is he tall, short? It’s really annoying but it’s a fact of things you have to deal with coming up. I know I am still in the building process so I have to take what I get, but it is very annoying.
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