Dennis Hogan recalls first world title shot, transition to Glenn Rushton

INSELPARKHALLE in Wilhelmsburg, Germany is a place that will be forever etched in the mind of Dennis Hogan.

To most, it was the location of Hogan’s lone career blemish, being an unsuccessful world title challenge against interim WBA middleweight titleholder Jack Culcay, who defeated Hogan by unanimous decision in 2015. But to the relocated Irishman, who now calls Brisbane home, it was the start of a career rebirth.

A change of trainer, followed by another change of trainer has seen Hogan (25-1-1, 7 KOs) on the cusp of another world title shot. Standing in his way is hard-nose Japanese veteran and WBO #7 world rated light middleweight Yuki Nonaka (31-8-3, 10 KOs), whom he faces in a decider for the number two spot at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre on Saturday night.

Motivation is surrounding Hogan in every area of his life. From the recent birth of his first child, to stablemate and long-time sparring partner Jeff Horn reaching the pinnacle of the sport. He now finds himself within reaching distance of a world title and vows to make the most of it this time around.

“To be honest, I love it here. I love everything about it,” said Hogan to Aus-Boxing. “The people are fair dinkum, would that be the word? The people are great, especially on a fight night when the Aussies get together with the Irish and they get into it just like the Irish do.”

“There’s no better feeling than having two different nations supporting you out there, to come together and sing the songs and cheer you on. It’s a very special thing. I love the place and I love the people. I’ll be getting citizenship in another year and I’ll be part Australian as well.”

In most instances, it takes a loss for wholesale changes to be made within a fighters inner sanctum. In the case of Hogan, 32, it proved to be no different. On his behalf, he calls it “soul searching”, but it was that rehabilitative process that took him to where he currently stands.

“For me, there was a lot of soul searching after the Culcay fight,” he recalled. “There were a couple of things inside me that knew what I needed to do – a couple of changes I needed to make – mostly with myself. There were a couple of those exterior things as well, they say you win or learn.”

“In round eleven or twelve of that fight, I in no way stretched my ability, and I did not leave it all in the ring that time. I just knew a couple of simple changes could have got me the win there. There were a couple of things I knew I needed to change up and a couple of areas in my life I wanted better and that got me on a journey of soul searching.”

“I made some big changes that I needed to change. Having more self-worth and not just rolling with the flow. That has just put me on the right track and I’ve just seen my life blossom in every area now. The team that I’m with right now is unbelievable, I now have a power team. I couldn’t change a thing right now. I am where I am, it feels good.”

Another notable change in Hogan’s corner is the presence of new head trainer Glenn Rushton, the man known for building Jeff Horn into a world champion from scratch at his Stretton Boxing Gym. Having fought as high as a light heavyweight, Hogan noted that he previously went into fights with the idea of outpointing opponents, as opposed to looking for the finish. With Rushton now at the helm, he believes this is one notable change that will resonate with most on fight night.

“I’m very smart about not being hit – getting in and getting some punches going – and getting back out,” he noted. “So that’s the way it’s sort of bred into me to fight, but I knew something needed to change. I spoke to Glenn and Glenn said “Dennis, you know you’ve got the power, you’ve got the ability and you should be putting lads away”. But it’s not been in my mind to go out there and do that. It’s to go out there and completely outbox the person.”

“It’s like second nature to me so we’ve put a lot of work in since January, to get all those things firing. We’ve been doing phenomenal work to get to the point where I can break people down and finish them off. It’s exciting because I truly believe I will finish Nonaka off before the final bell.”

It’s difficult for Hogan to move forward without acknowledging the frustrating nature of his performance in his only previous world title challenge. The fight continues to serve as a reminder to Hogan of what could’ve been and what definitely won’t take place if he is to challenge for another world title in the future.

“They say you’ve got to get to a Grand Final before you know how to win one, and I believe that to be true,” he said. “When I was in the ring with Culcay over there, I sort of knew what it would take to beat him, and a couple of other little things I should have done. It was a massive learning curve to me, I knew it inside.”

“My instincts were just telling me I have what it takes to do that – I knew it in there and I knew it afterwards – and that’s what was disheartening and sad about the whole thing. That’s what put me on the journey of personal development and making the changes I needed to do because I was so close.”

“It was there and I just didn’t really take it and at the end of the day I only really have myself to blame. If you don’t make the changes you need to make it’s all on you no matter what happens.”

Having made the changes that he has deemed necessary in order to succeed, Hogan is now expecting to see results unlike any previous in his professional career.

“I’m ready to go take the world title, the belief is certainly there,” he concluded. “I think with the belief and with the knowing that I will be world champion, I think things can fall into place. When you visualise enough and when you see things in your mind enough, things start to happen for you.”

Tickets for “It’s Time” are available from starting from $59.10. The card will be broadcast live and free on Epicentre.TV beginning at 7:00pm (AEST).

Photo: Provided