For a man who is yet to claim a professional title, Dave Allen’s status amongst public is something to be admired. The Doncaster native and self-proclaimed ‘pay-per-view’ star will take on another huge challenge in a truly fascinating career when he battles Australia’s only heavyweight world champion, Lucas Browne on April 20 at the O2 arena.
Despite a record of 16 wins from 22 bouts, including four defeats, his popularity and draw is arguably greater than some of his rivals who have unblemished records. It has in fact been some of these crushing defeats which have played a part in this incredible fan frenzy which surrounds Allen.
Following eight wins and one draw from his opening nine fights, Allen was paired with Dillian Whyte in a domestic showdown back in 2016. After a fiery build-up, the White Rhino was soundly beaten by his Brixton counterpart who has since gone on to record seven successive wins and is on the cusp of a world title shot.
But instead of plotting a simpler route back into heavyweight contention, Allen jumped straight back into the ring with the much-feared and the then unbeaten Cuban Luis Ortiz, on short notice. Once again, he fell short as ‘King Kong’ powered to a seventh round stoppage victory. However, his courage and fearless determination was exemplified, with Ortiz going on to provide WBC champion Deontay Wilder with all sorts of problems, rocking the American before wilting to defeat.
Allen received his shot at the Commonwealth title on the undercard of Kell Brook’s unsuccessful world title defence against Errol Spence at Bramall Lane and was edged by Lenroy Thomas on a split decision. The White Rhino was determined to secure what he believed was rightfully his and a rematch followed just less than ten months later. However, Allen’s luck was out as an unfortunate clash of heads in the first round made the bout null and void, enabling Thomas to retain his belt.
It’s fair to say Allen found himself at a crossroads following a devastating defeat to the highly acclaimed amateur Tony Yoka in Paris last June. Yoka, in his fifth fight following his switch to the paid ranks saw the Rio 2016 Olympic Gold medallist put in a devastating onslaught to provide a serious reality check for Allen and place question marks over his future at the very top level in the sport.
However, there was little time to recover for the Doncaster man, as he was back in the ring just a month later, on yet another pay per view show, this time in a must-win domestic battle with Nick Webb. The unbeaten Londoner dominated the opening three rounds, but Allen produced a massive overhand right to send Webb crushing to the canvas. It shocked most inside the O2, but Allen never doubted himself and described it as a “life-changing moment” in the aftermath.
Two straight wins have followed, against relatively unknown opposition in Germany’s Samir Nebo and Argentina’s Ariel Bracamonte, yet the latter gave Allen more than something to ponder, as he battled to a seventh-round success with the South American eventually retiring. Yet again Allen was drafted in on limited notice on another box office show, with the Doncaster man rapidly moulding himself in to a somewhat reliable card for promoter Eddie Hearn to have up his sleeve.
The Bracamonte win was harder than expected and forced plans to get out again on the Whyte-Chisora bill in December firmly on hold. The few months he has spent away from the limelight will undoubtedly have paid dividends ahead of a potentially career-defining bout against Browne.
At the peak of his powers, Browne claimed the WBA ‘regular’ belt with an impressive victory over Ruslan Chagaev, putting himself into the record books with the likes of David Haye, Wladimir Klitschko and all the other great champions who held it before him. But that was three years ago and issues outside of the ring have dominated his career since including a drugs ban, which he was eventually cleared for.
‘Big Daddy’, who recorded 22 knockouts before stepping into the ring with Dillian Whyte last March, was blown away by ‘The Body Snatcher’ who eased to a showreel knockout win without ever breaking motion and broadened his claim for a world heavyweight title shot.
Now at 39 years old, it’s a case of what does Browne still have left in the tank? Boxing is a sport all about timing and taking opportunities when they may seem like too much of a gamble. If you cast your memory back to 2016, 15-0 British champion Anthony Joshua faced Charles Martin for the IBF heavyweight world title. Some said it was too early, but a famous second round knockout answered those questions emphatically. Tony Bellew similarly stepped up to face the returning David Haye.
Many had tipped ‘The Hayemaker’ for a future fight with Joshua and predicted a swift knockout. But the younger, fresher and more active ‘Bomber’ stunned the public with an 11th round stoppage in the first bout, followed up with a much more convincing fifth round knockout in the rematch.
Allen has an enormous opportunity on April 20 to catapult himself into the heavyweight scene again. A win over Browne might not see him touted for a world title shot or even into contention for a European title showdown, but he can certainly snatch a slight part of history with a victory over a former world champion.
A big performance and win could see him face some exciting domestic rivals. The big punching Liverpudlian David Price has called for the winner of this fight and potential matchups with the less experienced trio of Daniel Dubois, Nathan Gorman and Joe Joyce and a shot at the British title could all be on the horizon for Allen.
Browne will also be fancying his chances on British soil, fighting here for the eighth time in his professional career. The Australian has had three successive wins since his defeat to Whyte, including a six-round shutout of Kamil Sokolowski in Scotland last month, which was perhaps more difficult than expected. Allen might be the bookies favourite, but ‘Big Daddy’ has a point to prove and a career he is hopeful of prolonging into his forties.
Whatever the result of April 20, the build up will always be fascinating with Allen involved. There won’t be any obvious animosity between the pair but once that first bell goes it will be anything but pleasantries. Allen must implement the game plan he would have constructed with new trainer Darren Barker who could be the missing piece in his puzzle.
On the other hand, Browne will undoubtedly will be better and in visibly better shape than he was against Whyte.
Browne will look to set up his shots behind his jab before landing a shot which could easily signal an early halt to the fight.
One further question remains, will this fight headline the bill? Sky Sports head of boxing Adam Smith has reiterated that a decision will be made on fight week between this bout and the next dawn of Dereck Chisora’s career against Senad Gashi.
Chisora, now at 35 launches a new tilt on the heavyweight division after his crushing defeat to Whyte in December under the guidance of new trainer Dave Coldwell following his split from Don Charles and of course overseen, under the watchful eye of manager David Haye.
The stellar undercard will also feature rising prospects Josh Kelly, Joe Cordina and Connor Benn as well as Shannon Courtenay’s second fight in what will be an intriguing night of boxing in the capital.