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'They were worried about getting an extra inch on the soles of his feet... I was like, 'Ye're f****d!''

Kildare’s Dennis Hogan was prevented from achieving Irish sporting history in Mexico. The whole thing was dodgy, but there may be a golden lining…

Hogan's fight with Jaime Munguia in Mexico was shrouded in controversy, not least the lack of drug testing for both boxers.
Hogan's fight with Jaime Munguia in Mexico was shrouded in controversy, not least the lack of drug testing for both boxers.
Image: AAP/PA Images

THE REACTION OF champion Jaime Munguia, who had defended his WBO World light-middleweight title on a much-celebrated homecoming in Monterrey, Mexico, said it all.

“Truthfully, as the [final] round was coming to end, I thought it could be a draw,” Munguia said after he had his hand raised over that of Kildare’s Dennis Hogan, who stood rightly aggrieved metres away.

“I decided to come out in the last round and give it my all for the victory, but truthfully it was difficult.”

Munguia, now unbeaten in 33 professional contests (33-0, 26KOs), deserves some credit for his post-fight admission. Never before has he had to contend with anything even closely resembling defeat, and yet here he was conceding that, at the very least, he hadn’t done enough to win.

It speaks to the land he got against his Irish adversary that Munguia spoke so candidly even in front of the thousands of Mexicans to whom he had hoped to gift a spectacular victory.

He was instead gifted a majority-decision win that rankled even with his own fans, not to mention the 30 or so Hogan supporters who had made the trip to Monterrey as well as the thousands watching on in Ireland, in ‘Hurricane”s adopted Australia, and in America where the bout aired on DAZN.

Of course, no boxer ever truly feels as though they’ve drawn — it’s just too exact a calculation to have been made by someone whose personal safety has been laid siege to for 48 minutes or so; fighters have enough on their plates without attempting to tally scores between rounds.

Instead it comes down to a feeling or a hunch. After close fights, the obligatory opening line from the defeated boxer at centre-ring is, ‘I felt as though I did enough to win the fight.’ After this close fight — and it was close — the victorious boxer claimed to have drawn.

Munguia knew deep down the starker truth. Most of us did.

The three judges in Monterrey were ‘neutral’, i.e. non-Mexican, on Team Hogan’s insistence. All of them were American as it turned out. All of their cards were close. Two of their cards were wrong. One of their cards was incredibly wrong.

Richard Levine, scoring his first-ever world-title contest, totalled at 114-114. Fair enough, Richard. A reasonable debut in the big leagues.

Rocky Young scored it 115-113 in Munguia’s favour. Not for me, Jefe.

Putrid, though, was the tally turned in by Waleska Roldan, who must surely have been the only person in the world to have scored the bout 116-112 in Munguia’s favour. At best, Roldan, who has previous in being a ‘homer’ (see: Jeff Horn v Manny Pacquiao in Brisbane), is unabashedly incompetent. She shouldn’t be allowed near a fight of any sort again until she either gains a proper understanding as to what she’s watching or invests in a pair of earplugs, or both.

Anybody who saw the fight will know that assessment not to be harsh, and this is further evidenced by the fact that after the WBO ordered a scoring review at Team Hogan’s behest, none of the five independent judges arrived at a verdict as extreme in Munguia’s favour as Roldan’s.

With the sound turned off, the five new arbiters had it 114-114 x3, 115-113 for Hogan and 115-113 for the champion.

But despite the fact that it had retrospectively arrived at a different result than that which entered the record books on fight night, the WBO claimed the reviewed drawn score was not sufficient cause to order a direct rematch. It rejected Hogan’s official appeal, inexplicably establishing “that the results favour Jaime Munguia” even though they literally did not.

D5G7MHMWwAASRVi

If you didn’t laugh, you’d cry.

Dennis Hogan was keen not to cry foul too fervently. His post-fight interview at the Arena Monterrey was almost eyebrow-raising in the coolness of its delivery despite the fact that literally seconds earlier, he had been denied not only his lifelong dream but potentially a retirement fund by a few clowns who either couldn’t or didn’t do their jobs.

Hogan boxes for a living but is also a trained speaker and burgeoning businessman. The Kilcullen native prefers to remove emotion from the equation where work is concerned. He knew while speaking live on DAZN that the gaze of a large American audience was fixed upon him. He was cognisant that to piss and moan would see him become Another One of Those Guys’ whereas to retain composure and speak with his typical eloquence would ensure this audience be introduced to Dennis Hogan.

The Lilywhite light-middleweight carried himself as though he had just been handed the belt. He spoke calmly and cogently but not without passion to DAZN’s Chris Mannix, oozing a characteristic charisma which turned plenty of heads belonging to those previously unacquainted.

Mannix himself, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated and widely known sports media personality in the States, had come to know Hogan only a day prior during the fighters’ meeting, wherein the broadcasters sit down for a chat with the boxers whose shots they will be calling live on air.

Hogan was familiar with Mannix’s work, though. He had seen it before, and not in Sports Illustrated. Their formal introduction over the table drew a wry smile from an Irishman scorned.

“A few months back, I was sitting there watching Munguia’s last fight against [Takeshi] Inoue at home,” Hogan says. “And obviously I was mandatory challenger after Munguia retained his title, so my name was brought up on air.

And Chris Mannix said: ‘You would have to be a diehard fan to know who Dennis Hogan is.’ I took a note of that and I said to myself, ‘I’m going to ask him after the fight: ‘Do people know me now?”

“And this wasn’t anything bad, by the way,” adds ‘The Hurricane’, his voice bubbling with devilment. “Listen, I understand: if you don’t know me, you don’t know me. That’s just the way it is.

“But I just said, ‘I’m going to make a little goal out of this.’ And it’s not out of anything bad towards Chris — I just like to set goals for myself. What he said… It inspired me a little bit throughout my training camp. I will say that.

It turned out that he ended up being at the fighters’ meeting. I said to him at the end of the meeting — tongue-in-cheek, he knew it was all good — but I says: ‘Chris, you said during the Munguia-Inoue broadcast that nobody would have known me. Do you believe, after everything you’ve heard today, that people will know who I am after this fight?’ And he said: ‘Yeah. I do.’ And I said, ‘Good man’, and I shook his hand and we had a laugh. And after the fight, then, I shouted over to him: ‘People know me now, Chris!’ He goes: ‘Everybody knows you now!’

“He came down to my dressing room later on, shook my hand, and told me what he felt was the actual score in the fight [Mannix had it 115-113 to Hogan during DAZN's broadcast, while fellow co-commentator Sergio Mora also had Hogan winning].

“He’s been on our side of this ever since; he followed me on Instagram, and he’s a lovely fella. I believe I’ve made a really good friendship, there, purely through a bit of tongue-in-cheek.”

Whatever about Mannix, most people in Ireland don’t know Hogan, either. He has never fought here as a professional and doesn’t intend to until he can do so while defending a world title. His Kildare brogue betrays the fact that he’s unequivocally Irish but he is equally a ring wizard of OZ having honed his skills Down Under for nine years. He and his partner, Brideen, have a baby daughter in Australia and Hogan recently passed the country’s citizenship test.

In the squared circle, he wields a hybrid flag which consists of the Irish tricolour combined with the white stars of the Southern Cross on a blue background. The Australian half contains no Union Jack, a custom of the Aussie flag which harks back to British colonisation. He omits it firstly out of respect for Ireland’s past, but secondly because he believes it to be irrelevant to present-day Australia.

Hogan’s relative anonymity in Ireland doesn’t perturb him personally. Sitting in a lounge Dublin’s Fitzwilliam Hotel where nobody has so much as pointed at him since he walked through the front door, he audibly scoffs at the very notion. He is utterly appreciative of the support he receives from his native Kilcullen, wider Kildare, and an Irish boxing community which knows him well, his gushing about those few thousand die-hards punctuated by several pinch-yourself pauses.

He could take or leave the rest.

“My aunty messaged me,” he says.

She was so happy, because for years she’s been like, ‘You never get on RTÉ News’. But this time she was like, ‘Oh my God, Dennis! You were on RTÉ News!’ I was like, ‘I couldn’t give a fuck.’ If I’m only getting on there now, what do I care?

“I’m doing it for the people who have been with me from day one. It’s like I said before the Munguia fight: ‘This is for the believers, not the doubters.’ Fuck the doubters — never cared about them anyway. It’s for the people that have been with me all along.”

D2OC4tZUkAA02bU Hogan and his manager, promoter and close friend, Paul Keegan of DDP Sports.

Hogan’s manager and promoter Paul Keegan is less accepting of the indifference towards his fighter from certain quarters in Ireland.

CEO of DDP Sports who handle umpteen boxers in Oceania and have begun to stage major boxing events in OZ, the well-spoken Dublin native is often seen to champion on social media the handful of Irish boxing writers who relay Hogan’s story to those interested back home.

He’s less complimentary, however, when it comes to their employers’ lack of investment in that same story, which pales in comparison to that of their Australian equivalents.

“It’s not the journalists’ fault, obviously, but not one Irish outlet sent someone over to Mexico,” Keegan says, hastily sinking back into his chair. “Not one.

We had Channel 7, Channel 9, Fox Sports and the Courrier Mail from Australia covering an Irish guy fighting in Mexico, and RTÉ couldn’t find the money to send one reporter? Or any of these big channels? That was heartbreaking.

“An Irish fighter in a world-title fight and not one Irish media outlet there. That pissed me off, I’ll be honest with you.”

Hogan, looking nowhere in particular, boxes off Keegan’s rant with a throwaway jab at Ireland’s State broadcaster:

All you’ve gotta do is go watch a bit of RTÉ, anyway, and you see the shit that’s on there, and you’re like, ‘Well this is where their minds are at’: the same bullshit recycled over and over.

D6lZDC5UYAIhhiH Hogan addressing Australian media on Tuesday.

Hogan is magnanimous enough about his ‘defeat’ to Munguia — it’s spilt milk at this stage. Still, he remains adamant that he should be sat in Dublin with the WBO World light-middleweight title in his grasp.

Instead, the belt still resides with his supposed conqueror some 8,000 kilometres across the drink while Hogan clutches a coffee with almond milk, delivered as ordered at the second time of asking despite his insistence that the one with regular milk would ‘do grand’.

“I was actually talking in Instagram messages to Teddy Atlas, believe it or not,” he remarks — bashfully, as though half-surprised that the famed boxing trainer and ESPN analyst would give him the time of day.

“Teddy says to me, ‘Only you can know from the feeling of the fight that night. You know what was working, what wasn’t, and how you went.’

“I felt on the night that I won it 8-4, but 7-5 wouldn’t have been bad.

“Teddy said that there were a couple of rounds there that were too close to call and that it was a very close fight for him. He said he saw things that I could do even better if there was a rematch, and that was quite funny because some of them were things I saw myself when watching it back.

“He said, ‘I can’t really judge it off a phone screen or computer screen; you’ve gotta be there on the night to get a feel for the fight and score it as accurately as possible.’

“He also said that there were only three rounds that he could have given to Munguia 100%. I think they were rounds three, five and seven. Only three clear rounds for Munguia, though, in his eyes. Take from that what you want.

See, if there were rounds there that were too close for people to call, I know that if we do it again, people will actually be looking at me this time and not just the champion. In the first fight, the first two rounds were mine but I didn’t really get them on the scorecards apart from one judge. People will be watching me the next time and that will be rectified; I’ll get some of those closer rounds that I was supposed to get the first time.
But I have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of messages from Mexicans, Munguia fans, even people who put money on Munguia, who’ve told me that I won. Just lovely, lovely people — it’s actually incredible to see that kind of genuine response. Seeing that, I’m like, ‘Alright, I’m not imagining things. We actually did fucking win that.’

“Look, people who follow someone as a fan, they do so with bias,” Hogan adds. “We all know that and we understand it. I’ve watched the fight back and I still believe I may have even won that fight 8-4 instead of 7-5,” he laughs. “But I’m obviously biased for me.

“But so, so many people who would have been biased towards Munguia had it 7-5 for me. That’s all I need, to be honest, is to hear that.

But I do feel very bad for Munguia because I’ve gone onto his social media and I’ve seen people of his own nationality absolutely slating him. Some of the things being said to him on there, actually, is terrible, because after the fight he came up, he put my hands in the air, he was very respectful to me. He didn’t score the fight. He got in and did what he had to do, and I don’t believe he should be getting any backlash. But he seems to be copping plenty of it.

Boxing: Munguia vs. Cook Jaime Munguia celebrating his knockout of Brandon Cook in 2018. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

It is a small community but there was a palpable excitement in the Irish boxing social media sphere as ‘Hurricane”s long-awaited world-title clash unfolded. This was supposed to be Dennis (14/1) against Goliath (1/33): Munguia was so heavily favoured not only to win but to halt Hogan inside the distance that one outlet had him out at 4/1 to win on points; another had the Irishman as wide as 40/1 to win by the same method.

But Hogan’s assertive start instilled a kind of cautious optimism among his followers: ‘He’s looking seriously good, here.’

By the middle rounds, the monumental upset began to look plausible: ‘He couldn’t, could he?’

At the final bell — and this speaks to the bollocksology which has poisoned modern boxing to the precipice of irrelevance — that question was instead posed of the three ‘neutral’ judges: ‘They couldn’t… Could they?’

But this is boxing. This was Mexico. And purported future star Munguia, co-promoted by the event’s organisers Golden Boy and Zanfer, had a holy triumvirate of scale-tipping factors in his favour: he was the house fighter, the home fighter and the ‘upside’ fighter — i.e. younger, higher-profile, and more profitable.

So of course ‘they’ could. And they did.

“Me taking that risk going to Mexico”, Hogan says, “everyone was going, ‘You won’t get the decision down there, you won’t get anything!’

“But I wanted to make history. I wanted to go and get what would have been the best overseas win for any fighter to come from Ireland, or any fighter in Queensland.”

In truth, he’s selling short the task that was put in front of him, which frankly looked quixotic until he proved otherwise.

Few will ever stroll into Mexico and dethrone a champion, not to mention a potentially transcendent future star; victory for Hogan would have sat pretty in the pantheon of Irish sport’s greatest road wins, not to mind Irish boxing’s.

BOXING HOGAN NONAKA Hogan expected to hear the words: 'And the new!', but instead had his heart broken by the three American judges. Source: AAP/PA Images

And as each scorecard was read out — firstly in English and then in Spanish, adding to the excruciation for all involved — he grew increasingly confident that he had earned his spot in the sporting folklores of his biological and adopted nations.

Until two words spoiled it all.

“There’s a funny picture of me making a face when I heard the first score, 114-114. I went, ‘WHAT?’ I couldn’t believe the first score.

“Then I heard 115-113, 116-112, and I thought, ‘Ah, okay, they’re being a bit biased towards him with the drawn score, but I’ve gotten the other two.

And I’m standing there, ready to hear, ‘And the NEW!’ I could hear it in my head. I’m thinking, ‘Come on, come on…’ And then I hear, ‘And still’… And instantly, I get flashbacks of about 10 different people popping into my head saying, ‘Why are you going to Mexico? You’ll get nothing down there!’

“And I’m thinking, as well, of me saying to people: ‘We’re going there in good faith.’ And this is all flashing through my head very quickly, in the space of a few seconds.

Look, initially, I was against going to Mexico. But after Munguia’s last fight with Inoue, myself and my trainer Glenn [Rushton] were like, ‘Fucking hell, we have the blueprint completely to beat him. There is no other outcome.’ After I saw him in the ring that night, I was like, ‘Fuck it, we’ll go to Mexico, we’ll beat him there anyway — it doesn’t matter what they throw at us.

“The judges took it away. I was shocked that people could sit there and do their jobs so badly. These people are being watched across the world, so everybody will remember. Apparently it’s not her [Waleska Roldan's] first time doing this, either.

“I cannot believe that people don’t value their own integrity and morals above doing right by the promoter just to be asked back to do another show.

There was a beautiful quote put out during the week after the fight and it goes, ‘Boxers box for today, judges judge for tomorrow’. And that stuck in my head. It’s so true with what some of these judges are clearly doing, you know?

“I won’t say anything about brown envelopes or anything like that. I don’t think it’s that straightforward. I think it’s more the case that judges want to work big fights, so they try to keep promoters onside.

BOXING HOGAN NONAKA Hogan in action against Yuki Nonaka in 2017. Source: AAP/PA Images

“You know, I met the supervisor [Genero 'Gino' Rodríguez] before the fight in Churchill Boxing Club, my first day there,” Hogan continues. “I was on the bag, he was watching me. I sat down beside him and he said, ‘Hey, I’m Gino — I’m actually the supervisor’. I went, ‘Oh, very nice to meet you!’ I said to myself: ‘Be nice here.’

“And he goes: ‘Just so you know, you’re going to get a fair decision. Everything is going to be fair down in Mexico.’

“I was thinking, ‘Now I know everything is fucked,’ because that was the first thing he said to me! So I said to myself: ‘Just go down there and win the fight well.’

“Looking back, I was never going to win that fight. Never. There was never a chance in hell I was getting that decision.”

“Dennis was due to make in the region of $4million in his next couple of fights if he beat Munguia,” says manager-promoter Keegan.

“You come into the dressing room afterwards and you see Dennis’ partner, Brideen, and how upset she is.

“This is a house, this is a car — like, this is a family’s future we’re talking about. It can’t be right.

I know Dennis is keeping positive about it, but my job is not to be positive about it. My job is to be like, ‘That’s bollocks.’
And then Dennis is sitting there for an hour… No drug-testing! This is a world title fight, like. What do you mean there’s no drug-testing?

“Usually, they’ll either do a swab of saliva before the fight or they’ll do a piss test after,” Hogan adds, incredulous still. “Even before my Interim world title fight in Germany [in 2016], testers showed up at the Celtic Warrior Gym and took piss tests off me. And it was the same in Germany. It was all good.

Four weeks out from the Munguia fight, I started asking, ‘Am I going to get tested, here?’ Because if I wasn’t getting tested, I know he wasn’t getting tested. Every week I was asking that question.

“I reminded my trainer, Glenn, the day of the weigh-in. I’m like, ‘What’s the story here? This is crazy. I’ve not been drug-tested and neither has he.’

“Glenn brought it up at the fighter’s meeting [with commentators] and he said it to Gino, and Gino said, ‘Oh, I’ll go and make sure…’ And Gino walked away and never came back! That was it. That was the end of it. It’s all so dodgy.”

Says Keegan with a wry smile: “The answer from the WBO — the official answer — was that the drug tester didn’t show up. What?

“He had a flat tire!” Hogan laughs.

“But I knew at the weigh-in,” Keegan continues. “Munguia got up and stood beside Dennis, and he was fucked. I’ve never seen somebody so weight-drained.

“I said to Dennis: ‘He is delusional.’ He didn’t know where he was!”

D3-pIHaWsAYFV7a The fighters weigh-in in Monterrey. Source: World Boxing Organisation

Hogan chimes: “C’mere and I’ll tell you another funny one that happened on the stage after that. They told me, ‘You’re going to go face to face — nothing but your shorts!’ So I was taking off my chain and I was like, ‘What’s going on here?’ But what they were really trying to say was, ‘No shoes’.

“So, I went over to go face to face, but he went over to put on his shoes, and his fuckin’ soles were that thick!” Hogan laughs, extending his index finger and his thumb.

He’s towering over me. They were trying to get into my head but it gave me so much confidence. I was thinking, ‘If that’s what they’re trying to do, they’re in big trouble.’ I’m here with a solid gameplan, fit as a fiddle, ready to go, supreme belief. And they were worried about getting an extra inch on the soles of his feet for the weigh-in. I was like, ‘Ye’re fucked!’

With their WBO appeal having fallen on deaf ears and blind eyes, the plan for Hogan and team, now, is straightforward: bait Munguia back into the ring and beat him again once he’s in there.

The champion, however, has long been earmarked for a move up to middleweight where, prior to his bout with Hogan, he was being touted as a future opponent for superstar compatriot and Golden Boy stablemate Canelo Alvarez.

Munguia’s struggles on the scales as relayed by Keegan lend further credence to the notion that he will soon make the switch to 160 pounds. So too does his pre-Hogan recruitment of a nutritionist, specifically with post-weigh-in replenishment in mind. ‘What do you mean there’s no drug-testing’, indeed.

The ball remains in the champion’s court. His pride dented, he could seek vindication. Alternatively, he might not wish to risk potential middleweight megabucks — or his health — against a fighter in Hogan whom he knows deep down had his number when they met in Monterrey.

“I believe he does not want it at all,” Hogan says sternly.

I can’t see why he would want it, because I’m the sort of fighter who can change the gameplan up again, and I can do better with certain things that maybe didn’t work for me the first night despite the performance. I don’t think he can. I think he’s a one-trick pony.

“Yes, I would like him to stay there [at light-middle], but I don’t think he will.

“I said it from the start. A week out from the fight, I said to many media outlets: ‘After I beat him, they will have an excuse — that he’s not making weight well, and he’s going to move up.’

“Now that I actually beat him — apart from the decision, obviously — he’s not sticking around for a rematch. No way. We’re asking him to stick around but I can’t see it happening.

“But I’m not worried. Look, I’ve got a great mental approach where I do all I can, and then anything that’s out of my control is out of my control. I do believe there could be a massive silver lining to all of this.”

There may even be a golden lining.

Keegan made an impromptu trip from Dublin to Las Vegas just over a fortnight ago where his DDP company’s American advisor Peter Kahn had set up meetings with Munguia’s handlers, a rematch being top of the agenda.

Golden Boy’s head honchos were in the Sin City vicinity for Canelo’s middleweight unification clash with Danny Jacobs, and both CEO Oscar De La Hoya and president Eric Gomez expressed serious interest in staging a Munguia-Hogan sequel. Further word on that front is expected in the coming days.

D5lxVoaXsBEa-pM (2) Keegan and Kahn met with Oscar De La Hoya in Las Vegas.

Equally enticing, however, was a proposition from Golden Boy’s side which would see Hogan lace up for future contests under their promotional banner along with DDP’s.

And if you can’t beat ‘em, you might as well join ‘em.

This deal would potentially entail a September return for Hogan in the States, to whose boxing audience he introduced himself to significant acclaim last month. His second fight would be for a world title, likely either in a rematch against Munguia or for the belt the Mexican will leave behind him should he decide to move up in weight.

A partnership with De La Hoya’s promotional giants would open doors like never before, not only to major and lucrative fights but to American boxing fandom: Hogan’s genteel but powerful personality would surely cause people to gravitate towards him the way the Australian media have, the way Chris Mannix and DAZN’s viewers did, the way Ireland hasn’t had a chance to just yet.

“Dennis Hogan is definitely worthy of big fights in the US,” Eric Gomez recently told Ben Damon of Fox Australia. “He proved he belongs in the mix for word title-level fights. He’s exactly what we look for at Golden Boy Boxing.”

Hogan smiles: “Bigger things are happening for me. I’m taking some joy in that.

“That’s all I can do or say… For now.”

He and Munguia may have some business left to finish in the ring, but the dodgy fight that saw Dennis Hogan’s dream postponed might well lead to bigger business on either side of the ropes.

Gavan Casey, Murray Kinsella and Andy Dunne look at Ireland’s past in Super Rugby, the creative shift needed in Irish rugby and Peter O’Mahony tells us about his love of gardening..:


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