Dave Allen needs you to love him - but now is his chance to be more than a likeable loser

Dave Allen during his public workout in London ahead of his fight with Lucas Browne - Getty Images Europe
Dave Allen during his public workout in London ahead of his fight with Lucas Browne - Getty Images Europe

From wearing shiny gold briefs to a weigh-in, to a very public visit to Babestation and drinking Diet Coke in between rounds, Dave Allen is not your average heavyweight boxer.

The ‘Doncaster De La Hoya’ - one of his many nicknames ('White Rhino' is another) - is one of the most-loved men in British boxing, with a back-story every bit as colourful as his monikers. It is one of the reasons why his headline debut at the O2 Arena on Saturday, when he fights former WBA World heavyweight champion Lucas Browne, will draw a crowd out of step with his record in the ring.

Yet what truly distinguishes him from the crowd is his honesty, which can verge on the brutal.

“People look at professional boxers and think of Mike Tyson back in 1987, going around looking mean and moody. I’m probably the least intimidating man in the world,” Allen tells The Telegraph.

“I’m quite geeky, I like Pokémon, I don’t really leave the house very much. In my spare time I watch videos of wrestling from 1998-2001. That’s what I like to do. That along with my Pokémon cards and my Gameboy. That’s what I am. I have no fear of telling people what I am and what I’m not.”

Dave Allen, Lucas Browne & Dereck Chisora Public Work-Outs - Credit: Action Images
Allen squares off with his opponent, Browne Credit: Action Images

Allen's attitude is reflected in his career. He has taken fights against elite operators in Dillian Whyte, Luis Ortiz and Tony Yoka, all on short notice with little chance of any success. He was considering retirement when Eddie Hearn offered him a fight against fellow Brit Nick Webb in July 2018, also at the O2. It appeared to be a hiding to nothing, until Allen landed a spectacular knockout on his opponent to lift the roof off the stadium.

Allen's honesty extends to life away from the ring. most notably the gambling and depression which have blighted him throughout his adult life.

“Before July 2016 when I boxed Dillian Whyte I couldn’t afford to eat, I couldn’t afford to do anything,” he recalls. “2015 was one of the lowest points of my life. My gambling addiction got really on top of me, it was terrible. And I wasn’t making money through boxing. I’d only had four or five fights out of 11 that I’d even been paid for.

“Most boxers say they’d be dead or in jail without the sport. For me, I think I’d be doing 40 hours a week in a warehouse somewhere, miserable, with about six kids by four different women. And through that maybe I'd be dead as well.”

Allen’s battle with mental health is ongoing. As recently as February he took to Twitter to reassure people he was “healthy and well after a testing few days”.

Dave Allen, Lucas Browne & Dereck Chisora Public Work-Outs - Old Spitalfields Market, London, Britain - Credit: Action Images
Allen training in the ring Credit: Action Images

“There used to be a stigma around mental health in sports. We are becoming better and more open, but there’s still a long way to go.

“The human brain is a very funny thing. I’m very much like a woman with a menstrual cycle. Three weeks off and then four or five days on. That’s very much like my brain. My body and brain have their little moment and then I’m OK again for three or four weeks.

“Things now and again do get tough for no apparent reason, that’s just because my brain will say it’s coming. But I’m not ashamed now to tell everyone else what I am. I’m in the best place I’ve been in for a long time because I know I’m only three or four days from being back to normality.”

Allen believes structure and routine are key to avoiding slipping back into depression but does not profess to be a changed man. He is open to the fact that “once a gambler you’re always a gambler.”

But what the sport of boxing has given Allen cannot be underestimated.  “All I’ve wanted since I was a little kid was to be liked and loved by everybody. Through boxing I’ve gained the love of thousands and thousands of strangers, some of which have become friends.

Dave Allen, Lucas Browne & Dereck Chisora Public Work-Outs - Credit: Action Images
Allen and Browne were in good spirits at their public workout Credit: Action Images

“So, I could win a world title but that night in Newcastle when everyone is singing “there’s only one Dave Allen” and that night at the O2 when I beat Nick Webb, the joy I’ve created through being myself and the love that’s been given to me means more to me than any money or belt I could ever win.”

Allen is also very open about the tumultuous relationship he has with his dad, who was also a pro boxer, admitting he has not spoken to him for five months.

“We have a lot of the same tendencies and problems. Where I’m at right now I don’t need him to like me, he’ll always love me because he’s my father, but he doesn’t need to like me. The fact that I want him to respect me as a man and as a fighter is always there.

“Even now, when I go and fight Lucas Browne one of the thoughts in my mind will be ‘let’s go and make my Dad proud’.”

The dreams for Allen are to fill the ground of his home football club Doncaster Rovers, the Keepmoat Stadium, and to fight in the US.

In order to do that he has to beat Browne to set up a probable clash with Dereck Chisora in the summer.

“When the Lucas Browne fight got announced I said ‘This is it, let’s put it all in’. If I beat Lucas Browne I can possibly go on to never work again. If I don’t, then I know where I’m at, what level I’m at, and I learn to live with it. So, I’ve put everything into it.

“If I win those two fights I’ll have to be an exceptional fighter. Am I an exceptional fighter? All known evidence points to no. But stranger things have happened.”

Allen is determined to not be condemned to life as a likeable loser. On Saturday, he has his chance.

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