Every sport needs characters. The ones in which an affection, an empathy, a desire to see succeed all resonate within you, despite understanding and appreciating their fundamental weaknesses.
We do this best in the UK. The plight of the “plucky underdog” is a tale told over and over again, across a spectrum of sport, society and life.
Doncaster’s Dave Allen underpins these values. Since breaking into the public eye a few years back, the 26-year-old heavyweight has taken to the hearts of the British boxing public, with his heartfelt interviews and gutsy, yet limited, in-ring performances allowing us to connect to the fighter on a multitude of levels.
The White Rhino, Papi-pay-per-view or the Doncaster De La Hoya; however Allen refers to himself on fight night, the Commonwealth title contender continues to draw in big crowds and big numbers, with Matchroom’s Eddie Hearn sticking to his guns in backing his progression. He’ll fight again this April - probably on the April 13. pay-per-view show - against former WBA titlist Lucas Browne.
In a quite remarkable run of fights, Allen can lay claim to being a part of six pay-per-view fights in the UK, fighting on the undercards of the likes of Tony Bellew, David Haye, Oleksandr Usyk, Kell Brook, Errol Spence and Anthony Joshua.
Before his ‘0’ was taken in 2016 to Dillian Whyte, Allen had a good run of domestic wins, however, his brave losses have provided the profile that he now enjoys amongst the British boxing public. Along with Whyte, he’s fallen to Lenroy Thomas, Luis Ortiz and Tony Yoka; with a rematch against Thomas for the Commonwealth title ending in a draw due to a horrible cut to Allen in the opening round.
Since his loss in Paris - to the now-banned from boxing in France for one year, Tony Yoka - Allen secured a highlight reel KO of domestic rival Nick Webb, along with two tune-up wins over Samir Nebo and Ariel Bracamonte, with thoughts turning to securing a title shot in 2019.
The biggest talking point surrounding the career of Dave Allen thus far is his commitment to the sport. Taking punishment in his losses to big-punching heavyweights, the 26-year-old has expressed his struggles with motivation in training camps, as well as alluding to mental health issues that have hampered his progression.
Having a period of time training with the highly-regarded Adam Booth led Allen’s fan base to believe he was taking steps in the right direction. This partnership, however, broke down, with Allen feeling better suited to his long-standing training setup.
It’s become clear that Allen doesn’t turn down opportunities. He’s willing to fight anyone, at any time; this is where concerns creep into the mindset of the fans that have followed Allen’s journey the past couple of years.
Under Hearn, Allen has been able to churn out these fights, whilst simultaneously acting as a buffer for shows that otherwise would fall flat. If Matchroom’s undercard looks a little suspect, an Allen-injection will immediately boost numbers; Hearn and Allen both understand their relationship.
Despite the fight not being for a title that he craves, a fight against Lucas Browne - still reeling from a brutal KO at the hands of Dillian Whyte last year - is a step in the right direction for Allen. Browne will return to the UK with a heightened profile and could use a potential win over Allen to catapult his name back into the heavyweight discussion - realistically amongst the C-level guys.
Allen knows his limitations and his ceiling in the sport, however, it won’t stop the following he’ll receive from the British boxing public. For every Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury, you need a Dave Allen: the plucky underdog. As long as he remains safe in the sport, we’ll enjoy the ride with him.