By Oliver McManus
Derrick Osaze tweeted me the other week, I thought I had said something to upset him, with a very simple message – “when’s our interview?” and just like that the ball got rolling.
I spoke to him for an oddly precise 23 minutes and 23 seconds on Tuesday as he opened up about the reality of professional boxing, his faith and future ambitions. Discussing how he got started with boxing, Osaze was candid as he told me:
“I actually got into boxing to try and keep out of trouble. You see, I grew up in Peckham and I used to struggle with anger management and I wasn’t happy. I played loads of sports but my discipline wasn’t the greatest. I had always watched boxing and been interested so I thought it was one that could help build my anger management.
That was age 15 and it’s gone from a hobby to a passion and now it’s my lifestyle. I didn’t expect to be good and I didn’t think I was good for a long time, it started to click when I was enjoying it but when I stopped boxing for the first time, during my GCSEs, I noticed how much I loved it because I missed it massively.
As time went on I started to think, ‘oh actually I’m not bad’ but it was still only after the national titles that I thought about going pro.”
Growing up in Peckham has had a lasting impact on the mild-mannered man who speaks with great enthusiasm about his home town but as he talks he explains that it hasn’t always made it easy for him as a professional.
“Ticket sales are a part of the business that no boxer likes and ticket sales are quite hard, to be honest, from where I’m from it is not a normal expenditure – £35, £40, £60 to go watch some boxing – for people like us, ticket sales can be hard because it’s one thing to have support and another to expect them to dig into their pocket.
A lot of my friends and family could only name you Anthony Joshua, Floyd Mayweather and probably Tyson or Ali so ticket sales can be hard because they don’t really understand I need sales to get paid but I am grateful, I do a decent amount but it is hard, it is hard.
I’m on social media more than I’d like to be but I’d seen the interviews you’ve done with Ekow Essuman and Denzel Bentley and I liked your piece with John Harding so I thought, it’s my turn next and that’s all part of getting your name out there.”
The 24 year old, currently based in Nottingham, entered the professional code with high expectations of himself, as many do, but he was cautious not to rest on his laurels with regards the success that he had found in the amateur sport.
“I would say my amateur experience helped me in developing my style and helped with the mental side of the game, knowing what it feels like to be in the ring and the different tactics. Amateur boxing definitely helped me but it is completely different, it certainly helps but it doesn’t make it any easier because you still need to put in the work.
And of course there are big differences, obviously boxing is a business once you turn professional, you’ve got to get your name out there and be active on social media – everyone knows how it works for small hall fighters but that’s something you’re never exposed to as an amateur.
The amateurs have changed a lot over the few years, I had both the shot-scoring system and the 10-9 system and I boxed with head-guards and without so I feel as though it’s becoming more like an apprenticeship before you turn professional.
It used to be about scoring as many punches as possible as opposed to developing a patient game plan so I’m still learning and working my way through the styles.”
Expanding on the business side of things, Derrick was honest when he told me that it shocked him just how financial-pressured the sport was.
“What shocked me the most is how serious it was in terms of finances, I train twice a day so it’s not always possible to work part-time and I under-estimated how much it requires you to focus financially whether it’s gym fees, nutrition plans even the simple things like rent and bills, the whole financial side is something that is eye-opening when you get into it. It’s different when you look in from the outside”.
Fighting at super middleweight, DelBoy has been out six times over the course of 10 months and is ahead of his own personal target for development with him explaining, “it (six fights) is probably a bit more than I was hoping for, I wanted to stay busy and it’s keeping me on my toes. I wanted five by the end of 2018 and I suspect I’ll be getting to seven. I’m happy with that, I’ve exceeded my timing, and I don’t feel tired so I’m happy with the development.
I’m caught between a rock and a hard place because Saturday is my second six rounder and whilst I want those rounds for the experience I also love getting a knockout so I’m just going to go in there and see what’s what – I will be happy either way.
I’ve been really happy with my last two fights and how they’ve gone, I boxed in the away corner in my fourth fight against Liam Hunt and I was comfortable in that, I’ve grown into my strength so if I can box like my last two then I’ll be happy, regardless of how I get the win.
My last fight against Harry Matthews – he’s fought Cox and Eubank and he’s a former Central Area champion – so, yeah, just more of the same!”
There was talk of Osaze fighting for the Midlands title earlier in the year and Derrick believes he’ll be ready for titles at the beginning of next year.
“That’s the plan, the Midlands Area have already contacted my manager about that possibility and they nominated me for Top Prospect so whilst I’m keeping my feet firmly on the ground, it is still only my sixth fight on Saturday so I’m not going to rush, I’ll be patient and wait for my opportunities. Get a couple eight rounders in first, hopefully.”
By day Derrick is a minister which, let’s face it, isn’t the most obvious of paths for a professional boxer to take but he explained to me why he doesn’t think it is so bizarre.
“The two go hand in hand because if not for boxing my faith wouldn’t be as strong as it is and if not for my faith I would not have persevered with boxing when things got rough – they are two ends of the same pole and have a direct effect on each other. I think my faith and God play a crucial role in my career, I owe it to my faith in God.
It surprises a lot of people but I don’t see it as odd because, as I say, they are connected but boxing is my profession, I aim to be great at it, I don’t go there with an intention to hurt anyone but I go there to box well and me being a minister is just embracing my faith.”
I asked him if he thought his faith could be the difference-maker between himself and other fighters but The Punching Preacher played that down, instead saying that:
“I would like to say the difference is that I’m adaptive, you can’t describe my style because I can mix it up, it’s not defined, a lot of boxers have a strong faith but I think my will and desire runs deeper than many would think on first reflection. I will not walk away from boxing until I achieve my targets.
I’ll tell you this Oliver, there’s only one Derrick DelBoy Osaze and that’s what makes the difference, you’ll need to follow me to see what I can bring.”