From Addiction, Panic Attacks, Anxiety Disorders To The Next World Champion
Balls.ie: Did you sit down on New Year’s Day and say ‘this is the year I become world champion?'
Hogan: No! No. I am. I am a world champion now.
Dennis Hogan is on a journey. There is nothing conventional about this Irish boxer’s rise to the top. At the time of writing, he is ranked fourth in the world WBO Light Middleweight rankings. His 22-year-long career has spanned multiple continents. He partied hard with the Irish, trained even harder with the Australians and pissed off the Americans. He is now one fight away from a World Title shot, and it all started with the flick of a switch.
I looked at myself in the mirror after I first got here. I knew about affirmations, I knew about visualisation. But I didn’t really back myself. When I started to back myself as an amateur, I started to see the results that it would bring. I got here anyway, and I was looking in the mirror. I was 84kg. I was overweight. Nearly too overweight to fight light heavyweight, because I’d done a bit of partying before I went pro and I was drinking a bit while I was here. I looked in the mirror in the bathroom and I said to myself ‘I am a World Champion’ and I’m just going to work towards it and do whatever it takes. That vision is in my mind every day, I see myself winning it again and again. I know how it feels, I know where it’s going to be. I hear the bell ringing, I’ve got it all in my mind and it makes me feel inspired, motivated.
The 32-year-old has a record of 26-1-1. His only fight last year was a comprehensive victory over Yuki Nonaka in October. Members of his gym were involved the nation’s biggest boxing event, the ‘Battle of Brisbane’, when Jeff Horn beat Manny Pacquiao in front of 51, 012 spectators. Michael Conlan fought on the undercard. For Hogan, that event was both a blessing and a curse.
I was mad to get in there. When Jeff fought in July, obviously I enjoyed the day and everything. Looking back, it was great to see someone you sparred with for years beat a legend like that. But overall, coming into it there was a shadow because I was boxing myself. Due to circumstance, which is now sorted, I was forced to be inactive. It was really frustrating at that point, but I took all that energy and I put it into improving. I came together with Glen Rushton, just before Christmas last year and we sat down and moved to a plan of what I need to improve on. I’m humble enough to the idea that I had a lot of work to do to get to where I want to be. I put the head down and in January, February, March and April, I was in the gym five or six hours a day. Just getting those things right and really just programming all those aspects in there.
— Dennis Hogan (@dennis_h_hogan) July 4, 2017
Scepticism around the positive thinking movement is nearly as widespread as the hollow clichés quoted under Instagram photos they inspire. Hogan’s take on personal development is strikingly different. He adopts a significantly more productive method: complete, analytical thinking. He is clear in his goals, but also in how to get there. It’s a methodical approach paired with constructive affirmation. It is aided by the guidance in his gym.
I laid it all out there and asked Glen what is it I need to do; let’s fix those mistakes and I’m willing to do whatever it is. It all just came perfectly after all that time, I started well, all the right things to do were programmed in and a little extra also! It came to a point where Glen said ‘I’ve seen everything in you now that I need to see for you to beat anyone. From this point onwards, you’re only closing on World Champions.’ That was nice to hear and then you see Jeff beat Manny Pacquiao under his guidance you're standing there going 'this is fucking exciting.' Then when that fight came around and the game plan was laid and all I had to do was put it into practice. I got into that ring last year confident, hungry, strong. I just let everything we’ve done in previous months just come out. I wasn’t even thinking in there, I was watching Nonaka, what he was doing, and all the rest was coming lovely.
After years toiling on the amateur circuit, the time came to for Dennis to pack his bags and leave the narrow confines of Kildare. Like many of the Irish emigrants at the time, Australia beckoned, and he settled there in 2011. This was not merely a professional move, it was a personal one too.
Look, the fights weren’t there anyway. That was off. Really, what it was about was my getting my head right. Prioritising what was important to me, giving up alcohol and partying. Once I get those three things together, this natural energy just came out of me. This focus and determination came out like never before.
His grandfather, Paddy Burke, founded and coached the Naas boxing club in the old army barracks for decades. Even now, his last words to his grandson are ringing in his ears.
It was the last words my grandfather ever told me. He was a boxing coach and he said, ‘give up the drink son and give it everything you’ve got.’ Those were his last ever words to me. After the draw, it really hit me and it was just a surreal experience. All those things together made me. If I could’ve done that in Ireland it would be the exact same thing, but I just don’t think I would do it as easy in Ireland as here, with the cultures and everything else.
My grandfathers 3rd anniversary, great man, my inspiration! pic.twitter.com/Rc3Ix07iQM
— Dennis Hogan (@dennis_h_hogan) June 30, 2014
Top ten boxers generally don’t fight each other. Nor do they accept fights on their opponent’s terms. Hogan elected to disregard both these conventions. In 2015 he did his first stint in America, to fight KO artist Tyrone Brunson. Initially, Hogan’s unapologetic style didn’t endear him to the natives.
Mate, those commentators in America were very biased against me! Ha, I’ll tell you why. We went to the ESPN pre-fight meeting, so they could get a bit of background. They said to me ‘Dennis, you’ve come to America because you know this is where the best boxers are’ and I was making weight and I was grumpy, but also honest. I said ‘no, I don’t believe this is where all the best boxers are from. I believe the best boxers are around the world, but I do know this is where you come for the best promotion. This is where the big money fights are.’ They instantly didn’t like me, from that second on.
Hogan went on to dominate and win the bout 8-2, despite the commentary team calling it 8-2 for Brunson. On his return to America, Hogan clarified his position and while continuing to speak openly. They became enamoured with his honesty.
They started to come around then, because they knew they looked stupid before. Everyone watching saw it, it was weird.
Realistic isn't an abjective you'd associate with a man who claims to the World Champion before he is, but Hogan fits that description. He knows what he's capable of and what he needs to do.
When I looked myself in the mirror that day when I said 'I am the World Champion' if I had fought the Light Heavyweight champ that day I'd have been smashed, but I was willing to work to get there. I feel it as if I am. Here’s a mindset trick for you, it took me ten years to win the All-Ireland Boxing Championship. I could beat Irish champs in tournaments and I'd be stopping lads in the Leinster's and Kildare's but my mindset, I used to fear the All-Ireland because I wanted it so much that there was emotion to it. Whatever would happen in the All-Ireland I'd end up losing by a couple of points or to someone I'd already beaten twice. I was told before to believe in yourself and to back yourself.
Dennis had the ability, and the training was done. It was merely a question of confidence to demonstrate it.
When the year came around 2008 I had enough, whatever came over that year I said, 'I am winning this. It is mine.' I felt it, I really felt it. And then I won the All-Ireland Intermediates.
An obsession with growth soon developed. Aspects previously ignored were embraced. Hogan became a compulsive learner, with a strict daily routine to support that. He reads voraciously. He attends and gives public speaking seminars, although is keen to avoid the 'motivational speaking' bracket. From his initial dabbling, the Irishman now pursues the practice of acquiring knowledge religiously.
That set me on a journey then, I started to really look at that and put it into place. Knowing that and combined from that point onwards I always want to do more research, read and google stuff. Look at YouTube videos, philosophers all that kind of thing. Over the past year I've done great personal development within seminars. I think today I’ve probably researched a good hour and a half of stuff already.
What was his most recent project?
I might have a thought during the day and I’ll research that. Before I had a thought about Barry McGuigan so I jumped on that, read his book and a couple of little things in there registered.
The plight of an ever-inquisitive mind reared its head again after initial success. Hogan began to wonder what his true motivation was, and it forced him to change tack once more.
I got a lot of sponsors on board in 2012, it was one of the worst things to happen to myself because I felt like I was doing it for the sponsors and not me. I was getting paid money, good money and doing it for the wrong reasons. I fell out of love with it. Training was a burden and honestly I was like that for a couple of years. last year I fell back in love with it, I gave it all away, let the sponsors who want to be there just be there. I started to make it about me again, now I'm singing, dancing and clipping my heels going off to training every day, I think that showed in my last performance.
He didn't just dance on the way to training.
The balance he constantly strove for is there now. Hogan recognizes his mental wellbeing as much as his physical. His family, partner Brideen and 15-week old daughter Aria, are crucial to that. "An extra spring when going training." There's an empirical hierarchy now.
First and foremost, I know what my values are. My values, I lead with my top values. My top values are boxing success, travel, and family. And then after that everything else is in order. I’ve taken the time to work it out and see what it is. When I have those three things first and foremost I live inspired and I'm truly happy.
On top of that I see it, it’s not just about me being the World Champion. I see myself as undisputed unified World Champion. If you could what I can see right now in front of me, I have myself superimposed with the IBF, WBC, WBO and WBA world titles just in the picture right in front of me. There's another picture with the WBO, I see myself as all those things.
Dennis Hogan is on a journey, during which he has overcome adversity. One that doesn't conclude with a world title but simply includes it. His development is not confined to boxing.
To come from where I've came from, I mean addiction, panic attacks, anxiety disorders all that kind stuff I had. People don’t even know about it, that’s how good I was at masking it. To come from all that to where I am now, I just want to pass on all those tools and make people realize they can change and be what they want to be. That, for me, makes me more inspired right now than being a World Champion. I believe I'll be champion anyway. I love to help people. I'll give away as much time as possible in these areas.
As for that World Title, 2018 is promising to be an exciting year. He's one fight away from a title shot and in negotiations to make it happen.
I’m really excited for anybody next and I’ve seen how well it works now. Having the confidence of seeing how it worked before adding on top of another couple of months training all that work, I’ll just be a different animal then.