Dominic Akinlade

Reece Macmillan
What were you doing the night on Wednesday 20th April 2016?  Don’t worry, it’s not a police questioning session, but were you driving a bus while being the current Southern Area heavyweight champion while also being an authority on ancient archaeology and civilisation?  If the answer is no, don’t worry.  If the answer is yes, you are likely Dominic ‘Top Gun’ Akinlade.
The 35 year old from New Cross, London, is a rare breed of a man.  Eloquent, well studied and a self-confessed “geek” this all hides the fact that the man can fight.  In between the ropes he has been fast-tracked, six fights into his career with five wins and a draw he has picked up his first title despite only being professional for under three years and has been injured for half of that. This is all despite becoming a professional boxer at the relatively late age of 33.  So what was it that made Akinlade make the transition into professional boxing?

“There were so many things going on in my personal life that I couldn't find that focus on what I needed to do” reflects Akinlade.  “It was only when my daughter was born that I realised I needed to fix up.  I had 18 months out because I got an injury on my elbow and in that time it gave me an opportunity to reflect upon my life and my position.  Do I have the stomach for this, can I really do this?  I decided there's only one way to find out.  I trained really hard, got the weight down.  Instead of me bouncing around at nearly 20 stone I'm a nice and lean 17 stone now.  In that time as well I captured the Southern Area title which gives me an automatic top ten ranking.  Within six fights that not really too bad, it's a very good start.”

It is an understatement from the London heavyweight.  In his sixth fight he beat former Prizefighter contender Ali Adams over a ten rounds point decision to claim the vacant Southern Area title.  It was a fight Akinlade seemed in control of, he dropped his man in the first round and then Adam has two points deducted later on in the fight.  As a ringside observer during the fight it seemed that Akinlade was reluctant to go for the finish when the opportunity was possibly there to do so.  I ask him if that was how it felt in the ring.

“I had so many things on my mind in that fight.  The last fight I had that went to six rounds was Sokolowski and I remember I was ill for days after that fight.  Things were going through my mind; 'you almost died when you went six rounds and now you have to find an extra four rounds'.  But the need was great and it brought out the best in me.  I hadn't at that stage reached the point where I was fully confident in executing my victim.  You think of a lion catching a prey, giving it to the lion cub and they play around with it messing with the jugular.  That's how I was in that fight.  I came out of it a lot better and I intend to show what I learned from that fight in my next one.”

But it isn’t a negative reflection on his performance of the night.  As he says himself, Akinlade believes circumstances brought out the best potential from his opponent that night.  “I believe I got the best Ali Adams.  For as long as he's been a pro, I got the best one.  He was desperate, this was probably his last hurrah and his promoter got him a position to fight for the Southern Area title.  His father had also passed away a few years back and he was trying to honour his father's memory by winning the title.  I wasn't going to be denied that night and was able to overcome him.”

When you look through the start of Akinlade’s career it is clear that he has been looking for a challenge.  Most debutants in the sport will choose a wizened older opponent who has gone down the journeyman route.  That wasn’t the way though for Akinlade, who instead picked a far more difficult beginning.  He looks back upon those formative fights:

“I believe you're as good as your challenges.  The first opponent I fought was undefeated with two knockouts and I dispatched him in two rounds.  the second opponent was a little bit more of a journeyman and he was experienced.  I saw after I fought him he went against a German prospect and he went the distance.  The third fight I was into a six rounder after a long layout.  Within myself I know what I am capable of doing, it’s now executing that in a professional ring.  I've done alright, I haven't been given major exposure and my last couple of fights have gone the distance.  It's invaluable experience.  I'm not going to fool myself; there's no point going in with guys I'm going to bang over and that does nothing but soothe the ego.  People who are livewires and come with ambition to win will bring the best out of me.  I know when I reach 10 or 15 fights I'll have everything I need.”

The next task for Akinlade in the ring is to go and correct a previous wrong.  The sole blemish on his record is a draw with Kamil Sokolowski in what was only his third fight.  Since then the two have had differing fortunes; Akinlade going on a three fight winning streak while Sokolowski has picked up three losses.  So is Akinlade confident of coming out with the win this time? 

“Definitely.  This time it's only six rounds, I know I have four more rounds in me and I do six rounds of sparring anyway.  I'm very confident in this fight and I just want to go out and perform.   As well as it being a defence of my Southern Area title I hope it will cement my position within the top ten.  I'm hoping to move on from that point, take this fight first then see what happens after.”

Although there are only six fights on his professional résumé this is underpinned by an amateur background that allowed Akinlade exposure to the highest level of opposition.  “I had a very extensive amateur career, even though I only had about 19 fights.  It was the calibre of opponents that I fought and did very well against that was important” he tells me.  “I fought Ian Lewison, I fought Dereck Chisora, Anthony Joshua.  Wish Chisora I literally had him out on his feet in the second round with a left hook and I didn't capitalise.  It was so frustrating, I was dominating the guy and then I didn't finish it.  My mind wasn't there.  Everything happens for a reason.  I've sat back and watched him go on and have a full career, now he's coming to the twilight of his and mine's just beginning.  It's funny the way the world goes around.  I did very well against Anthony Joshua and only lost out on a majority decision to him.  I definitely have the experience, irrespective of what people say about age.  Age is nothing and I can testify to that.  I've always been very, very big through my amateur career and the start of my professional career, I was very, very heavy.  I didn't think I could change.  But when you have the determination and desperation enough to do something you can pull off some miracles.”

One of the names he has mentioned, Ian Lewison, is looking to make his own return to the ring after a stint away.  A former Southern Area champion himself and with the two having fought in the amateurs, is there any likelihood we will see them fight again?  “He's my brother, we've known each other all our lives.  We went to the same school, started boxing about the same time.  I wouldn't go in the ring against Ian.  We spar all the time anyway.  I won't fight him unless it's financially rewarding for both of us and we can move on from that point.  I'm not fighting a good friend for chump change, there's morals to this sport!”

So Lewison aside, how does Akinlade see the next 12 months panning out for his professional career?  “In an ideal world I'd like to defend this title probably once then see if I can get the English title or if the Gods open up maybe go for the British title.  I'd definitely be interested.  There's a lot of heavyweights out there like David Allen and Nick Webb trying to break through.  At the moment for the Southern Area title I probably have a red dot on my head but I don't see myself as the prey, I see myself as the hunter out there.  If any of these guys step to me for a challenge then there's no messing around, we can get it on.  The next year to 18 months, British heavyweight boxing will catch alight.  I'm just trying to get my name up into that mix, let everyone know there's a new gunslinger from East London!”

Outside of the ring Akinlade is far from the archetypal boxer.  He is a part time bus driver working nights.  I ask if there has ever been a passenger foolish enough to cause him trouble on the night bus?  “Never ever had any grief.  You don't even see me - where I put the seat really low people wouldn't see me.  It's only when I step out that people would realise I'm a big dude!" he laughs.  He admits it is hard to make ends meet while pursuing the professional boxing career.  However as he puts it, “The need is great and I will go for it”.  He is also a family man with a four year old daughter and has hobbies that you wouldn’t typically associate to a pugilist.  “I'm kind of a geek, I do a lot of reading.  I'm into ancient archaeology and ancient civilisations.  I like cooking too.  I enjoy myself when I can, I like to get to the Caribbean and top up my melanin when I can!  I'm a massive Star Wars fan, I don't care what anyone says!  I'm also an Arsenal fan, it goes with the name!  Top Gun, Gunners!”

They may be unusual hobbies to associate with a boxer but they are reflective of the man I have spoken to.  He is thought out, considered and friendly.  He will look to progress further on April 30th when he revisits old ground and looks to put it right with Sokolowski.  From there, the next 12 months are full of promise.