Alex Dilmaghani has taken an unusual route in his boxing career, but he hopes his bold decision to move from the UK to Mexico and learn from the likes of Juan Manuel Márquez is about to pay off.
As a law graduate, Dilmaghani knows the value of a good education and believed spells based in Mexico in 2011, and from 2013 to 2016, to work with renowned trainer Ignacio “Nacho” Beristáin would be the best way to improve his boxing skills and knowledge.
Dilmaghani (19-1, 8 KOs), 28, from Surrey, England, sparred with the likes of four-weight world champion Márquez ahead of the Mexican’s third fight with Manny Pacquiao in 2011, as well as with Jhonny González, a two-weight world champion, Juan Carlos Salgado and Rey Vargas, the reigning WBC junior featherweight world champion.
Dilmaghani, whose late father was from Iran, faces Francisco Fonseca (25-2-1, 19 KOs), of Nicaragua, for the fringe IBO junior lightweight title at the York Hall, east London on Saturday after refining his boxing skills in Mexico and Canada in recent years.
“After I finished university, I decided to take boxing seriously and I always loved Mexican boxers. I loved their hunger and their fight culture,” Dilmaghani told ESPN.
“I impressed Nacho when I went out there, and he said he would get me fights and told me I could be a world champion.
“I went to Mexico for the experience, and was there for two or three years. I embraced the Mexican culture and I was like a sponge, I soaked up everything in the gym.
“Training in Mexico alongside all the great fighters, and with Nacho, showed me where I need to be.
“When I was sparring with Juan Manuel Márquez, he gave me some advice. I saw the way he trained, which was very efficiently, and I sparred with him for the Pacquiao fights. He had broken the jaw of a sparring partner and they were looking for another quick, southpaw sparring partner and I was in the gym.
“It was a mixture of emotions sparring Marquez: surreal, painful, and exciting. I was proud to be part of it all. Juan lost a majority decision to Pacquiao in their third fight but he knocked him out in their fourth fight the following year, and it’s good to know I sparred with Juan Manuel Marquez at his best.
“I’m back training in the UK now but I’m still in contact with Nacho.”
After eight pro fights in four years in the UK, Dilmaghani moved to Mexico City, and then on to Toronto. After five fights in Mexico, and seven in Canada, Dilmaghani is now based back in the UK where he has his second fight since returning this weekend.
Dilmaghani, who is now with English trainer Lee Wilkins in Crayford, is in action on UK free-to-air television on Saturday, with the plan being to gain more attention and improve his chances of big domestic fights against the likes of Josh Warrington, of Leeds, the IBF world featherweight champion, or former titlist Carl Frampton, of Northern Ireland.
“I will take what ever fight I can get at featherweight or junior lightweight, and at featherweight there are potentially some big fights for me in the UK,” Dilmaghani said.
At the time of sparring with Marquez, Dilmaghani was also studying for a law degree at Southampton University.
“I’m not the first boxer with a degree,” he added.
“Marquez was an accountant, and Juan Diaz had a degree and so did Nathan Cleverly. My mum instilled a great work ethic in me, and whether it was the degree or boxing I’ve always worked hard.
“For me, it’s not about money, it’s all about leaving a legacy.”