BBN paid a visit to Carl Froch country to meet with another warrior in 32-year-old middleweight boxer, Dean Gillen.
The firefighter is brand new to the pro game after experiencing success in a worldwide boxing event for the emergency services. His pro bow in May proved to be a brutal induction into the paid ranks with a hard fought scrap in the middle of the ring against fellow debutant, Shaun White. The family man from Arnold, managed by Carl Greaves, came through the war with his first win and is now looking to get straight back in the ring for more. BBN threw 12 rounds of questions at the firefighter, pro boxer and dad of three and here’s what he had to say…
How did you first get into boxing? “I've always liked boxing and I started boxing as I really wanted to compete in the World Police and Firefighter Games which is bi-annual event and is like the Olympic Games for the emergency services.”
Who was your boxing hero growing up? “Growing up, I loved Frank Bruno, he was a big guy but really friendly with it which was appealing as a kid. More recently, and being from Nottingham, Carl Froch has been a big influence. He's only a few years older than myself, and has had a great career. Other than his boxing ability, his success is also due to his commitment to clean living and maintaining a good weight in between fights. This is something that I recognise as being important and have adopted myself which is why I've been able to gain my professional licence at the ripe old age of 32, as I adopt the same principles by living clean and never go more than 6/8lbs above fight weight.”
Talk us through your boxing background and achievements? “I have a limited amateur background, having only really competed in the World Police and Firefighter Games at amateur level where I won Gold during the 2013 games that were held in Belfast. I saw off a Dutch, Spaniard and Canadian opponent to win Gold, there was no way I was letting them beat me on British soil!”
We understand that you have had success in other sports, can you tell us more about that? “I consider myself a ‘jack of all and master of none’ type of person, as I really like to experience new things and as I possess a ‘give it a go’ mentality. I have competed in Triathlons, which if I focussed on, I believe I could be quite good at. I have also completed an Ultra Marathon of 40 miles, having only trained for a couple of months. Another passion of mine is poker, which I managed to become semi-professional at after gaining sponsorship to play online.”
Tell us about your team? “I am lucky enough to be part of a great team at Carl Greaves Promotions. Carl Greaves and Andrew Lowe are great trainers and I'm learning and improving all the time. I have some great talent around me that I train with such as former Midlands Area champion and current Area title contender, Amir Unsworth, current Masters champions Jamie Williams and Adam Kettleborough and the big punching Dec Spelman, just to name a few. I've been very fortunate having Carl Greaves sign me to such a great stable, I just hope I can repay him by working hard and hopefully having some success of my own.”
You came through your pro bow with hard-fought battle with fellow debutant, Shaun White, tell us about that special night and the feelings that you felt? “Firstly, the question states it - and I agree! My debut was a hard fought battle that I was fortunate to come out winning. It was scored 39-37 in my favour but it was a closer fight than the score suggests. It was scored in my favour due to my shots landing cleaner, other than that it was such a close fight! I wasn't 100% fit for this fight, which made me quite nervous going into it. Shaun White is a personal trainer and is a seriously fit man. To have gone toe-to-toe with him for the whole four rounds and come out victorious, even though I wasn't 100% fit, is something I'm proud of. I could and should have made it easier for myself by using my reach advantage but the moment got the better of me, this didn't do me any harm though as it was definitely a fight the spectators enjoyed!”
How is the support that you receive in fights? “The support for my debut was great, as I’ve already said I wasn't fully fit and to be honest I struggled at times, but the crowds chants of ‘Deano Deano’ really lifted me and pushed me on to victory! I would like to thank everyone who bought tickets to come and support me, I know the value of money and I'm genuinely so thankful. My employer, Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service have also been very supportive and I will always try to repay this and will endeavour to give back. While visiting schools to deliver fire safety talks I can also encourage sport and exercise which will only help with children and young people's confidence, discipline and overall health and well-being, making Nottingham's future generation look brighter. The support from my sponsors, American Fire Apparel, The Town House Bar and Kitchen in Arnold, Nottingham, and Jacks of London Barbers in Nottingham has also meant so much, they have put their faith in me prior to me having any success which means the world to me, and I thank them so much!”
You’ve experienced two training camps in the professional scene now, are you noticing any differences with each new camp? “There's only one difference really between each camp - they only get tougher! I train with a great team, we all push each other and get the best out of each other!”
Will you be challenging for titles this year and what do you hope to achieve in boxing? “As I’ve already said, I possess a ‘give it a go’ attitude and if I got offered a title shot of any description I would jump at it! I'm sure my manager would say, "Take each fight as it comes and focus on winning", which is great advice that the sensible, logical side of me completely agrees with. However, I have another more spiritually intuitive side that genuinely believes I can achieve beyond my experience or ability suggests. I realise I'm not an overly experienced or polished boxer, but I have a big heart and will to win, which I think will serve me well. Do I think I will win anything or achieve anything in boxing? I honestly don't know, one thing’s for sure, it will be one hell of a ride finding out!”
You are in a red-hot division being a middleweight where the likes of Billy Joe Saunders, Chris Eubank Jr., Martin Murray, Matt Macklin, and the newly-crowned British champion, Nicky Blackwell currently occupy the top slots, can you see yourself mixing it with the likes of those one day? “I'm very aware of how hot the middleweight division is, however as a firefighter I fight fires that are a natural phenomenon. These guys, however good, and I totally respect all of them (especially Billy Joe who I'm a big fan of) are all human and have two fists the same as I do. I am a boxer and a fighter at heart so yes, of course I am tough enough to mix it with them, but I'm not completely stupid and realise I need to improve by 1000% to even contemplate competing with them at the top level. Having said that, if you offered me a fight with any of them I would take it in a heartbeat! Here's a glimpse of Deano's mindset for you - if you offered a Sunday football team a chance to play Barcelona would they take it? Of course they would! It would be an honour - and it's no different for me, except a ball hitting the back of the net wouldn't hurt like being punched in the face does!”
Your professions as a firefighter and pro boxer are both dangerous and risky, but is there anything that you are afraid of? “I chuckle to myself at this question, as my close friends and family know what I have a completely illogical fear of, that stems from childhood, which I will keep to myself for the time being! I am very lucky and proud to be a firefighter and professional boxer. I have met some great friends and very talented people in both professions. The UK Fire and Rescue Service is full of remarkable and talented people that serve the public, and I am very fortunate to work alongside them. Yes, both professions have risks, but I choose to do them to try and provide a good quality of life for my family and hopefully it's something they can be proud of too.”
Any message for the fans? “Without people's support I certainly wouldn't have won my debut so I'd just like thank everyone who came to support me and also everyone who supports me by following my progress on Facebook, Twitter or Kicca. All the supportive comments I receive really spur me on, so please keep them coming, even though I'm busy, I do my best to respond! Hopefully I can keep winning in entertaining fights that capture people’s imaginations, and encourage them chase after their goals and dreams without fear! One thing I certainly don't fear is people's negative thoughts, I encourage others to do the same, just live your life and do your thing! Please jump on board the Team Deano fun bus, as I stated previously it will be one hell of a ride, and it's already started with one emotionally charged debut.
I'd also like to thanks my current sponsors Jacks of London American Fire Apparel and The Townhouse Bar & Kitchen for their continual support. Please visit my website TeamDeano.com for more information.”