Denzel Whitley Carrying on the Family Boxing Tradition

Denzel “Double Impact” Whitley (7-0, 5 KOs) comes from a well-known New England fighting family. His father, Derrick, and uncle, Darren both started their professional careers in the mid-1990s, and now Denzel is doing his best to keep his family’s name alive and well in the sport, and thus far, the undefeated up-and-coming welterweight prospect is doing just that.

Photo by Emily Harney/Fightography

“I want to carry on my father and uncle’s name, so I use their nickname, “Double Impact” (since they are twins) and tattooed it on me,” said Denzel. “Using their nickname is my way of following in their footsteps, carrying on my family’s tradition of boxing, and keeping their name alive. I have pretty big shoes to fill but I think I am doing all right thus far.”

Derrick and Darren had 52 and 44 professional bouts, over thirteen and nine years, respectively. They each won the Massachusetts State title in 2001, in separate weight classes, Derrick in the super middleweight division and Darren in the super lightweight division. Denzel’s older brother, Derrick Jr. is a professional boxer (6-3-1) who fights in the same division as he does. His younger brother, Devin started his amateur career this year. He recently fought at the New England Golden Gloves and made it to the semifinals.

“My sons have always been around boxing, so I think it is a good thing that they are in this sport but it is not something that they had to do. They had a choice,” said Derrick. “I think it is only natural to follow in your families’ footsteps and want to be better and set higher goals than me.”

The twenty-three-year-old orthodox boxer, born and raised in Holyoke, Massachusetts has been extremely active, especially nowadays with Covid, as he prepares for his eighth fight in fifteen months. His promoter, Chris Traietti of Granite Chin Promotions has kept him busy by putting him on his local fight cards, four of which he has co-headlined.

“Chris is finding me a lot of fights and helping me gain ring exposure. He is doing his job by getting me fights and I am doing my part by winning and boxing anyone that he puts in front of me,” said Denzel, who is in year two of a three-year contract. “I do not turn down any fight. I do my job, I get the offer, I go to the gym, I stay busy, and I stay ready.”

Traietti, who is also a professional fighter (30-4, 24 KOs and winner of nine in a row) started his promotional company in 2011. Over the last decade, he has put on thirty fight cards and signed twenty fighters (including Denzel) to his roster, making Granite Chin Promotions one of the fastest-growing promotional companies in New England.

“Denzel is a great person, who has great parents who keep him in check. I have been tight with his parents and uncles for the last fifteen years. He is a hard-working kid who is very humble. I hope to work with him for many years to come,” said Traietti. “It is crazy, I have known Denzel since he was seven or eight years old and I have gotten to see him grow up. It is funny how it came full circle. Derrick trained me and now I am promoting his kid.”

Denzel’s next bout is this Saturday, February 26th against Alfred “Keenan” Raymond (1-0) in a scheduled six-rounder at the Sheraton Hotel in Framingham, Massachusetts. They both fought on the same undercard three months ago.

Raymond scored an upset four-round split decision victory over previously undefeated Julien Baptiste (3-1, 2 KOs), in his professional debut. Judge Eddie Scuncio scored it (39-37) for Baptiste, but he was overruled by judges, John Madfis and Martha Tremblay, who both had it (39-37) for Raymond. Raymond was the more aggressive boxer, who outworked and out-landed Baptiste for most of their bout.

“I have not seen much of him other than his first pro fight, which was before my fight and he looked good. I expect him to pop shots and move around and try to box me, but I will use my skills to adapt and do what I have to do to win,” said Denzel. “I will feel him out for a round or two and see how it goes and see what he has and then as the fight progresses, I will pick it up and bring the fight to him. I see myself winning this bout.”

Denzel defeated John Ferrara in his last outing via a six-round unanimous decision (59-55, 58-56, and 58-56) on the judges’ three scorecards. He took control of the fight from the third round on, as he aggressively pursued Ferrara around the ring and landed numerous hard combinations, which staggered Ferrara in the third, fifth, and sixth round.

“Denzel was great last year. He was super busy and he took it like a champ. We threw a lot at him. Where I was impressed with him was his last two fights because early on he was blasting out guys I knew he would but against DeWayne [Wisdom], even though he has a lousy record he does not get stopped a lot and Denzel knocked him out in the second round,” said Traietti. “Then in his last bout against Ferrara, yes he is now 0-2 but he was an open class amateur who won fights at the Golden Gloves and sparred with a lot of pro fighters and it was more of a test for him. The first two rounds Denzel had to do some figuring out and then once he did, he took over the fight and dominated the final four rounds of the fight, which shows his maturity for someone who will be fighting longer bouts.”

His professional career is off to an unbeaten start because he is a hard-hitting, aggressive, pressure-puncher, who does not back down from anyone, displays good ring generalship, excellent defense, and can adapt quickly in the ring. Denzel is also extremely dedicated and motivated to boxing, and he has an intense work ethic in which he is always willing to learn and get better each day.

“I told my kids that if they want to do boxing then they need to put 100 percent into it, otherwise if you do not, you can get hurt. You cannot half-ass things. You cannot think that if you have the talent that you do not have to train and run because boxing is 90 percent mental and if you do not properly train, you will fail. You need to focus on what you want and achieve it,” said Derrick. “Denzel has the desire to win. He is dedicated. Whatever I tell him to do, he does it. He is motivated and driven. He is one of the first ones in the gym and one of the last ones to leave.”

Derrick has trained Denzel throughout his boxing career at his gym, Whitley Brothers Boxing and Fitness in Holyoke, which he co-owns with his brother, Darren for close to thirty years. Denzel has been training non-stop since his last fight and while he and his father have an amicable relationship now that was not always the case.

“At first, it was difficult to be trained by my dad because any relationship with your family is going to be a bit difficult since they want the best for you and they are going to push you to the max because they know your skills and what you are capable and if you do not do it then they get mad at you while other people are congratulating you,” said Denzel. “We used to bump heads since I thought I knew everything, but now I realize that I do not know everything and that I have a lot of room to grow as a fighter, so I am always listening, my eyes and ears are open, and I am learning every day in the gym and not saying anything, just paying attention to my dad. It is not bad, I like it. We have a good connection. Look at where he has gotten me now.”

The other integral part of Denzel’s team consists of his co-trainer, Darren, and his uncle, Brent who is his strength and conditioning coach.

“In the beginning, it was kind of tough because of the father-son thing because as a father you want to be hard on them because you want them to do everything right but sometimes they have their own view on things,” said Derrick. “I have been in the game for many years and have a lot of experience to offer to them but sometimes they can be hard-headed and you tell them one thing and they take it in a different perspective and think I am being mean but this is my way of pushing them and getting them to be the best that they can be and be better than me.”

In addition to his father and two uncles, Derrick Jr., is another critical part of Denzel’s team. Derrick Jr. trains and spars with Denzel on a daily basis. Both brothers learn a great deal from each other since they are different types of fighters. As with all of his family members, Denzel has an extremely close bond with his brother.

“My brother is a more elusive fighter and more of a boxer, getting in and out than I am. Working with him has made me a much better fighter. I used to be a powerhouse brawler, but now I box a lot more thanks to him,” said Denzel. “It is also good for him to work with me because he throws more power punches now and he has better defense by getting away from my hard shots. I like working with him.”

Denzel has scored three knockout victories in his last four fights. He demonstrated his power in his last outing when he bloody Ferrara’s nose in the sixth round so badly that the bout was briefly stopped, so the ringside doctor could check it out (he allowed the fight to continue) and by the time the bout ended, there was a substantial amount of blood all over both fighters’ trunks, the ring canvas, and the ringside table where the judges and reporters sat.

“As a young fighter, I was looking for the knockouts but not now. My goal is to win. If it comes, it comes, but I am not looking for it,” said Denzel. “I will fight to the end if I have to. I always train for more rounds than I am fighting, but if I end the fight earlier, then who does not like a short night.”

Denzel has gained invaluable fighting experience by sparring with former NABF and NABO featherweight titleholder, Matt Remillard (27-1, 15 KOs), undefeated Sharad Collier (4-0-1, 3 KOs), Zack Ramsey (8-7, 4 KOs), among others.

“I have no complaints as to how my career has progressed thus far. I like the path that I am on. I am on a good pace. I fought seven times in a Covid year, where many boxers did not fight at all,” said Denzel. “I feel good that I am getting ring experience as a pro, my skills are getting better with each fight, and I am gaining more confidence in myself and believing in what I can do in the ring.”

Denzel started boxing later than most fighters since he did not have his first amateur bout until he was fifteen years old. He had approximately thirty to forty amateur bouts over five years, which culminated with him making it to the Western New England Golden Gloves semifinals three consecutive years (2017, 2018, and 2019). Most of his amateur bouts came against boxers who had two to three times as many fights as he had, like when he fought (and defeated) Brandon Idrago (5-1, 5 KOs, as a professional) who had a 120-8 amateur record coming into the bout, compared to Denzel’s twelve fights.

“He is where we want him. He just needs to keep doing what he is doing since he is undefeated,” said Derrick. “It will be more difficult as he moves up the rankings because there will be someone that wants it just as bad as he does, so he has to be on his A-game all the time. He cannot take any opponent lightly because styles are what makes fights, so you have to learn to adapt and adjust to your opponents.”

He has two bouts tentatively scheduled for June 25th and August 6th against opponents to be announced at a later date, according to Traietti.

“This upcoming fight for Denzel will be his last six-rounder. We will move him to eight-rounders for his next three fights and if everything goes well, maybe a ten-round bout at the end of the year. Next year, we hope to keep him busy fighting ten-rounders and then get him on network television against a fighter from Top Rank or PBC [Premier Boxing Champions] and see what kind of fighter he is,” said Traietti. “Denzel has great people around him, like his father and uncle who have a wealth of knowledge. He is getting better and they are pushing him because they know what it is like to compete at this level, so I have no doubt that they will have him ready when we increase his level of competition.”

For more information about Denzel and the latest updates on his career and upcoming bout(s), friend him on Facebook: denzelwhitley and add him on Instagram: whityourgirl and DenzelWhitley.

“I want the fans to keep watching me because it is only going to get better from here. I want bigger fights on a bigger stage, so I can showcase my skills and make a name for myself and get exposure for my brand,” said Denzel. “Over the next couple of years, I want to fight better competition and continue to win and by the end of this year, fight for a state or regional title, and keep rising as a star. Eventually, I want to work my way up the welterweight divisional rankings into the top 15, top 10.”