He has one of the better names in the sport, a pound for pound top twenty name:
It suggests that he is someone, a bold face name, doesn’t it?
Well, he sort of is, but let’s be honest, he’s still in the building stage, and not yet being looked at by expectant fans as someone who’ll definitely be in the heavyweight mix, let alone owning the division, in five years.
But Darmani Rock, it seems, is OK with being 10-0, and taking the pro game in increments, stepping up gradually, understanding that he is 21, and has much left to learn.
We chatted as he counted down to a March 30 scrap against Ronny Hale, at the Fillmore, in Philly, his stomping grounds.
I started out with the most obvious and inane question. How is camp? “It’s the hard, boring part,” Rock said. “The fight is the fun part.”
The Philly guy debuted in May 2016; I asked him to turn back the clock, and recall that experience.
“I was a little nervous, good nervous, not scared or nothing..the bell rings and it’s on!” 1-3 Carlos Black was the TKO victim for Rock, fighting under the Roc Nation umbrella. “Now, I’m working my way up the ladder. Everything is a learning experience.”
And, is he a skills pay the bills type or is he looking to kick ass? Kicking, it appears. Rock: “Is this Pope Catholic?”
Rock told me that things are clicking, he knows he’s growing as a professional.
“Things are different, I’m more in shape, I’m takin it more serious. When did that kick in? No one fight that made me change to a different gear. This all I know, if I don’t box I don’t know what I’d do. I never had a job. I can’t listen to anyone who has a job!”
And, what about this Hale? “He’s 4-11, I just know he throws a lot of overhands. My style? Entertainer, people need to come see me fight. Will I stop the guy? I don’t go in there looking, but I do apply pressure.”
To this point, his fight versus Mike Kyle on a September 2016 California Andre Ward under-card probably taught him more than any other outing. “It was a tough fight, I learned I had to get in better shape, he was ex UFC, in shape and strong. I started running more, running harder, stepping it up harder, get that heart rate up.”
His trainer is his dad, Wayne. “He’s my best friend. It’s more than him just being my trainer, I trust my dad. You get some trainers there for the money and don’t care if you get hurt, they get a check. He’s not gonna let me get hurt, and it’s not all about money.”
The 6-5 Rock doesn’t want to adhere to a time frame, put pressure on himself to get to a certain spot by a certain time. He’s confident, he says, but not cocky, he knows he has material to learn.
Beyond winning, he did want to note he’s all about “Free Meek Mill.”
“He gotta come home,” the fighter said of the rapper who’d gotten into hot water with cops when he was 18. He got probation for having a firearm, and violated terms, spending time locked up, then, in 2014. He’s bounced in and out of lockup, and the fellow Roc Nation performer is right now behind bars. His case is the subject of debate with even some authorities feeling the sentencing was too heavy handed.
But Meek Mill aside, Rock knew beating a 4-11 guy needed to be accomplished.
Mission accomplished. Down went Hale, in round two, on a card topped by Malik Hawkins v Raymond Serrano.
“It felt really good, especially in front of my hometown so that made it special,” said Rock, who was 260. “I was most proud of one body shot from my left hand that really hurt him. I never knew that my left hand had that type of strength because that was my first time throwing a left to the body. Thankfully, it was a strong and effective left and I was proud of myself for that.” Hale scaled in at 280 for the tango.
“I just had to figure [Ronny Hale] out. I saw in the first round that my first body shot hurt him, so in the second round, I changed my game plan and went straight down to his body. The body shots did the job.”