Muhammad Ali once said, “Champions aren't made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them-a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill, and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.” Local pugilist Dennis Knifechief is a champion in and out of the ring.

Muhammad Ali once said, “Champions aren't made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them-a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill, and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.” Local pugilist Dennis Knifechief is a champion in and out of the ring.

As of late, Knifechief has been on a rollercoaster of emotion. After overcoming some setbacks, he is no longer under any fight restrictions. He won the vacant Oklahoma State junior middleweight title against Juan Parra in May but was stripped of the belt after he failed to make weight for his fight versus Edwin Williams in October.

“I stopped going to my meetings and sort of fell into the same thought process I had before,” Knifechief said. “Two months after I graduated drug court, one thing led to another and I relapsed. I started going back to my meetings again and let my friends and followers know that I messed up. I felt like I was being dishonest, so it was good to get those demons off my back. Also, food is pretty comforting when you're depressed, so I ate too much. The following week I had my first title defense against Williams. Even though I lost the title on the scale, I had to pick myself up and rely on God and go in there and get the victory.”

Through all the trials and tribulations, Knifechief has remained strong in his faith. 'Empowered by God' is displayed on the back of his shirt every time he walks to the ring.

“My faith is everything,” Knifechief said. “It's not easy to not be the old person I used to be. I have to be a warrior and stay strong for my family and continue to give the glory to God. I'm nothing without him and I want to do the necessary things on a daily basis to make that happen.”

In his most recent fight versus Maurice Williams, Knifechief overcame adversity to recapture the state title.

He was knocked down in the third round, and bounced back to stop Williams via technical knockout at 1:03 in the fifth round.

“He stepped on my foot and I lost balance, but he did throw a punch so I understand the knockdown,” Knifechief said. “I just had to recoup and it kind of gave me the extra edge to take over that fight.”

Knifechief said he remained calm and collected after the knockdown, something he hadn't done in previous fights. He gave credit to his coach, Vincent Cato, and the experience gained in previous fights for putting him in the right position.

“He was gassing out so I started picking him apart,” Knifechief said. “I switched to southpaw and that was really working for me. We used to spar… he hurt me before and I hurt him. In this fight, I hurt him with the same exact combo I hurt him with in sparring. There are a few things I would've done differently, but I'm just happy we got the victory.”

With fights getting more difficult now that he's the state champ, Knifechief said he has to remain focused while finishing his degree at Seminole State College, working at Red Lobster and keeping up with his training.

“I want to stay disciplined throughout these holidays and keep moving forward,” Knifechief said. “I have several speaking engagements to speak to the youth and give back as much as I can. In order to stay focused I have to give back as much as possible.”

Ring announcer Gerald Whalen said he was impressed with Knifechief's performance Saturday at Remington Park.

“Maurice Williams is no joke, he's an absolute headache for anyone who gets in the ring with him,” Whalen said. “Dennis weathered the early storm, and not only did he box, he came out slugging in a way that I haven't seen in quite a few fights of his. It was an amazing fight to watch live. My hat goes off to both of these gentlemen.”

Riding a three-fight win streak, Knifechief, who carries a record of 7-5-1, with two knockouts, wants to carry the momentum into 2017.

“My goal for the next three months is to get stronger and get more sculpted,” Knifechief said. “For a few weeks, I'm going to give my joints a break. My goal is to keep fighting better fighters and be the best me I can be.”