Mascalls Lane, Brentwood, Essex. A country mansion, Rolls Royce on the drive and a helipad out back. This was where the deals were made. The home of Matchroom Sport, this was where fighters made their fortune, signing contracts that took them to Madison Square Gardens, Vegas and Wembley.
In the garden, manicured grass and towering willows a 60 metre walk from the helicopter at the rear to two flights of centrepiece steps and a pebbled patio.
In the centre three ropes above his head, eyes shut, fists by his ears a Brixton boxer back at square one. For three years, Dillian Whyte had been the WBC’s number one ranked contender, a period in which he had beaten three top ten rivals. Dereck Chisora outgunned. Joseph Parker outfought. Oscar Rivas outlasted.
A world title shot was his by right, or as much as such things exist in boxing. Promotion politics, sexier fights, or perhaps more fittingly higher earning fights were there for the WBC. Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder and their tussle for the green and gold belt.
Whyte refused to wait, his consistent gambles earning him a whole host of fans, seeing a boxer with everything to lose put everything on the line. I was and still am one of them. Four headline shows in the O2, one drugs ban and a humiliating public statement from UK Anti-Doping exonerating him six months down the line.
A round too far
For four rounds he hurt Alexander Povetkin, crushing him with body blows and dropping him twice. The world title shot one concussive finish from finally appearing. And yet it never came, the left hook that ripped through his chin knocking him out cold. Doctors racing to the scene, their white masks radiant in a pitch black Essex night, his body adjacent to a label on the floor, Sky Sports Box Office.
A crippling shock but one that delivered the ultimate drama for behind closed doors boxing. The brainchild of Eddie Hearn paying off. The eerie silence, dark night and absent crowd bringing a brutal reality to a sport that thrives off it. Not for the first time, the drama was at Dillian Whyte’s expense.
Whyte has been here before but in far different circumstances. In December 2015 Whyte’s eyes rolled to the back of his head, left arm hugging a bouncing third rope. Anthony Joshua had won the grudge match, stopping Whyte in the seventh. Joshua would fight and win the IBF world title versus an underwhelming Charles Martin in his next bout, while Dillian Whyte was forced to take a few steps back.
Whyte returned six months later in a heavyweight contest against an Ivica Bacurin almost 44 pounds lighter. Impatient, gun slinging, Whyte was an angry man throwing punches in a contest few thought he could lose, looking like a fighter who knew he was now following a different trajectory. It took him six rounds that night in the O2, heavy shots connecting and missing the mark with a consistent regularity.
Of course this time is far different. A rebuild isn’t necessary, there’s a simple truth. Avenge August’s defeat and Whyte can get his title shot, despite the WBC’s contention that Povetkin is not in the mandatory position. Whyte’s body of work, his three-year position as WBC number one contender and his single blip avenged is a resumé Eddie Hearn has to push, and if he can be patient the title fight has to come.Embed from Getty Images
Far from a shot to nothing
Lose, well losing doesn’t bear thinking about. Whyte cannot afford to rebuild once more. 33 shortly after the fight his age isn’t a problem. It is the battles he has had. Twelve brutal rounds versus Rivas, Chisora, Parker, Helenius. Knocked down four times, two of these final. 160 rounds of professional boxing and an early career as a sparring partner for Wladimir Klitschko and Tyson Fury amongst others. At no stage so far has experience displayed its scars, his speed and power consistent and a maturity more and more evident in each bout. But one day it will and logic would dictate that cannot be too long.
In his corner, Xavier Miller and Harold Knight, the former having worked with the Whyte since 2019 and the latter a former co-trainer of Lennox Lewis. No Mark Tibbs, the successful partnership having separated prior to the defeat to Povetkin. A change of coach indeed but speculating about its effects is an irrelevance. Heavyweights carry power. Povetkin felt it throughout four wearing rounds, two times touching the canvas. Whyte felt it as the contest ended. Elite level boxing is full of fighters with a punch that can change a fight.
Yet as Whyte lines up on Saturday night, his future on the line, it is not a fight he is there to change markedly. More of the same, tighter and perhaps more respectful of the Russian’s power. It is minor adjustments which he seeks to implement. Changing the narrative instead is what Dillian Whyte searches for.
One opportunity to take things back into his hands, to right a wrong and leave his path one he is able to choose, rather than one dictated to him by other parties. What path that may be, whether he risks it all once more, well only time will tell. Whyte will hope to choose.
Featured image produced by Matchroom Boxing.
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