From the archives: Dillian Whyte interview

Paul Zanon
17/07/2019 6:28pm

Photo: James Chance/Getty Images

Just over a year ago, Dillian Whyte was preparing for a showdown with Joseph Parker. As Whyte prepares to face Oscar Rivas this weekend, it's an apt time to revisit Paul Zanon's insightful interview with the Brixton heavyweight...

The lead time to heavyweight contests, certainly at world level, can often be long and tortuous. Not this time. The announcement was made at the Dorchester Hotel in Central London on 7 June that Dillian Whyte would be fighting Joseph Parker just over seven weeks later, on 28 July, at the O2 Arena in London.

Speaking to Boxing Monthly, Whyte reflected on the speed of the matchmaking and choice of opponent. “It happened really fast. Literally, it was organised in about two days. Parker wasn’t on the radar. We wasn’t even looking at him. We thought, ‘OK, he’s just lost. Maybe he’ll have one more fight and then go for someone [highly ranked].’

"But he said to his team that he wanted to go straight in at the top level again. He must have seen something about me and thought, ‘I can beat this guy,’ and decided to take the fight. I’ve got respect for him, because there was no messing about. That’s good. That’s what heavyweight boxing is missing nowadays – that level of top contenders willing to go into battle.”

“Belts and world titles are good, but some fights don’t need titles. Some fights are career progression fights and this is one of them,” continued the Jamaica born heavyweight. “In the early days, everyone would fight everyone. Look at when George Foreman fought Ron Lyle [‘Big George’ winning by TKO5 for the vacant NABF heavyweight title at Caesars Palace in 1976].

"There was no title on the line and that was a hell of a fight. That’s what I want to be in, great fights. I can’t just sit around waiting for world titles. I need to be active, but in the right fights. I don’t want to fight nobodys and journeymen, where there’s a good chance I’ll win the fight before I step in the ring. The fans don’t want to see that. They know what level I’m at.”

Both fighters possess very similar records and knockout ratios except for two key differences. The New Zealander of Samoan origin held a version (WBO) of the world title jigsaw and lasted the distance against Anthony Joshua (Whyte suffering his only defeat with a TKO7 stoppage in his December 2015 clash at the O2, London against the Watford WBA Super, IBF, WBO and IBO champion).

However, the Brixton favourite was not overly impressed with Parker’s most recent foray, “He’s got good hand speed, but I think he’s a little bit gun shy. He plays it a little bit safe at times. He was in the biggest fight of his career [against Joshua]. The fight where he should have been taking some chances. I felt he didn’t really show that ambition and drive to take the titles from Joshua.”

‘The Body Snatcher’, who is on a seven-fight winning streak, is in no mood for taking prisoners come fight night. “I’m always looking for the knockout, but if he brings the same ambition as for the Joshua fight and comes to move around and box, I might have to dance with him for a few rounds.

"But I’ll still be looking to put him away. It would be a good statement to the other heavyweights. I think the loss is going to motivate him because he probably felt that he let himself down and needs to prove himself now and show his true potential. It will motivate him to go that little bit harder and go that extra mile, I reckon. He probably thinks, ‘I just lost to one of the best fighters in the world, so I’ve got nothing to fear’. That’s what’s probably spurred him on to fight me. To prove it to himself and beat me. We’ll see about that.”

Parker’s ranking has dropped with all the governing bodies since the loss to the London 2012 gold medallist, whereas the Brixton man’s stock has risen – he is the number one challenger to Deontay Wilder’s WBC throne – following his explosive sixth round stoppage over former WBA champion, Lucas Browne. This however isn’t the focus for the 30-year-old warrior. “Deontay Wilder is the more beatable fight, but he’s not my priority. I want to fight AJ. If we fight another 10 times, there’s a good chance it’s going to be a war. A proper scrap.”

Whyte isn’t the only one gunning for the Watford colossus. The 9 June marked the comeback of one Tyson Fury, albeit against a ‘blown up’ cruiserweight in Sefer Seferi. “You know what. That fight is what it is,” said Whyte matter of factly. “Tyson looked terrible in there for the first three rounds, but he knows that himself. Then he started to find his feet again and sharpened up a bit. He’s not ready for those big fights yet. He’s way off from fighting top contenders. He’s done the right thing starting at this level.”

Whyte, a former sparring partner of Fury’s, explained that he could be in the mix for a showdown with the Manchester giant. “We offered them the fight for September, but they want more learning fights, which I understand. At the end of the day, they don’t want to take any risky fights too soon and I’m risky for any heavyweight. He’s been off for a while and it’s going to take him a while to get back to where he was. But in three or four fights time, if he thinks he’s ready enough and wants to have a fight with me, then I’m ready. In the meantime, I’ve got bigger fish to chase, like Parker, Wilder, Joshua and Povetkin.”

With Parker on his immediate menu, Whyte served a warning shot to the former WBO king. “Train hard, prepare yourself properly and be ready. You’ve had your time, won a world title, then handed it on a plate to Joshua in Cardiff. Now it’s my time to get a shot at the title.”