No title necessary: Whyte vs Parker preview

Graham Houston
27/07/2018 7:41pm

In a risky fight for both men, Dillian Whyte and Joseph Parker deserve credit for making it happen. Graham Houston weighs up the factors that could decide the outcome of Saturday night's clash at the O2...

Dillian Whyte makes it very clear that the fight he wants more than any other is a rematch against Anthony Joshua. So, the Brixton, south London heavyweight is going about things the old-school way by actually earning what would be by far the biggest purse of his career.

Standing in Whyte’s way is the formidable Joseph Parker, the New Zealand heavyweight who stayed in there with Joshua for the full 12 rounds in March. If Whyte can get past Parker, and do so impressively, who could deny him his big opportunity?

The scheduled 12-round fight, a Matchroom PPV event at London’s O2 Arena on 28 July, is evenly balanced. You could say the fight has been made for Whyte to win, as they say in the trade, but things don’t always work out that way.

If you believe in the so-called form line, Parker should have the edge. He went the full 12 rounds with Joshua, whereas AJ stopped Whyte in the seventh round. However, Joshua vs Whyte took place some two and a half years ago. Whyte has obviously improved and matured. Also, Whyte did something that Parker couldn’t do by wobbling Joshua.

It is to Whyte’s credit that he is taking this fight rather than sitting back and biding his time. The Parker camp deserves some kudos, too. They could have been forgiven for taking an easier fight or two, to ease Parker back into things. But, no, they are rolling the dice, returning to the UK for a fight that could certainly be described as risky for the big man from Down Under.

Indeed, the fact that Parker is coming right back in a high-level contest, boxing away from home for the third time in succession, shows the faith his team has in him.

Parker no longer has his WBO title or unbeaten record (now 24-1, 18 KOs) but he surely learned a lot in the Joshua fight. The scorecards in Joshua’s favour were wide, yes, but Parker was “in” many of the rounds.

Parker might be thinking: “If I’d only done a little bit more, put on a bit more pressure, I could have won this.”

I believe there was sympathy for Parker because of the way Italian referee Giuseppe Quartarone handled the fight. It was generally accepted that Parker’s best chance was to get inside and go to work up close. However, the referee seemed very quick to break up any close-range action, in particular in the sixth round, just after Parker had seemed to land his best right hand of the fight.

Parker, at 26, is four years younger than Whyte. There is a sense with Parker that the best is yet to come. He has boxing ability, a good jab, and he is dangerous with either the right hand or the left hook. Parker’s last three wins were on points but Joshua was wary for a reason. Joshua was moving forward but he didn’t take too many chances, as if conscious that a mistake could prove costly.

It could be said that Parker’s two British appearances didn’t see him at his best. Although Parker outpointed Hughie Fury, it was difficult for him to look good against such a mobile big man — he just couldn’t pin Fury down. Against Joshua, it seemed that Parker was overly defensive, which was understandable against such a powerful puncher. Perhaps, against Whyte, Parker will be able to put it all together, offensively as well as defensively.

Whyte, meanwhile, has come on strongly since his defeat against Joshua, with seven wins in a row bringing his record to 23-1 (17 KOs). The sixth-round KO win over Lucas Browne in March was surely Whyte’s best performance to date. He easily outboxed the heavy-handed but slow Browne before flattening him in the sixth round. Browne looked sluggish at 264lbs (almost 14lbs more than when Browne stopped Ruslan Chagaev in a WBA title bout) but, that said, Whyte boxed beautifully. Whyte pumped jabs into Browne’s face, banged to the body and showed excellent punch-variety. Whyte’s punches were flowing and Browne couldn’t do a thing — and the finishing left hook was perfectly timed and brought matters to a dramatic conclusion.
The left hook, indeed, seems to be Whyte’s most lethal weapon. It was his left hook that had Joshua wobbling and seemingly on the brink of defeat in the second round of their thrilling fight.

If Parker has learned from his bout with Joshua, the same applies to Whyte. That was a fight that Whyte almost won. Perhaps he was a bit too anxious and burned up too much nervous as well as physical energy in going for the KO.

Whyte’s boxing is more measured these days. He paces himself and doesn’t try to force things. He seems to have adopted the philosophy that if the knockout comes, it comes.

I’m expecting Whyte to box a steady, disciplined fight against Parker, seeking to keep his opponent backing up but not going after him in a reckless way. Parker, though, will have his own ideas about how the bout will be fought. He seems comfortable in a boxing, counter-punching role but surely knows he can’t let Whyte dictate matters. I think, then, that we will see Parker letting his hands go much more than he did against Joshua. There are likely to be some rocky moments for Whyte. Still, Whyte showed grit and tenacity when outpunching Dereck Chisora (who appears in the chief supporting bout against Carlos Takam) in a gruelling contest 18 months ago.

The oddsmakers see a long contest (it’s 3-1 on that the bout goes over 10½ rounds) but with big men in the ring, anything can happen. Picking a winner here is like straws in the wind. If one man gains an advantage, can his opponent rally to regain the initiative? Which boxer will be able to dig deeper if things reach a give-and-take stage? The guess here is that Whyte is the man who will find that little extra. Whyte has career momentum going for him and, while Parker is a genuine top-tier heavyweight who must be respected, the British heavyweight just has the look of a man who won’t denied.