Dillian Whyte is accustomed to taking risks and the heavyweight with burning ambition to claim a world title is back in the firing line against undefeated Colombian Oscar Rivas on Saturday night at the O2 Arena, the victor set to be installed as interim champion and a mandatory challenger for the World Boxing Council title held by Deontay Wilder.
That said, Wilder is expected to have a rematch with Tyson Fury early in 2020, and both will take a contest in between, leading Whyte – who has been the WBC’s No 1 contender for more than 600 days – to remain philosophical about exactly when the world title will emerge.
At best, barring injury pull-outs, Whyte could be in the waiting room until the summer of next year. Nonetheless, the 31-year-old has amassed a formidable winning streak since his sole career defeat, by Anthony Joshua in December 2015.
“I’ll believe it when we step into the ring together, whoever is the champion then,” Whyte said. “But I’ve stopped worrying about it and just carried on building. I’ve learnt what patience is about in the last two years, and why boxing politics gets in the way.
“I was born to fight, and it is the thing I am good at. They say I’m the underdog in this fight, but they have said that about me so many times.
“I’ve fought world champions, world title challengers, and they all underestimate what I have – which is a fighter’s mentality and a fighter’s heart. My life has changed through boxing, and I’m really just getting started.”
Whyte faces an undefeated, hungry adversary in Rivas, who comes with a fearsome reputation in the ring, with good head movement, fast hands, and considerable power. The match-up ought to create a riveting, explosive contest.
“Rivas looks fit, strong, he’s undefeated but he doesn’t have anything I haven’t seen before. They always say they are going to beat me, but I’m getting better with every fight, every camp,” said the Brixton fighter, who has now had 10 camps at Loughborough University under the watchful eyes of an elite sports science team, and the wizened boxing knowledge of trainer Mark Tibbs, whose father, Jimmy, is a legend in British boxing who once worked as a sparring partner for Muhammad Ali.
“The strength and conditioning team up at Loughborough have helped me to become the best version of me, my legs were once skinny things and I know I have it in me to beat all of these guys out there,” Whyte said.
I expect Rivas to draw Whyte into exchanges early, and given the excitement generated in the Londoner’s victorious contests last year against Lucas Browne, Dereck Chisora and former world champion Joseph Parker, this ought to be no different.
Whyte spent the first 12 years of his life in Kingston, Jamaica, in genuine hardship, and his teenage years in London, before he first tried his hand at kickboxing, saw him become a tearaway in street fights. This is another, different era in his life and “The Body Snatcher” has become a consummate heavyweight, whose cv suggests that he should win tonight by late stoppage, possibly through his famed left hook as Rivas tires, or by a narrow points margin.
There are two other intriguing heavyweight match-ups on the O2 card. Two former world title challengers clash when popular British fighter Chisora faces Artur Spilka, of Poland, in a well-matched contest, while a domestic dust-up is set to take place between Dave Allen and David Price, the resurgent Doncaster man Allen being dangled the carrot of a fight with former Olympic champion Alexander Povetkin on Aug 31 if he can defeat 6ft 9in Price.
Both fights are hard to call, though a triumph for Allen would be heralded as a something of a Rocky movie story. “I had a gambling problem, mental health issues and was contemplating retirement before I knocked out Nick Webb almost to the day a year ago at the O2 Arena,” Allen said. “But four victories later, boxing has transformed my life.”
Joshua, meanwhile, pledged that he will come back and regain the three world title belts he lost in a shock defeat by Mexican-American Andy Ruiz Jnr on June 1 in New York.
“True failure is in quitting. I don’t think you should give up when you meet a blip in life,” said Joshua through his YouTube channel. “Ruiz. I feel like I can get it right. That’s why I want to take this rematch. My ambition in boxing at the minute is to be two-time heavyweight champion of the world.”