‘The Bodysnatcher’ Dillian Whyte is not a man given to being gun shy and the Brixton heavyweight swears that when Alexander Povetkin knocked him out cold in the fifth round of their heavyweight clash in Eddie Hearn’s office garden in Brentwood last summer, there was no grieving period.
Life experience, Whyte told The Sunday Telegraph, prevents the fighter from wallowing in negativity. The pair meet again in Gibraltar next Saturday on an event aptly-entitled the ‘Rumble on the Rock’ at which the British heavyweight intends to go “straight for the jugular” when they contest the World Boxing Council Interim heavyweight title.
The spoils for the victor in this rematch is being positioned to face either Tyson Fury or Anthony Joshua down the line.
“The amount of times I’ve been shot and stabbed and the kind of lifestyle I was living, I thought I would be dead by the time I was 30,” the 32-year-old told The Sunday Telegraph. “Even when I was a young kid starving without food to eat. It doesn’t give you much of an outlook on life. You just keeping going until you’re dead. There was days when I wanted to give up but thank God, I didn’t. I kept pushing forward and kept on defeating obstacles after obstacles after obstacles. Don’t get me wrong, it’s stressful and it’s hard and it’s difficult, but it’s easier for me to give Povetkin credit, dust myself off and do it again. I can beat this guy.”
“One thing you’re guaranteed in life is you’re going to lose,” added Whyte. “So the sooner you get to grips with it, the sooner you realise and accept it, the easier it is. You’re going to lose your mum, your dad, relatives, money, homes, rings – all these things. In life, it’s the only thing guaranteed – you will lose something. You’ll lose your life someday. It’s normal. The sooner you get to grips with it, and I’ve been losing my whole life. I was one of those kids meant to grow up to be a loser, dead or in prison. I’m used to that sort of stuff. I accepted many years ago I would lose my life early in my life, so for me, all of what’s happening for me is a bonus.”
Since November, the contest has been postponed three times, with Povetkin having contracted COVID-19 and restrictions having delayed the fight further. Whyte was ahead in the first fight, had boxed brilliantly, and had dropped the Russian twice before getting caught, last summer, by a highlight reel left hand from the former Olympic champion and two-time world title challenger. Povetkin lost world title bids to Wladimir Klitschko and Joshua.
But the postponements have been a headache. “It’s just pissed me off. It’s been a long camp. Next time the bell goes, I’m going straight for the jugular. I’m not trying to spend no more extra time with this guy or in this fight. Get my belts so I can go home.”
Can we expect a quick night, then ? “Let’s see what happens. He’s a dangerous guy, very experienced. Let’s see if he can make changes and how many changes he makes at this stage in his career. We’ll see. I know he was glad, I’ve never seen him celebrate a victory like that. He’s usually a cool, calm, collected guy. This time he couldn’t believe he won. He was looking around like, ‘Ah, I won, okay’. Maybe he was still dazed from the knockdown. Who knows?”
There is a clarity now about Whyte, a joy almost, for a fighter once regarded as the bad boy of British boxing, at one time given to trash-talking opponents and giving off an air of belligerence and emotion. That has changed in his evolution as a box office fighter.
“I’m just being myself and I do try to be a better person. I try to be more respectful and grounded.”
“But I’m always chill until some people annoy me or take the piss. When I retaliate they call me a psycho, but I’m not. I’m just a normal guy. If I’m at war with people I won’t sit down and say, ‘respect, in the name of Jesus’. I’m not that guy. I’m the guy if you throw rocks at my house, I’ll throw metal at ya.”
That will be in play when the first bell tolls on The Rock. There may be subtle shifts this time, working with new trainer Harold Knight, having split with Mark Tibbs, who is now overseeing super middleweight Billy Joe Saunders’ attempt to dethrone Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in Texas on May 8. “I’ve been working on everything. As you know, I’m not the most experienced guy. I’ve been in boxing for 12 years and now I’m fighting cats who have been in boxing for a long time. This guy Povetkin had a long amateur career, I didn’t have all that stuff. I only started training properly after the loss to Anthony Joshua. I believe if I do everything right and I’m in shape then I can beat any one of these guys.”
Victory creates a roadmap for 2021 with ‘AJ’ and the ‘Gypsy King’ at least in his sights, with their undisputed heavyweight title blockbuster two-fight series not yet rubber-stamped, but expected, potentially, to be announced for June or July in the Middle East in the next three weeks. “Look, one of Fury or Joshua might get knocked out in the first fight, and say they’ve had enough. This is boxing man. Let’s see what happens. The fight might even not happen. Boxing is a dog eat dog business, and you just have to win, get in position, and be ready. That’s my mindset.”
Dillian Whyte vs Alexander Povetkin 2 for the World Boxing Council Interim title is live on Sky Box Office on Saturday March 27.