Plus: Gareth A Davies gives his verdict on who he believes will come out on top of what should be a fascinating contest
Dillian Whyte has signed the contract to challenge Tyson Fury for the World Boxing Council heavyweight title after weeks of protracted negotiations to set up a blockbuster all-British clash.
The deal was finalised just under six hours before the 6am deadline on Tuesday, 24 days after the £31 million purse bid was won by Fury’s promoters, Frank Warren and Bob Arum.
The contest – expected to take place at either Wembley Stadium, or the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, on April 23 – pitches unbeaten reigning WBC world heavyweight No 1 Fury and mandatory challenger Whyte. A press conference is expected to take place next week, bringing the fighters face-to-face in London. It is understood that Whyte’s lawyers had been disputing the 80-20 purse split ordered in Fury’s favour by the WBC, requesting further fees for attending press conferences and promoting the fight, on top of the Londoner’s guaranteed £6 million purse (with an additional £3 million on the table if the Brixton fighter wins). Fury is set to earn £25 million.
Whyte, who has 28 wins and two defeats on his record, is yet to comment publicly. Fury, undefeated in 32 contests and a two-time world champion who has held all four belts, though not concurrently, said: “I think his [Whyte’s] silence is pathetic, we’re here to build up and sell a massive fight. If he wants to be involved in one of the biggest fights in British boxing history then he needs to play his part, he is getting paid well enough.”
The winner of Fury-Whyte will likely challenge for the undisputed world heavyweight title later this year, with Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk set to defend his WBA, IBF and WBO world belts against Anthony Joshua.
Usyk defeated Joshua on points to claim the titles last September at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Sources close to Joshua have told The Telegraph that the former world champion’s new training team is “close to being decided”, while Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn confirmed yesterday that “contracts are signed” and that the fight is likely to go ahead in a stadium in London in May.
Verdict: Do not rule out improving Whyte but Fury can win inside the distance
It comes as no surprise that Fury is a big favourite to retain his WBC heavyweight crown against fellow Briton Whyte but it is nonetheless a fascinating contest.
Fury, magnificent in his three contests with Deontay Wilder, in which he was down twice in the first and third fights, has shown a resilience and ability to shift from defensive brilliance to attacking his American rival, with one draw, and two stoppages. With a powerful jab, elusiveness, and the desire to trade with opponents, he remains a formidable champion and for that reason, is currently the No 1 in the blue riband division.
Whyte has improved vastly over the last four years with victories over Dereck Chisora, Joseph Parker, and in his rematch with Alexander Povetkin, and will bring everything he has – tenacity, an improved jab and one of the most powerful left hooks in the sport into play.
The danger for Whyte is the command of range and use of the ring which Fury employs, and while Whyte does sway effectively from the waist to evade punches, it is in the exchanges when opponents choose to trade with him toe-to-toe that ‘The Bodysnatcher’ has been at his most effective.
Fury is unlikely to stand and have a fight in a phone box with his foe, and may employ a long jab, and indeed, a long right hand to keep Whyte at bay. Given that this is heavyweight boxing, and one punch can change everything – Whyte has knocked out 19 of his 28 victims – the Londoner cannot be ruled out in creating an upset against the unbeaten Fury. He therefore has a puncher’s chance. It seems unlikely that Whyte will outbox Fury, and he may require a knockout for victory. Fury should prevail and could win on points, or, if the fight goes his way through astute boxing in the early rounds, Fury may force a stoppage in the sixth or seventh round.
No matter how it ends, it will be an intriguing build-up and fight, involving two Britons at the summit of the sport in an epic match-up between two heavyweights with deep self-belief and the prospect, for the victor, of a shot at unifying all the belts in their next contest.