YOU can never tell how a fight will go. Anthony Joshua may be a heavy favourite to beat Dillian Whyte. He’s boxed to a higher level, winning the gold medal at the latest Olympic Games, blazing to a 14-0 (14) record as a pro. Joshua has devastating punch power and Dillian’s style is loose and relaxed, arguably too loose. In the past, against lesser opposition, he’s let too many shots through. But in boxing, especially at heavyweight, nothing is ordained.
“You just don’t know till fight time but I’m sure I’ll adapt. I’m strong enough, I’m physical enough to fight back and my feet are quite good to be able to get myself in and out of danger. So whatever happens I’ll be able to adapt,” Joshua tells Boxing News, looking relaxed as he counts down the final days until their December 12 clash. “The key is not to get hit, or as little as possible. You get hit with a right hand, try not to get hit by another one. You get hit with a left hook, you think to yourself, ‘Cool, he’s throwing left hooks, let me defend, bang counter, left hook.’ So you’ve got to be clever. It’s only when you get caught with one left hook, then you make the mistake again and get caught with another one, he realises it and throws a massive one and it catches you again. You’ve got to dishearten people. You jab, they jab. You jab, they jab, you slip, right hand and they think, ‘I’m not throwing my jab no more.’ They left hook, you defend it, body, head.”
He is a hard-hitter but it’s brain, rather brawn which will count under the lights on Saturday night. “I should be smart enough to deal with what he throws at me,” Anthony continued. “It’s easy one thing saying it but that’s the mentality I’ve got to go in the ring with. One jab there, can’t go again. Left hook there, alright cool, assess the whole situation in the ring on Saturday.”
Whyte is a spiteful puncher and throughout the build-up to their clash at the O2, he has exuded confidence. Perhaps it stems from the win the Brixton man took over Joshua at an early stage of his amateur career. Not that Dillian can match Anthony’s resume, once his kickboxing past was revealed he was expelled from the unpaid code and turned pro. “I think with boxing you get to show yourself as a character and I think he comes across as a very confident person. I don’t know whether that’s through what he’s achieved. As you said, he had a short amateur career and not so many fights as a pro. I think it’s just him as a person,” Joshua said.
“He hasn’t had that much of an amateur career, he took a few years out as a professional. I think his confidence comes from him as a person. Some people are just who they are through upbringing and he might just be a very confident person. He’s 16-0.”
Joshua isn’t convinced Whyte’s self-belief stems from that amateur victory. “Deep, deep down I don’t think he is [taking much from it],” Anthony said. “He can take a little bit but I don’t think it’s everything to him. So I think deep, deep, deep down he’s not taking too much away from it. Because I think you really have to look at the progress and development and body shape, mentality.
“As you said, I had an intense amateur career. Even though it was short, it was quite quick and intense and then the pros. I’ve been working at it since 2008 so I think he’ll take that into account as well.”
In a sense though Whyte did him a favour. Every time Joshua lost in the amateurs (those times were admittedly few – only three people beat him) he returned improved. “Dillian, I lost,” Anthony said. “I fought a guy that was more experienced than me. I realised boxing wasn’t as easy as I thought so I thought I had to up my level.”
He boxed Whyte in 2009. By 2011 he was a two-time ABA national champion, but he met his second defeat against Mihai Nistor in the quarter-final of the European championships that year. “So I went back and thought if I get fit and I get myself stronger I might be able to compete with these guys in the Worlds. I went to the Worlds, done what I had to do. Then I lost in the final. That was a tough fight [against Magomedrasul Medzhidov], I lost fair and square, the judges saw it one way, very, very tough fight. I thought I just need to get better and improve. At the Olympics it was tough there as well and I thought I need to get better. So that’s why now we’re fighting Dillian and I feel like I’m at another stage of my life. I’ve had to go through that improving stage and I should be able to get past Dillian, through everything that I’ve learned throughout my losses and my wins,” Joshua said.
It tempting to think that as a pro he’s had it easy. Well-matched, intensely promoted, he performed expertly in the ring, albeit against less than stellar professional opposition. But it has been a hard struggle to get where he is now. He had to go through a high level international amateur career after all, win an OIympic gold medal and deliver some booming knockouts in the prize ring. “You get on GB. Then you have to prove yourself to be on the Podium squad. But there’s already three people in your weight category that are better than you. Then you have to become better than them. Then you have to become the best in the world before you get respect. Then you have to compete with the best to get medals. Then they’ve got you training like a Trojan. All you do is eat, you wake up, train, you eat, you sleep, you train, you eat, you sleep, you train,” he said. “There’s nothing really glamorous about being on GB, except you’re representing your country. Whereas at Finchley I was representing my borough, Finchley borough. At GB you have a bit more of a duty to represent your country so it’s a bit tougher there.”
He fights for the vacant British title on Saturday. But it means Whyte is one win away from seizing Joshua’s place as the country’s leading prospect. “I’m not looking at it like, ‘Oh, I was on GB, I went to this, I’m the man.’ No,” Joshua said. “I’m not letting anyone take a shortcut so I’ve got to keep an underdog mentality.
“That’s what I’m saying. I’ve got too much to lose.”