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Ben Whittaker is gunning for Julio La Cruz

Ben Whittaker
Action Images/REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
Ben Whittaker sets himself a challenge, to take on the very best in the sport. He boxes in the semi-finals of the World championships this afternoon

BEN WHITTAKER has handled the move up to light-heavyweight with aplomb. But he feels he could have done even better than his silver medal at the European Games in Minsk and is eager to test himself against the very best in the world.

“A lot of people said I was unlucky with the decision [in the European final] but I’m my own critic. I still think I did win but I could have done something more to cement it. But that’s why you do have those types of fights – to learn from them. I’ve definitely looked back on it and seen my corrections, what I need to do. Looking back, a silver medal is pretty good for this stage of my career,” Ben told Boxing News.

He had come up against Azerbaijan representative Loren Alfonso in the final. “He was a good boxer, he’s a Cuban lad. He was kind of mirroring myself. That’s why it was weird,” Whittaker explained. “I don’t normally get that style, especially at 81kgs, they just run at me [normally], so it was good.

Ben Whittaker
Whittaker impresses at the European Games Lumix/Team GB

“He boxes for Azerbaijan but he’s a Cuban. When I was doing my video analysis on him I was watching him in the Cuban nationals. So it was a bit of a weird one. But you’re never going to get looked over [Julio] La Cruz, who’s the number one in everything, so he probably thought he’d go somewhere else. Fair play to him, he got European gold but next time I’ll definitely get him.”

It’s La Cruz, the reigning World gold medallist, whom Whittaker is keen to box at the upcoming World championships in Russia. “It’s a fight that I’d love. It’s not like someone I hate because I’ve watched him. I study him a lot. He’s one of my favourite boxers but when I’m in there I’m there to win. So that’s what I’m trying to do. I’d love that fight, let’s hope it’s fighting for a gold or a silver. It would be a class fight. It would be like a scene out of Step Up, we’d be dancing to each other,” Whittaker said. “I’ve spoken to a few people [about fighting him]. Don’t wait for him, this, that. My style’s completely different to other people, so you’ve just got to go in there as you see. Fair play to Josh Buatsi he dropped him [in the 2015 Worlds]. He fought class against him. But if you look at us two, we’re completely different styles so I can’t really take much from that. I’ve just got to go in there and impose my style on him.”

Julio La Cruz
Cuba’s Julio La Cruz is the best in the world today Action Images/REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

Whittaker has been performing well at 81kgs. “I’ve had 24 or 25 [bouts at light-heavyweight] and just lost the one in the European final. I was a skinny, light 75kgs. The coaches said you need to move to 81kgs. I said that’s never going to happen, never in my life. I brushed it away,” he said. “But you do grow, with the S&C and everything. I’ve just turned 22 so I’m still kind of growing. It’s the best thing I’ve done, looking at my performances in the Commonwealths to where I am now. It shows what a few Crispy Cremes can do for you!”

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