THE last time we saw Dillian Whyte in a British ring he was turned upside down by a Tyson Fury uppercut and left wondering (a) how to get back to his feet and (b) where it all went wrong.
Until that point, he was being called one of the country’s most improved fighters, beating a total of 12 opponents (including reversing a shocking defeat against Alexander Povetkin) since suffering his first pro loss against Anthony Joshua, and had campaigned long and hard for what he – and many others – felt was a deserved shot at the world heavyweight title.
Then, as often it does, it came and went – just like that.
Now, some seven months later, Whyte has no option but to brush himself down and go again, starting with an intriguing assignment this Saturday (November 26) against unbeaten American Jermaine Franklin. It’s a fight, in contrast to the Fury one, that seems somewhat anticlimactic – a rebuild in every sense – yet is of course imperative for Whyte nonetheless.
A good thing, then, that Whyte, 28-3 (19), has shown in the past that he possesses an ability to respond well to defeat and march straight back up the same hill from which he had earlier been pushed. Chances are, he will need every ounce of this determination against Franklin, too, a fighter who, at 21-0 (14), does not yet know how it feels to lose as a professional. He will therefore, one assumes, arrive in London to face Whyte buoyed by the kind of ignorance that takes a fighter sometimes further than their abilities ordinarily would.
So far as a pro the heavyweight from Saginaw, Michigan has won the majority of his ‘big’ fights by decision, suggesting that, while he is aggressive, he is more of a grinder than a pure puncher. Among those opponents he has conquered are familiar names like Pavel Sour, Rydell Booker and Jerry Forrest, all of whom are dependable trial horses yet never to be confused with top contenders, at least not in 2022. Franklin has, in fact, beaten nobody one would typically expect to see anywhere near the top 10 and, against Whyte, will be taking quite the sizeable step up in class this weekend.
For Whyte, meanwhile, this will represent, on paper, one of the more straightforward fights he has had for some time, with the danger lurking solely in its mystery; the unknown element. He will, going into it, know he has beaten more seasoned and proven fighters than Franklin and will know, too, having lost to both Joshua and now Fury, how important it is to tame an undefeated up-and-comer and show he is not yet at the stage of being picked apart by those wanting to feast on what remains of his name.
At 35, “The Body Snatcher” may not have too many more wars, or big defeats, left in him. But he should still have enough to outwork and outpoint Franklin, a fighter – stylistically – after his own heart, this Saturday at Wembley Arena.
While Whyte battles Franklin on what could be deemed a “world” stage, directly beneath that, as chief support, is an evenly-matched British heavyweight contest between Fabio Wardley and Nathan Gorman, two men relatively young as far as heavyweights go.
Wardley, at 27, has won 14 straight fights in his pro career (13 inside schedule) and won the three most recent inside just two rounds. Last time out, in July, he stopped Chris Healey in a couple, yet his better wins, the ones more eye-catching, came against one-time Anthony Joshua opponent Eric Molina (KO 5 in 2021) and Simon Vallily (TKO 3 in 2020). Those wins, as well as a first-round stoppage of Nick Webb in 2021, highlighted Wardley’s physical strength and punch power and pushed him to the front of the chasing pack in terms of thriving British heavyweight upstarts.
Also in that pack of course is his next opponent, Gorman, 19-1 (13), who has been on the scene a little longer than Wardley, but, at 26, is the younger man. He, like Wardley, has shown good form of late, though has done so as a fighter returning from a loss (a fifth-round stoppage against Daniel Dubois in 2019) as opposed to a fighter keen to preserve an unbeaten record.
That Dubois loss, in fact, seems to have sharpened Gorman’s focus and proved the motivation to work on weaknesses in his game. However, it is hard to say for certain until he again moves up in class and fights someone of similar ilk.
To date, since losing to Dubois, Gorman has rebuilt against the likes of Richard Lartey (UD 10), Pavel Sour (TKO 2) and Tomas Salek (TKO 1), none of whom offered the Nantwich man much of a threat, or even posed many questions. Thankfully, though, this will all change on Saturday against Wardley, who is someone with ambition in abundance and someone, like Gorman, with aspirations of not only winning the British heavyweight title but then eventually progressing beyond domestic level in the future.
Given their form, Wardley is favoured to get to Gorman late.
Further down the impressive Wembley Arena card are fights between Sandy Ryan, 4-1 (2), and Argentina’s Anahi Ester Sanchez, 21-5 (13), which is scheduled for 10 two-minute rounds at super-lightweight, and Cheavon Clarke, 3-0 (3), and Jose Gregorio Ulrich, 17-5 (6), which takes place over eight at cruiserweight.
There is also a third pro outing for highly-touted prospect Pat McCormack, 2-0 (2), as well as a fourth for the equally lauded Mark Dickinson, 3-0 (1), the pair having recently signed with Matchroom Boxing.