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Dillian Whyte and the split from Mark Tibbs

Dillian Whyte
Ahead of the most crucial fight of his career, Dillian Whyte elects to go in with a new trainer. Matt Christie considers the furore that followed

TWO video interviews were conducted with Mark Tibbs following last week’s surprising split with heavyweight contender Dillian Whyte. And almost as quickly as they appeared on YouTube, they disappeared.

The interviews in question – one by IFLTV and one by Seconds Out – seemed inoffensive on the surface. Tibbs spoke of his understandable disappointment surrounding the divorce. In particular claiming that Whyte, who takes on Alexander Povetkin on August 22 in a pay-per-view event, had not called him personally to explain the split. Tibbs wished Whyte all the best in the future.

Boxer-trainer splits are commonplace in boxing with the trainer generally feeling like the injured party. Tibbs, who has invested a lot of time in Whyte, is right to be a little sore and right to want to air his side of the story. “He walked into West Ham [Boxing Club] years ago, we sat down and we spoke and we got working together,” Tibbs told Seconds Out. “We got to world number one in those years, we worked hard and we slogged it up and down the country.”

The slog was both gruelling and rewarding. Tibbs, who took over from Jonathon Banks following the 2015 loss to Anthony Joshua, oversaw some momentous nights in Whyte’s career and the improvement in the heavyweight was glaring. Victories over Dereck Chisora (twice), Robert Helenius, Lucas Browne, Joseph Parker and Oscar Rivas provide ample evidence of such. Their respective reputations grew together.

With a world title fight for Whyte at last in touching distance and with his form under Tibbs impressive, the timing is peculiar from the outside looking in. Yet Whyte – the man in the middle – will not have taken the decision lightly. “I’m training in Portugal, Mark has a young family, and his own new gym in the UK,” he said in a statement. “As it stands it just hasn’t worked out in the way we both hoped it would. Mark came into my team four years ago and has helped me turn into the world class fighter I am today. Mark is a great trainer and I will always be grateful to him and his dad [Jimmy Tibbs] for all they have done.”

Xavier Miller, a former amateur coach and a protégé of Don Charles, is expected to be Dillian’s new head coach for the Povetkin fight. Miller was involved in the WBC No.1’s most recent outing (victory over Mariusz Wach in December) and has been in Portugal with “The Body Snatcher” since March. It’s believed that Reuben Tabares, who has been employed by David Haye and Amir Khan in the past, will work with Whyte on the strength and conditioning.

Boxers must do what they feel is right and Whyte, as he enters the most crucial stage of his career, clearly believes this is right for him. Changing coaches is often part of a boxer’s evolution. But the public furore surrounding the split, largely on social media, is far from ideal.

Dillian Whyte

From Team Whyte’s perspective, the reporting can be accused of being one-sided. But that’s always a potential issue in the world of You Tube, where one-on-one interviews are the beginning, middle and end, and where, don’t forget, Whyte has enjoyed considerable positive exposure in the past. We must wait for Dillian’s side of the story before forming conclusions. When relationships break down it is extraordinarily rare for the all the blame to lie on with just one party, after all.

But, for now, the videos being removed caused far more uproar than their content ever could have done. Truth is, the interviews would likely have been forgotten because the narrative – boxer and trainer split up and trainer isn’t happy – was all too familiar. The noise only started when they were taken down and not before.

The substantial efforts that have gone into ensuring the fighter’s reputation is protected appear to have had the reverse effect: Whyte is now the villain and Miller – a young and ambitious coach – seen as an imposter. Neither is true or fair.

Tibbs is one of the best coaches in Britain and will unquestionably come again. One hopes that Whyte, who is again forced to wade through controversy, will be allowed to move on, too.

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