WHEN Dillian Whyte and Alexander Povetkin face off in their rematch it will feel like the handbrake has been taken off the heavyweight division. The top brass are lost in a labyrinth of propaganda as the need to gain crucial commercial advantages has merely created a will-they-won’t-they narrative that has stolen all the attention.
Despite the encouraging chatter the Anthony Joshua-Tyson Fury super fight is yet to be finalised. Deontay Wilder looks to be in the middle of an existential crisis while Whyte is trying to salvage the stock he lost after the shattering loss to Povetkin last summer. What was for so long a ‘big three’ – with Whyte the potential gate crasher – is now a duopoly.
So, it’s imperative that Dillian beats Povetkin this weekend. And for him to close the gap on the champions he’s going to have to be dominant and convincing.
At first glance, this fight has a simple story behind it: Whyte seeks revenge for the unexpected and brutal knockout defeat. But the wider implications must also be considered.
Will the winner displace Wilder and become the indisputable number three in the division? Will he be in line to fight the winner of Joshua-Fury or will both be confined to the second tier of contenders while that rivalry runs its course? Have we seen the best of Whyte and Povetkin? In short, does this fight really alter the landscape at the top?
Dillian was the ascending figure amongst the heavyweights until that defeat. Consistent improvement and gruelling wins over tough men like Dereck Chisora, Joseph Parker and Oscar Rivas had a lot of fans believing he was a genuine threat to the big three. Indeed, it wasn’t hard to imagine him giving any of them a hell if only he was given the chance.
Tough, powerful and fearless, his USP of being willing to fight anyone, anywhere, helped him carve out a niche as a modern fighter with an old timer’s mentality: ‘Have gloves will fight’.
Despite what on the surface appears to be a somewhat kamikaze persona, Dillian has done an excellent job of building his brand. He became a pay-per-view fighter, one of the UK’s most popular ‘arena fighters’ and essentially cornered a nice chunk of the heavyweight market without, through no fault of his own, having contested a world title.
But a moment of supreme quality from Povetkin last summer stalled Whyte’s journey to that elusive shot. The 41-year-old Russian looked every year of his age as Whyte bossed him around and dropped him in the first four rounds. And we all know what happened next. The Russian’s left hook-cum-uppercut remains one of the elite shots in boxing and makes him a huge threat against Dillian in the rematch.
Povetkin, despite a bout with coronavirus in the interim, will likely turn up ready to win again. Is he Dillian Whyte’s bogeyman? Dillian has said that he just needs to do what he was doing for four rounds without making a similar mistake, but boxing has a funny habit of presenting hurdles that you just can’t clear – no matter your talent, skills or heart.
In 1990, I defended my European heavyweight title against a Frenchman called Jean Chanet. I was an overwhelming favourite yet boxed as if in a trance for 12 rounds and lost. It was a shock, as I have to say I was levels above Chanet in all departments. With that considered, I went after the rematch and three months later, I went back to France and… exactly the same thing happened. I’ve always been perplexed by those two fights and can’t really explain them.
More high-profile examples were an undefeated and prime Shane Moseley getting beaten back-to-back by my old friend, the late Vernon Forrest, in a massive shock. Vernon then lost back-to-back against the unheralded Ricardo Mayorga in another big upset. Anyone can lose, but I’m sure Shane and Vernon struggled to get their heads around why they couldn’t make the necessary adjustments to win the rematches.
That said, I think Dillian wins this fight. Most likely on points. There will be some mental anxiety associated with being knocked out by the same opponent, but he showed that he had the tools to make life very tough for Povetkin. Bar experience, he has every conceivable advantage going into this.
Only Dillian will know the actual approach he’ll take. “Maximum Violence” might make the fans happy but it will also leave him exposed at some point. He should take what Povetkin gives him and not force anything. Win by any means necessary. If there happens to be any naysayers, then he can respond to them when he’s fighting for the world title.