IT HAD been hypothesised that if Tyson Fury and Dillian Whyte ever fought the build-up would be something not to be missed. It was easy to visualise Tyson’s off the wall charisma and “Gypsy King” mantra meshing well with Whyte’s raw and uncut persona. The trolling and trash talking would be abundant, as they battled for some sort of pre-fight psychological edge and the public would lap it all up.
Well, Fury-Whyte happens in just over a week and the build-up has been a non-event, a total washout. We’re in the final furlong and almost nothing has materialised apart from the performative reaction to Whyte’s non-show at the opening press conference and contractual quarrels between the camps, or rather, between Whyte’s lawyer, Jeffrey Benz, and Frank Warren. Rather than picking the winner or analysing where the fight will be won and lost, the boxing media and fans have been reduced to tittle tattle about which camp is telling the truth. Underwhelming to say the least.
Little publicity (for which Warren has placed the blame squarely on Whyte’s shoulders), and a niggling concern that it might all fall apart at the last minute, has had a dousing effect on the appetite for what is a genuinely massive fight.
Fury-Anthony Joshua is gone – for now at least. But make no mistake, outside of that fight and possibly Fury against Oleksandr Usyk, Fury-Whyte is the biggest fight the heavyweight division can offer. And the outcome is far from guaranteed.
Fury is the favourite and rightfully so. His last two fights have seen him dethrone Deontay Wilder and punctuate their trilogy with a brutal knockout win. And he has that stunning victory over Wladimir Klitschko in his back pocket for anyone who still wants to question his creditability. Simple tangibles suggest Fury will win this one, too. He appears to possess the greater overall talent and natural gifts in speed and skill, and at 6ft 9ins and around 275 pounds, he’ll be dwarfing the 6ft 3ins, 250-pound Whyte. If he pushes home his advantages, logic says he’ll win. And it’s very plausible that it plays out just like that.
However, there are intangibles to consider. A primary one is motivation. Not a single fight goes by without Tyson mentioning retirement and being fed up with boxing. Maybe it’s just part of his maverick shtick and the doubt he enjoys putting out to the wider world. But it might be his real thoughts and emotions.
Whyte becomes even more dangerous if Fury’s motivation is undercooked. Like the third bout with Wilder, in which he appeared overconfident and was sloppy at times, this fight against Whyte is clearly not Fury’s preferred choice. Is he fully locked in for this fight against a mandatory challenger who he’s summarily dismissed as a carbon copy of Derek Chisora?
Fury came full circle as a fighter and a global personality in the trilogy with Wilder. But was overcoming his personal demons and the widely feared Wilder his zenith?
Whyte will provide some answers to that. With big risk comes extravagant reward for the champion, and he is surely aware that at this level disaster is always pending, especially with less than laser focus. Wilder, who was made to look average the entire trilogy, still managed to floor Fury four times. Whyte will have taken notice of those lapses and be firm in his belief that if Fury really is the best in the world, then he shouldn’t be getting bounced off the canvas, no matter if he’s gotten up to win.
If Whyte has a chip on his shoulder because of the delay in getting his maiden title shot then he’s used it to successfully form a persona out of being the outsider, the underdog, the rogue of the heavyweights. He’s regularly rebuked Wilder, Joshua, and Fury for what he sees as avoidance of ‘real’ challenges, primarily against him, and dismissed them as privileged elites who have been protected from the punishing route to the top that he’s had to take.
Since 2016 his career has been like a heavyweight odyssey from the 1970s. An era where contenders fought each other regularly and took on one tough challenge after another.
Aside from the first Alexander Povetkin fight, and a defeat he of course avenged, he’s emerged victorious each time. But now he must prove he has what it takes to be king. Even the most hardened men and women can misstep in the face of a life-changing opportunity. But my feeling is that Whyte will be ready and willing to roll the dice once again.
He’ll make this a fight that relies as much on his sheer will and determination, as much as his work to the body and dangerous counter left hook. His hunger, solid skills and resoluteness already give him a chance of an upset in this fight.
A Fury in the opposing corner without the appropriate motivation and fear will increase those chances greatly.