TYSON FURY vs DILLIAN WHYTE – THE BACKSTORY
Dillian Whyte spent a long time at the top, or near the top, of the WBC rankings. Some will tell you that he was mandatory for over three years, yet that is not true. Though it’s a daft rule, being No.1 contender in the eyes of the WBC does not automatically make you the official mandatory. One should also remember that Whyte turned down final eliminator bouts, a shot at Anthony Joshua, and lost to Alexander Povetkin during his spell as a leading challenger. However, what can’t be denied is that he has long deserved his shot. Various things occurred to prevent it; predominantly Fury’s long rivalry with former belt-holder Deontay Wilder which stretched back to 2018. After contracts demanded rematch after rematch, it did not reach its conclusion until late last year.
Eventually, purse bids for Fury-Whyte were ordered by the WBC. Those purse bids, after four postponements, occurred in January and were won by Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions. Warren will stage the bout at Wembley Stadium on April 23 and, last week, the event sold out. Though there is understandable frustration that plenty of tickets were snapped up by ticketing services like StubHub, which are essentially glorified online touts, the interest in this contest is huge.
Before they became rivals, Whyte and Fury had a respectful relationship. That changed for obvious reasons but regardless of what has been said or will be said, this is no grudge match. No matter. In light of Oleksandr Usyk’s absence from boxing to fight for Ukraine which plunges Joshua’s future into uncertainty, Fury-Whyte is the best scrap the heavyweight division can feasibly make at the present time.
Huge from a British perspective. A packed-out Wembley Stadium will see two of the best heavyweights in the world do battle in the kind of fight that has serious crossover appeal. Already, it’s the biggest event in the UK since Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko engaged in a titanic showdown five years ago. When one considers Fury’s worldwide fame and Whyte’s box office appeal, this contest might be even bigger.
This will also be a good measure of Fury’s standing in history. Whyte is only his third opponent at elite level and, though his supreme wins over Klitschko and Deontay Wilder are among the best by any Brit at any point in time, it is fair to say his challenger has sampled more top class fists than Fury in a prize ring.
Expect the marketeers to go into overdrive on this, and rightly so. We have to go back to the 1993 contest between Lennox Lewis and Frank Bruno for an all-British heavyweight bout – staged in Britain – that matches the significance of Fury-Whyte.
Tyson Fury has been decked six times in his professional career. Four times in bouts with Wilder. That’s an awful lot for a reigning world heavyweight champion. Though he is generally elusive, his focus can wane even in the biggest of contests. Therefore the notion that Whyte won’t be able to lay a glove on him is wide of the mark. Whyte’s right hand seems certain to land. Throw in the fact he’s a better finisher than Wilder (the American tended to do his finishing with a single blow) and the chances of an upset are real.
Whyte isn’t exactly fallible himself. He’s been knocked out twice, by Joshua and Povetkin, and was very nearly stopped by Joseph Parker. Even now, there are times when he looks like a work in progress. Against someone as clever and artful as Tyson Fury, the Brixton slugger may struggle to penetrate. One need only look at Whyte chasing after Robert Helenius for round after round as evidence.
Fury goes down but he always gets up. Not only that, he gets up and is almost immediately clear-headed. Hurting him is one thing, keeping him hurt is another.
While Fury has predictably ramped up the interest in this bout, Whyte has been silent and was absent from the first press conference to promote the contest last week. The challenger is running scared, his critics cry. This seems unlikely, however. Whyte is not scared of any fighter but will undoubtedly have seen Fury tie his previous big-fight rivals – like Klitschko, Wilder and Derek Chisora – in psychological knots from the outset. With that in mind, Whyte is wise to leave the ranting and raving to only Fury at this stage.
There is a temptation to presume that Tyson Fury – after two bombastic stoppages of Deontay Wilder in 2020 and 2021 – is at the height of his peak at the age of 33. That might well be true; without question, this new seek-and-destroy Fury is a blood-curdling savage. But we must also consider if he is now planting his feet, and taking more risks in the process, due to his advancing years. Of course, we’ll never know – or rather, it is impossible to know right now – but the feeling here is that the Fury of 2015, who boxed rings around Wladimir Klitschko for 36 exhausting minutes, will be seen only sparingly from here on in. Regardless, Tyson Fury remains the most versatile fighter in the entire division.
Many will tell you that Whyte is in the midst of his prime, too. And like Fury, he could be. But to judge him on the revenge thrashing of a truly woeful Povetkin nearly one year ago is perhaps misleading. He has been in several two-way wallop-fests since 2015, the kind that do nothing for longevity. If they haven’t already, they will take a toll. What unquestionably remains, however, is his at times astonishing will to win and his significant power.
Whether at their best or not, it’s a fair bet that both will be as good as they possibly can be at this stage of their careers. Furthermore, while Joshua was on the way up and Klitschko was on the way down (similar could be said of Lewis and Bruno 29 years ago), Fury and Whyte are likely as good as they’re ever going to be, they’re at similar stages of their respective careers and neither can be accused of showing anything more than fleeting signs of decline.
SO WHO WINS?
Well, you won’t be getting our prediction just yet. But the odds on Fury to win (1/6) look about right at this stage. Whyte, at 9/2, is what one might call a ‘live underdog’. Though we can look at the interest around this fight and bemoan how much greater it would have been if Fury and Joshua had got together last year, the truth remains that Fury-Whyte will be an event to savour.