AS with any great heavyweight fight, nobody can say with certainty what will happen when Tyson Fury and Dillian Whyte finally share a ring and trade punches on April 23 at Wembley Stadium. They will both have their ideas and their strategies and indeed those watching at home will no doubt have their opinions, too. But this is boxing – élite-level boxing at that – and no one watching, nor competing, can predict with confidence what will happen this coming weekend.
Doing their best, for the sake of Boxing News, are three leading UK coaches whose opinions and experiences vary: Jamie Moore, the trainer of Jack Catterall and Chantelle Cameron; Joe Gallagher, the trainer of Paul Butler and Natasha Jonas; and Tunde Ajayi, the trainer of Anthony Yarde. They do not claim to possess a crystal ball, nor any special kind of insight, but they are, like everyone else, intrigued to see what happens on Saturday night.
What have you made of the fight’s unusual build up?
Moore: Last week I was thinking, ‘Is this even going to happen?’ We’ve heard hardly anything about it and yet it’s such a big fight. I hope it goes ahead and I hope it’s just a case of Dillian Whyte playing mind games and trying to get one on Fury because he knows the size of the task. Any small win is worth pursuing in that sense. Tyson’s very good at mind games and Dillian is trying to beat him at his own game.
Gallagher: If it doesn’t happen, there are going to be so many lawsuits in the next few months. It’ll be a shame really. But it just shows you that [Anthony] Joshua and Fury will never, ever happen. That’s gone now. After losing the purse bid for this one, Eddie should have said to Dillian, “Look, there’s your purse, get on with it. If you need anything, we’re here.” What shouldn’t have happened is that the fight’s build-up gets ruined. It’s a good fight and it should be treated like one.
Ajayi: Dillian ain’t even talking to me, so I know he’s serious. In a weird way, it’s great promoting, too, because we’re all talking about it and wondering whether the fight is even going to happen. Dillian not talking has got people talking. I can’t remember in recent times a situation where a fighter has just maintained total silence before a big fight. But that is what Dillian has done and it has created buzz. I have spoken to Dillian and he said, “I’m just turning up to fight. That’s it.” He doesn’t care about anything else. It’s not like he’s keeping this silence and then won’t turn up. He’s definitely turning up.
Will Whyte’s radio silence unsettle Fury or will he not care?
Moore: I think it’s tactical. I think he’s done it on purpose to unnerve Fury. He might be thinking Fury won’t train as hard as he would have done if there was some needle there. It sometimes gives you fuel when there’s a bit of needle. But Fury’s had nothing to go on. I definitely think it’s tactical. I don’t necessarily think Whyte is seeing it as an advantage for him, but he’s doing it more to create a disadvantage for Fury. It takes away the chance for Fury to feed off his own ego.
Like anything in life, it’s the unknown that’s scary. Whyte’s gone off the radar totally, which means that nobody knows what he’s doing. That must be unnerving for Fury while he’s training. If Whyte turns up at the weigh-in and looks better than he’s ever looked, that would really throw Fury, I think.
Gallagher: If Dillian Whyte wins, it was brilliant mind games. Fury’s last few fights have had those head-to-head moments, which have given him the chance to get under the skin of his opponent. When Fury has those moments, he seems to be motivated and stimulated by them. But with this fight he doesn’t have anyone to stimulate him. I wonder if Whyte will turn up and all of a sudden put it on Tyson during fight week. There could be some argy-bargy and some tables flipped, just to try to unsettle Fury. Or Dillian could turn up and say nothing. He could sit there and do a Rubik’s cube or put headphones on.
Ajayi: Far be it for me to say it’s their strategy or game plan, but if it is a strategy, it has definitely worked. Regardless of Tyson and his mentality, he needs an adversary and for this fight he hasn’t had one. He needs to talk. That’s part of his DNA. It’s the reason why his fights with [Deontay] Wilder were won before the first bell. Even back in the day he psyched out David Haye and had him pull out of their fight. Tyson is used to getting the better of mind games and this, having no adversary, gives him something new to deal with.
Where does Whyte rank in terms of the opponents Fury has faced?
Moore: Obviously Wilder is the best opponent recently. I think [Wladimir] Klitschko was at the back end of his career so you can’t really judge him on that, even though he did a good job on him. Dillian Whyte has waited so long for this opportunity, but I’m not sure whether he’s the best fighter Fury has faced or the second or third. What I do think is that he could very well give him his toughest test, considering the length of time he’s waited, the motivation he will have, and the impact of his mind games on Fury. Added to that, Whyte has a style that has given Fury problems recently. It’s basic, hands tight, come-forward pressure. It’s a simple style really. He’s got a good engine and works the body and I think Whyte can have success with this style.
Gallagher: Fury beat a better version of Klitschko than Joshua did. He was an active heavyweight and Fury beat him in his back garden. That ranks as better than anything anyone else has done. In terms of Wilder, there is no chance Whyte is more dangerous to Fury than him. Wilder is one of the biggest-punching heavyweights of all time. He put Luis Ortiz to sleep, and no one wants to fight Luis Ortiz. If Wilder was as easy as they now say, why didn’t Anthony Joshua or Dillian Whyte fight him during that period? They don’t even want to fight him now Fury has beaten him a couple of times.
Ajayi: Dillian is right up there – top three. Fury is known for Klitschko and Wilder. But outside of those guys, who can we say has been a threat to Tyson Fury? Nobody. So, Dillian Whyte is a top-tier Fury opponent. I’m not even sure Wilder could beat Whyte, to be honest with you. His mindset is something different, especially with what he has been through. This is everything to him and that makes him dangerous.
How should Whyte go about trying to beat Fury?
Moore: For a start, I would say, “Never in a million years should you try to outbox him.” That’s not going to happen. His best bet is to try to bring him to his sort of IQ of boxing. Drag him into a war. I always tell my fighters to simplify it. Don’t try to be too intelligent and complicate matters. Hands nice and tight, get into that punching range, nice bit of head movement, get on his chest, and drag him into a dogfight. Do what people say Joshua should have done against [Oleksandr] Usyk. Don’t try to be technical. Use brute force and drag Fury into a fight.
Gallagher: Whyte does well against tall opposition. He’s won fights against Robert Helenius and Mariusz Wach. He had good success against Anthony Joshua as well, hurting him to the body. I would tell him to bring it to Tyson early on, and not pussy-foot around too much. He can’t afford to let Fury build a lead and then try to ‘do’ him down the straight. Tyson will just be tying him up and tiring him out by then. I think when Dillian is up close, he will be hitting everything low and he’ll be hitting Tyson’s thighs. You’ve got to stop Tyson moving. You can’t be over-reaching to the head because if you do Tyson will nail you with uppercuts. Dillian will have to come in with a cross-armed defence, a bit like Joe Frazier, and keep moving his head on the way inside. He’s then got to deaden the legs. Once this happens, and Tyson’s legs have stopped working, he can then start coming over the top with those big swings of his.
Ajayi: Stick it straight on him. No messing about. You ain’t winning a jabbing contest with Tyson Fury. Your best bet is to go hammer and tongs. I think this fight calls for an animalistic approach, something I call ‘roadman science’. I told AJ he needed that for the Usyk fight, but nobody listens to me. Boxing is about IQ and IQ matters and Tyson Fury has maybe the greatest boxing IQ in this era of heavyweights. It’s not rocket science. It needs to be a physical, rough, hard fight. Dillian Whyte has one of the best counter left hooks in boxing. At a novice stage, he almost got AJ with it. He’s way more experienced now and he needs educated aggression in this fight.
How should Fury go about trying to beat Whyte?
Moore: Technically, I think Fury is capable of making this easy. I just don’t think he’ll want to. I think he’ll want to entertain the fans, especially with it being at Wembley and them apparently selling 94,000 tickets. He won’t want to fight the way he fought against Klitschko or Wilder in the first fight, where he put on a masterclass but didn’t really entertain. I think he’ll do that in spots against Whyte but will then hold his feet and trade.
Gallagher: The jab’s the key. Tyson Fury has got a brilliant jab. All he’s got to make sure is that he doesn’t jab over the front foot and let Dillian bring out the overhand right. Everyone talks about Dillian’s left hook but you don’t want to be too occupied with the left hook because Dillian can also shoot the right hand over the top. Tyson’s just got to be consistent with his jab and make sure that on the second or third jab he doesn’t skim off the target and find himself walking on to a Whyte right hand. He needs to bang that jab hard and make it count. Also, when he throws, claim Whyte as well. Lean on him. Push his body weight down on him. You’re giving Whyte the chance to hit you in the bollocks or the leg but you will make him feel your size.
Ajayi: Keep him at the end of the jab – box him, box him, box him. If he’s still there in the later rounds, impose your physical presence. The best pugilist is a boxer-fighter, always. You box first and then, if you have to fight, you fight. Tyson Fury is one of the gifted ones who can do both. He has options. I’d say, “Use that jab.” It’s the key for Tyson. If Tyson Fury comes to fight, it’s a 50/50 fight. If he uses his boxing IQ, as in the Usyk vs AJ match, it’s a done deal.
What happens when Fury and Whyte meet this weekend?
Moore: I think Fury wins on points and I think the reason it goes to points is because Fury will get dragged into a fight at times while at other times he will get the fight by the scruff of the neck, box, and control the tempo and range. It will ebb and flow like that. I think Fury will win on points but make it harder than it needs to be.
Gallagher: On form, you have to pick Tyson. He fought the hardest-punching heavyweight in the world and won. Dillian, on the other hand, has been knocked out by [Alexander] Povetkin, then beaten him in the rematch. Whyte’s locked himself away in Portugal and knows this fight opens the gate for him. He will come like a man possessed but will also try to keep calm and cool and box a bit.
It wouldn’t surprise me if both go down in this fight. It could be a complete bore and a boxing lesson, with Tyson Fury retiring Dillian Whyte after about nine rounds. Or it could be a right shootout. But I’m going to go with the first [scenario]. I expect Fury to stop him in nine or 10 rounds.
Ajayi: Even though it’s a 50/50 fight, I have a feeling it could be Dillian’s night. It could be the night when all the sacrifices pay off for him. I know we can never take what Tyson Fury says seriously, but I don’t like it when fighters talk about a fight potentially being their last. I think there could be an upset. My heart says Dillian; my head says Tyson.