DILLIAN Whyte is the new WBC interim heavyweight champion, as well as WBC mandatory challenger, following a unanimous decision victory over Colombian Oscar Rivas tonight (July 20) in London.
The title is essentially pointless and serves only to undermine Whyte and his progress, but the number one ranking, and the promise of a fight against WBC champion Deontay Wilder (or Luis Ortiz or Tyson Fury), are well-earned high-fives for a 10-fight win-streak and a thrilling 12 rounds spent in the company of Rivas.
Whyte, a narrow favourite going in, recovered from a ninth-round knockdown to win the fight by scores of 115-112 (twice) and 116-111. There were no complaints from the Colombian, nor his team, and the fight, competitive and high-paced, lived up to all expectations.
Beforehand, as part of the sales pitch, Rivas had been compared to Mike Tyson yet showed none of Tyson’s power of ferocity in the 36 minutes he spent in a British ring. Instead, ‘Kaboom’ was one-paced and workmanlike, huffing and puffing his way through rounds and unloading with wide hooks to both head and body. He started well, faded after the third, and then clawed his way back into the contest in the second half, a comeback punctuated by the knockdown score in round nine. It happened early in the round, too; a right uppercut catching Whyte unawares, putting him on his backside, and giving Rivas the perfect opportunity to follow up and finish.
Alas, he let the chance pass him by. Keen to finish, Rivas loaded up too much on subsequent attacks and soon gassed out. This allowed Whyte to find his feet again, fiddle his way back into the round and remarkably end it on top.
It was, in many ways, a microcosm of the fight, for it seemed Rivas, explosive and full of intent, was making all the right noises, shooting all the right looks and prowling with ambition, yet found himself constantly at the mercy of Whyte’s patient, clever work. He was hustled out of rounds and nullified whenever he looked to wind up and get going. He was out-thought rather than out-fought.
Still, it’s never easy with Whyte. This proved the case against Dereck Chisora, and against Joseph Parker, and also against Rivas, 26-1 (18). It could be due to his limitations, granted, but it also speaks to how he approaches fights and how he priorities entertainment over anything else. In a division increasingly obsessed with low risk, high reward fights and self-preservation, Whyte keeps fighting – in every sense of the word.
As for what happens next, nobody really knows. Even with the promise of him being next in line, such is the state of the division it’s hard for Whyte to visualise the face of the man against whom he will box for the WBC title. It could be Wilder, the current holder, or it could be Ortiz, the Cuban southpaw Wilder rematches later this year. It could even be Fury, the fellow Brit who has lined up a rematch with Wilder next February. Any one of these may oppose Whyte when his chance finally arrives, presumably somewhere around May next year, and it’s this uncertainty that puts the Brixton heavyweight in a tricky situation.
He has risen to the number one spot, been gifted a belt for his troubles, yet still he must wait. Still he must wonder. It begs the question: Should he fight someone else in the interim, thus risking his ranking and guaranteed title shot, or should he wait it out and pray inactivity and ring rust isn’t an issue when the time finally comes for him to meet a champion?
For now, Whyte, 26-1 (18), has answered the only question he is equipped to answer. He has beaten a fellow contender in fine style, kept hold of all he has worked so hard to accumulate, and delivered an enthralling if slow-burning main event.
Tonight, he should enjoy his latest win, perhaps the best of his career, and try to remain blissfully ignorant to the fact that in boxing being good, entertaining and hitting a perfect 10 is sometimes still not enough.