Big Fight Preview: Whyte vs Rivas
By Oliver McManus
Following a protracted game of snakes and ladders with the WBC – Mauricio Sulaiman the long-reaching cobra that won’t allow Dillian Whyte to hop of his ladder having reached the summit – Whyte will fight for the mandatory challenger position yet again this Saturday, against the unbeaten Oscar Rivas.
The contest also sees Whyte’s WBO International title at stake and gives the Londoner a chance to enter the IBF rankings should he win.
Depending on whose side of the story you wish to buy into, Dillian Whyte is either the biggest victim of boxing politics given his lengthy rule as #1 contender with the WBC or he’s shot himself in the foot by repeatedly refusing fights that would guarantee him a mandatory world title challenge.
Here we are, though, less than a few hours away from the contest and the build-up has fizzled along without much in the way of hype and hyperbole – something we’re now accustomed to with Sky Sports pay-per-view events.
The Matchroom fighter, 25-1 18KOs, has built up a respectable resumé since his loss at the hands of Anthony Joshua – on December 12th, 2015 – with nine straight wins but ‘The Body Snatcher’ has stagnated over recent months.
Once one of the most feared and ferocious of heavyweight contenders, the big cat has been tamed and finds himself in the ‘who needs him’ club. Those four years since his fight with Joshua have produced a mixed bag of performances; two life and death performances against Dereck Chisora, a turbulent ending to proceedings with Joseph Parker and a dour contest with Robert Helenius contrasted with highlight reel stoppages of Chisora (eventually) and Lucas Browne.
Whilst the fear factor from fellow heavyweights may have dwindled, Whyte’s power certainly hasn’t and that provides that ability to ramp up the pressure with an innate nastiness ensures he’s never more than a sharp spell of explosivity away from winning a bout. At 31 and with momentum waning in terms of market value he can’t afford a slip up against Rivas but, equally, he can’t be hanging around at this level for very much longer.
His opposite number, from Canada by way of Colombia, has promised to make a splash for a considerable amount of time now – having debuted in 2009 – and has flattered to deceive on his way to 26-0. For years there have been heavy expectations on Rivas to deliver on his amateur pedigree (a Pan American silver medallist in 2007) but he hasn’t been able to build tangible momentum since turning professional.
For a long time he was fighting recognisable names such as Joey Abell and Carl Davis Drummond but with no clear pathway to getting himself in bigger, genuine, challenges.
Kaboom, aged 32, rolled the dice earlier this year in signing up to face Bryant Jennings – a fight to finally show what he was about – having struggled with eye problems in 2018. A considerable opportunity to finally put his talent to good use yet, for the most part, Rivas failed to impress as he navigated the ring in fairly laborious fashion before backing Jennings up in the final round with a flurry of plodding punches to end the contest.
In truth that was characteristic of Rivas because he is far more of a puncher than he is a mover – as long as you’re in the zone, though, he’ll come marauding in with shots to chop you down like a big old oak tree.
Whyte needs the win to get him the world title shot he’s been after but for Rivas it seems more of a pride issue; baited breath has surrounded him his whole career and there’s always an air of disappointment in his performances so now he can rectify that.
That’s why this contest should be so intriguing because both men are capable of producing the highest quality punches and knockouts but, in fairness, they are both more than capable of looking like slouches.
Which versions will turn up on the night?