Dillian Whyte: The Point Of No Return
In the unlikely setting of a famous rock, Dillian Whyte faces the point of no return on Saturday night. There will be nerves, mental and physical scars to overcome, as he waits for the first bell to ring. Whyte will see the man who unexpectedly but brutally knocked him out last August, and despite all the usual pre-fight confidence the doubts in his mind will likely rise to the surface. It was the sort of defeat that lingers long after the initial pain and shock subsides.
Whyte was cruising to victory, a case of when not if he would win, but one punch changed everything, it stopped everything.
The first fight with Alexander Povetkin was the supposed last hurdle for Whyte, one of many, too many. Why Whyte hasn’t so far landed a shot at the heavyweight championship of the world, is a cocktail of missed opportunities, boxing politics and a sport that has failed him. Blame can be laid at many, there always seemed to be another fight, another excuse, but what happened against Povetkin always had a sense of inevitability about it.
Whyte had rolled the dice many times before, the likes of Joseph Parker, Oscar Rivas even Derek Chisora threatened to derail the world championship dreams. Whyte survived those scares, against Povetkin he wasn’t so lucky.
Povetkin had been down twice in the 4th round, the old fighter seemingly ageing before our eyes. One fight too many, Povetkin was becoming another statistic, but that one punch in the 5th round, kept his own career alive and left Whyte regretting plenty.
A way too quick rematch scheduled for last November was cancelled when Povetkin caught Covid, and that leaves a big question mark for Saturday. Is Povetkin fully recovered, November always looked too soon for Whyte, is Saturday now too soon for Povetkin?
Whyte has to win in Gibraltar, a fight with imminent danger written all over it. Another defeat and that long-overdue world title challenge may never come. Despite the injustice of the past, boxing doesn’t do sentiment, Whyte is one punch away from title oblivion.
Those that say Povetkin just got lucky clearly don’t know boxing. In many ways, Whyte dropped his guard and heavily paid the price. It wasn’t a lucky punch it was the perfect punch.
Despite what happened in August, Whyte is still expected to get his revenge, but he is the fighter with all the pressure on his shoulders. Povetkin now 41, found the punch for his career stay of execution in the first fight but the odds say lightening won’t strike twice.
But has the savage brutal knockout Whyte suffered at the hands of Povetkin left a permanent mark. Winning is far from guaranteed and will Whyte fall into a style of neither one thing nor the other. Will he try to find the balance between not being overly aggressive and not being too negative and end up being caught in the land of nothing.
With another partially new team in his corner will that add to his problems if the going gets tough. Will the British fighter get mixed messages in his corner, if so, Whyte might not respond in the manner that he needs.
Losing again would be unthinkable for Whyte, a disaster doesn’t even cover it, any world title hopes would be gone, and the potential road back going over old ground would be a long one, maybe a never-ending one.
The rematch could realistically go a number of ways, and with Whyte, even in victory, there is usually drama. Saturday isn’t about impressing, it’s just about winning. Whyte, I think can get what he wants, what he desperately needs, but victory this time is far less certain than what it appeared to be last time. Until the fight is definitively over, nobody will be certain who will prevail. Whyte will never feel comfortable or in control, the memories of Fight Camp will not be far away.
Whyte talks about wanting to go to war, but that is the last thing he needs. There have been too many hard fights already, and if he eventually does land that elusive world title shot, the decline might already have set in. Has the damage already been done regardless of the result in Gibraltar.
If Whyte isn’t caught between two styles and doesn’t have a mindset of trying not to lose more than trying to win, then Whyte could get the job done with relative comfort. But however well he is doing in the rematch what happened in the first fight won’t be far from his thoughts, and it needs to be.
Photo Credit: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing