British boxing is searching for the next group of fighters capable of filling areas and creating headlines.  

For a long time that weight of expectation fell squarely on the shoulders of fighters produced by the successful Team GB amateur set-up but in recent months - and across all promotions - boxers who turned professional with limited amateur experience and fighters who have fought their way up from the bottom of bills have been given more and more opportunities to shine.

The likes of Tyler Denny, Nathan Heaney, Nick Ball and Liam Davies have taken their chances and even fighters like Leigh Wood and Jack Catterall turned over with little fanfare. 

Still, it stands to reason that a boxer with an elite amateur pedigree stands the better chance of succeeding at the highest level and a fighter with a deep amateur background, the willingness to test those skills and that indefinable, invaluable X-Factor is the holy trinity.

Ben Whittaker’s confident, showboating style may be polarizing but it certainly creates attention and the 2020 Olympic silver medalist also possess the talent to keep both hardcore and casual boxing fans talking about him for a long time to come. If he can stay fit.

So far, that has proven to be a big ‘if’.

Whittaker made an immediate impact as a professional but a frustratingly long series of niggles have restricted him to just four professional starts in 17 months. The injuries have kept the light heavyweight out of sight and the resulting inactivity has inevitably seen him slip out of mind.

Whittaker is fully fit again and Albania’s StIven Leonetti Dredhaj should allow the 26 year old to reintroduce himself in impressive fashion when he returns to action on the undercard of Chris Billam-Smith’s world title defence against Mateusz Masternak this weekend.

“I’m built like the tin man at the moment, I keep falling apart,” Whittaker joked to Sky Sports’ Andy Scott during Thursday’s public workout. “Hopefully things go right after Sunday and we move into the New Year, an active year.

“I must have stepped on the wrong penny or something. It’s all striking me at once but at the end of the day my spirits are still high. I’ve still been training and working hard and I’m in great shape. It’s not as if I’m just sitting on the couch eating like an idiot. I’m working hard. You’ll see it on Sunday and then, hopefully, 2024 will be a big year for me.”

It doesn’t matter what profession they make work in, those who prioritize style over substance don’t tend to have very long shelf lives. That is particularly true in boxing. Whittaker seems to realize the importance of underpinning the glitz, glamour and showmanship with hard work and the extended periods of time spent on the sidelines have accelerated his plans. Whittaker wants to make up for lost time in 2024. 

“For me, I’m looking up, not down,” he said. “Anybody who’s above me, anyone who’s got something for me, a title or a name, that’s what we’re aiming for. I think that’s what boxers should do. Aim up, not down.

“I’ve gotta be realistic. I’m an Olympic silver medallist. British or onwards is better for me. I think that’s the level I’m at and that’s the level I’ve got to prove myself at.

“We know what the end goal is. We want world titles and it’s about getting there at the right time. I’ve been sparring world champions and potential world champions. I’m doing that now so that when I do get to that level, I’m like, ‘Oh, this is the level?’

“Don’t worry about what I’m doing in the gym. If anything I’m training at a higher level than I should be so that when I do fight these fights I make them look easy.”