By Jake Donovan
Dillian Whyte believes he has a lot to offer to any promoter and broadcast platform as a top-rated heavyweight contender.
How soon he decides his next step in his career, however, could ultimately dictate whether he misses out on what might be the one guaranteed opportunity currently in place.
The 30-year old heavyweight from England—by way of Jamaica—has for months been the leading candidate to next land a crack at unbeaten, unified heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshia. April 13 has long been reserved as the date for Joshua’s next ring appearance, with a hold placed on the famed Wembley Stadium in London to host the event.
Despite Joshua’s ability to draw massive crowds in his home region (more than 300,000 in attendance for his last four combined starts), the 29-yead old Brit and his promoter Eddie Hearn have yet to entice any heavyweights to immediately bite at an offer.
Still, it’s the defending champ and his team who believe they still hold all the cards.
“I want to make sure that deal is good enough for him to accept, but I also want him to take it, because this is it. This is the world heavyweight championship.” Hearn told Sky Sports of Whyte’s hesitance to yet sign the offer in place. “You've got a chance to fight for it, in your own country, to become the king of the division.”
It’s also a chance for Whyte (25-1, 18KOs) to avenge the lone defeat in a pro career approaching eight full years in service. The loss to Joshua came in their Dec. ’15 clash, when both were still unbeaten heavyweights transitioning from prospects to contenders.
Joshua (22-0, 21KOs)—who captured a Gold medal for Great Britain in the 2012 London Olympics—went on to win his first pro title in his next fight, steamrolling previously unbeaten Charles Martin in the 2nd round of their April ’16 clash.
Three more major titles have since been added to Joshua’s collection. Two came in his unforgettable war with Wladimir Klitschko, trading knockdowns with the former World heavyweight king before putting him away in the 11th round of their April ’17 battle.
In less spectacular fashion came the World Boxing Organization (WBO) bauble, when Joshua was forced to settle for a 12-round points win over Joseph Parker in their unification bout last April. It was the lone fight of Joshua’s career to go to the scorecards, resuming his knockout ways with a rousing 7th round stoppage of Alexander Povetkin last September.
Even before the outcome of his fight with Povetkin was decided, it was already known that his targeted ring return would come April 13. Joshua and Hearn have steadily insisted that Deontay Wilder—the lone other heavyweight title claimant—was their first choice, but with most suspecting that the assignment would go to Whyte, who at the time was still under contract with Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing.
The possibility of Joshua-Whyte II became all the more enticing following Whyte’s highlight-reel 11th round knockout of Dereck Chisora in their memorable rematch last December. Following the win, Whyte found himself as the leading contender for two alphabet straps—Joshua’s WBO title and the WBC belt held by Wilder.
His shot at the latter won’t come for quite some time, as Wilder remains in negotiations with Tyson Fury as they look to secure a rematch to their 12-round draw last December. The fight comes with the WBC’s blessing, not to mention that Whyte will also have to navigate around unbeaten American heavyweight Dominic Breazeale, whom is also owed a shot at that very belt.
That would leave Whyte to turn to Joshua, although his top ranking for the WBO title isn’t yet a sanctioned mandatory position. Should he pass on the current offer Hearn has in place for the proposed April 13 date, the heavyweight contender could find himself on the outside looking in, even after he’s officially named the mandatory challenger.
Also under the Matchroom Boxing banner is unbeaten World cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk, the only cruiserweight in history to claim undisputed status in the four-belt era who was universally hailed as 2018 Fighter of the Year.
The high-ranking pound-for-pound entrant from Ukraine is coming off a career-best 2018 campaign. Most memorable was his winning two separate title unification bouts within the World Boxing Super Series, sweeping the tournament outright in becoming undisputed champ. He followed up the feat with a rousing 8th round knockout of former tltisit Tony Bellew last November, in his first fight under a co-promotional deal with Matchroom.
Along with his slew of titles, Usyk also holds the distinction of serving as a Super champion as recognized by the WBO. Terms for such honors vary, but he checked off all the boxes once he became without a doubt the cruiserweight king. With that very status gives him the right to demand mandatory challenger status in the event he moves up or down in weight.
Usyk and his immediate team—including K2 Promotions-Ukraine general manager Alex Krassyuk—have teased the possibility of his moving up to heavyweight for his first fight in 2019, and possibly for good. They’ve yet to announce their first steps for the new year, other than discussing potential plans with Hearn and the Matchroom team late last week.
Even if his first adventure at a new weight isn’t a straight away shot at Joshua, any such hesitance by Whyte to sign could leave him second in line once the WBO is ready to order a title fight.
“Under the WBO rules, Usyk, once he steps up - if he steps up - should become that automatic mandatory,” Hearn points out, even if only for purposes of additional leverage in current negotiations. “I was with the WBO last week in Puerto Rico. “Dillian is number one (in the WBO).
“That (mandatory title defense) won't be called for another month or so, and it's not due until September, October… Dillian is in the running to be that mandatory, but if you turn down a shot at the world heavyweight title, these don't come around very often.”