WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman said on Monday that he was surprised that heavyweight Dillian Whyte had already begun training for a rematch with Alexander Povetkin despite being medically suspended by the British Boxing Board of Control.
Further, Sulaiman said the WBC has not yet received any communication from promoter Matchroom Boxing seeking a sanction for the organization’s interim heavyweight world title, which Povetkin violently took from Whyte.
On Aug. 22, at the outdoor garden of Matchroom Boxing headquarters in Brentwood, England, Whyte dominated Povetkin and dropped him twice in the fourth round before Povetkin came back to brutally knock Whyte out cold with a left uppercut for the upset victory 30 seconds into the fifth round.
With the win, Povetkin (36-2-1, 25 KOs), 41, of Russia, took Whyte’s WBC interim title and knocked him out of the mandatory position for an eventual shot at champion Tyson Fury.
Whyte quickly exercised his contractual right to an immediate rematch with Povetkin and Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn formally announced on Sept. 15 that the sequel would take place on Nov. 21 as the main event of a pay-per-view card on Sky Box Office.
Sulaiman said the turn of events is a bit surprising to him.
“There’s no sanction request. From what I understand, Dillian Whyte is still suspended by the British Boxing Board of Control and has to go through medicals, but the WBC has not received any communication whatsoever for a rematch,” Sulaiman said during a WBC Talks Zoom video conference with a handful of boxing media.
As early as Sept. 2, Whyte (27-2, 18 KOs), 32, of England, posted video on social media of him training, which would be well inside the allowable timeframe for a fighter to return to training given the severity of the knockout he suffered. Sulaiman said he believes the rematch has been scheduled far too soon following such a devastating knockout.
“We have a top priority of safety,” Sulaiman said. “It was not a TKO. What we absolutely recommend after a knockout like this is from 30, even 60 days no contact, no training. And I am surprised the WBC has not received any communication and I am surprised that they have scheduled a rematch inside of three months from the original fight.”
Besides Whyte’s resumption of training while still suspended, Sulaiman said it was also unusual that the fight was announced before the promoter had worked out the details on a WBC sanction.
“Usually, when a fight is made it’s done and it’s announced with a WBC sanction,” Sulaiman said. “There have been cases where fights are announced and then they do the paperwork. But usually, 99 percent of the time, when there’s a fight involving the WBC there’s absolute communication prior to the signing and announcement. So, I don’t know. It’s a unique situation. We have had fights in the past when they contact us maybe with a late replacement or an opportunity that comes that opens up a spot on television, so we do have the flexibility. But usually it’s 60 days out so we can prepare all the mandatory medicals, the mandatory weigh-ins. There’s things that that they have to comply with. Usually, a promoter goes and makes absolute certainty that the fight has been approved.”
Sulaiman added that there have been two virtual meetings between the WBC Board of Governors and the British Boxing Board of Control at which they have spoken about Povetkin-Whyte II.
“That’s where we raised that topic and the British Boxing Board of Control confirmed that Dillian Whyte received a suspension and was still suspended until further testing,” he said.
As far as Sulaiman is concerned even if the Povetkin-Whyte rematch goes ahead the WBC at this point is not involved.
“There’s no fight. The WBC, at this moment, we have not received any communication,” he said. “It’s out there announced but for us there is no fight for the WBC interim title.”
Dan Rafael was ESPN.com's senior boxing writer for fifteen years, and covered the sport for five years at USA Today. He was the 2013 BWAA Nat Fleischer Award winner for excellence in boxing journalism.