Dillian Whyte doesn’t care what you think about his chances of unseating Tyson Fury as the WBC heavyweight champion this Saturday in London’s Wembley Stadium.
“I’ve been counted out by people close to me – family members and friends, the teachers at school and neighbors – so, some guy on the internet or some journalist talking smack about me, it doesn’t mean nothing to me,” said Whyte on a recent media teleconference. “This is not new territory to me.”
What may be new to the 34-year-old Jamaica native is being involved in a fight promotion that on one hand is expected to host 94,000 fans yet has focused on everything but the fight. First there were the on-again off-again negotiations that led to Whyte ultimately skipping the press conference officially announcing the bout. “The Body Snatcher” also wasn’t present for Tuesday’s open workout. Then came the news that Fury’s former advisor, Daniel Kinahan, was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of State for allegedly being part of “a murderous organization involved in the international trafficking of drugs and firearms.”
Important issues, indeed, but they’re ones Whyte has chosen to avoid en route to the biggest fight of his career, and one that didn’t come easy.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Whyte said. “We’ve worked hard. We fought top fighters and kept risking the position we was in, and even when it was mandatory, the fight didn’t happen. We actually had to go through a legal process to get Tyson Fury to fight us after he said he would fight us after he beat Wilder to become champion. Unfortunately, we had to push a legal angle and we finally got the fight and here we are.”
During his April 14 meeting with the worldwide press via Zoom, Whyte seemed at ease, confident that the hard work was over. The rest was just showing up and performing, and he’s got that part down pat after 30 pro fights in which he’s won 28, losing only to Anthony Joshua and Alexander Povetkin.
The 2015 loss to future world champion Joshua, a seventh-round stoppage, could be written off as a learning lesson for a raw fighter with only seven amateur bouts who was stepping up to world-class opposition for the first time. The brutal knockout loss to Povetkin, which took place just two fights ago in August 2020, isn’t as easy to dismiss. And it’s why many are picking Fury to win big against his former sparring partner. Whyte brushes off such comments, even dismissing the phrase “sparring partner,” instead explaining that he lived for months with Fury and his team as training teammates, not as a hired hand. As for what happened in those sessions, that depends on who you ask. Suffice to say that Whyte knows that he’s in for a fight with “The Gypsy King,” but believes that he will emerge victorious this weekend.
“I’m up against a big guy,” Whyte said. “It’s a hard fight against an undefeated champion, but I feel good, and I believe that I’ll beat him. I’m very confident in beating him, so it will be good to shut a few people up.”
Some won’t shut up about the first Povetkin fight. Yes, Whyte evened the score with the Russian seven months after their first bout, stopping him in four rounds. But being on the receiving end of a devastating knockout the first time around had many wondering if Whyte was on the tail end of a career filled with highs like his wins over Dereck Chisora and Joseph Parker, as well as the lows of a two-year drug suspension from 2012 to 2014, injuries and the loss to Joshua.
He wasn’t done.
“I persist and keep pushing,” he said. “All I do is grind.”
Whyte got his payback against Povetkin. Then he fought tooth and nail to get the Fury fight, one that he believes is a major event in his adopted home country of England not just because of the champion, but because of the challenger as well.
“It’s very hard to clap with one hand,” Whyte laughs. “You need two hands to clap. This is business. It’s not the Tyson Fury show. This fight is sold out because of me and Tyson Fury. We’re both in the fight together, so some things need to be done correctly.”
Apparently, those things weren’t done correctly enough to get Whyte to some of those media obligations, but it doesn’t really matter now, does it? Over 90,000 people have their tickets to Wembley, the folks who don’t have tickets will be watching on television, and Whyte will be getting a nice paycheck just for showing up on fight night. As for that night, Whyte has 12 rounds or less to make everything right in a life where things often went wrong.
“I’m a guy, as a kid – no future, no education, no family,” he said. “I’m a survivor. I’m a kid who’s been in the streets, I’ve been in the streets since I was a child. For someone like me who’s come from nothing, never no sporting background, never had no backing, no support, to become heavyweight champion of the world, to me, that’s true inspiration. Real inspiration.
“I know what I am, I know what I bring, and I got a lot of pain and frustration to take out on someone, and it looks like it’s gonna be Tyson Fury, so let’s go.”