By Jake Donovan
For the moment, it appears that Diilian Whyte’s U.S. invasion remains limited to several important business meetings and a ringside view for Manny Pacquiao’s stateside return.
At the very least, however, it caught the attention of the promoter who has guided most of his professional career.
The top-rated heavyweight contender from England by way of Jamaica has seen his name floated as a leading candidate for an April 13 showdown with Anthony Joshua, only for that date—and for the moment, the rematch itself—to be dead in the water. Whyte has sensed as much in recent weeks, taking issues with the offers presented by longtime promoter Eddie Hearn and instead opting to explore other options which led to his U.S. business trip.
“It was alright, very interesting,” Whyte told IFL TV’s Kugan Cassius over the weekend of his recent stateside tour, though while also setting the record straight in terms of the direction of interest.
“It was an eye opener. I wasn’t whoring myself to anyone, everyone was whoring themselves to me. I just went there to watch a fight. I wanted to see Manny Pacquiao live (versus Adrien Broner at MGM Grand in Las Vegas). I met with everyone.”
The purpose of the trip was two-fold for Whyte. One, he wanted to serve notice that there were other options besides what can be—and for years, has been—offered by Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing. Also, there was the need to inform the rest of the boxing world that there does not exist exclusivity in his official association with Hearn.
“People automatically assumed I was with DAZN,” Whyte said, referencing Matchroom Boxing’s current lucrative deal with the sports streaming service. “They assumed that because I was with Matchroom that I’m with DAZN, and I just wanted to let everybody know that’s not the case.
“I’m not (leaving) Matchroom. I’m just seeing what’s what. I can’t close the door. The door is open. Things happen and change. I just have to look at other options and see what’s what. There have been a few messages from a few people. I’m considering any option. Me and Matchroom are good together. We do good business together. But it is a business.”
The best business that can be done for Whyte and any other heavyweight in the world today is an assignment versus Joshua, the unbeaten, unified heavyweight titlist and the crown jewel of Matchroom Boxing. The 29-year old Brit—who captured a Gold medal for Great Britain during the 2012 London Olympics—has emerged as a box-office blockbuster, having drawn more than 300,000 in attendance for his last four title defenses.
Even without a title, Whyte (25-1, 18KOs) has emerged as a box-office attraction by his own right. As much came of his most recent start, a highlight-reel 11th round knockout of Dereck Chisora in a rematch last December that was every bit the thriller that was their first meet two years prior almost to the day.
The win was Whyte’s ninth in a row, with his lone career loss coming at the hands of Joshua in their Dec. ’15 clash when both were still unbeaten prospects on the rise. Joshua scored a 7th round knockout in what marked his last fight before challenging for his first major title.
Four months later, he halted Charles Martin in two rounds to become a heavyweight titlist. Joshua added three more belts along the way, two in a spectacular 11th round knockout of Wladimir Klitschko in the 2017 Fight of the Year and then one more in a not-as-entertaining 12-round decision over Joseph Parker in their title unification clash last March.
Whyte showed his own worth in outpointing Parker one fight later, fending off a late rally to prevail in their thriller last July. From there, he played the waiting game, first riding out Joshua’s fight with—and knockout of—Alexander Povetkin and then playing second fiddle in talks while Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury prepared for their clash last December.
“We’ve been trying to make the fight since September,” Whyte said. “We had to wait until after the (Deontay) Wilder-(Tyson) Fury fight (last December). If Wilder won they’d offer the fight to Wilder. If Fury won, they’d offer the fight to Fury.”
Nobody won, it turned out, as they fought to a widely disputed draw. The two have since been in talks for a rematch that will likely take place May 18 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Theoretically, that should’ve left Whyte as the best available option for Joshua. Instead, the more likely scenario has the unbeaten titlist eyeing a U.S. debut in an early June showdown versus Brooklyn’s Jarrell Miller, and Whyte—having rejected what he deemed as unacceptable offers from Hearn—on the hunt for his next opponent.
That area is one where the promoter is ready to deliver—again.
“I’ve delivered his whole career. In fact, they should call me the f****n’ postman,” Hearn said in the same 30-minute interview captured by IFL TV. “I’ve delivered, he’s delivered. You’ve gone from six rounds off TV, to headlining PPVs. It’s gone quite well. I admire (Whyte) because he backs himself. He does back himself.
“His next fight, it’s dangerous, they’re all dangerous fights. He’s prepared to be in them. You’re always gambling in this division. Whether it’s (Joseph) Parker, (Dereck) Chisora, Povetkin, (Dominic) Breazeale, these are tough fights. We’re going to get a date in the diary hopefully announced in the next week, hopefully.”
April 20 appears to be the working date in place, with Hearn and the Matchroom team looking beyond the stay-busy scope and instead hoping to give Whyte more than one option for a blockbuster fight later this year.
“Right now, I’m thinking how he can have a date if the Joshua fight doesn’t take place, which for the moment it doesn’t look like it doesn’t,” notes Hearn. “We don’t want to have him in a 10-rounder. We want him headlining in a major fight. He’s rolling the dice every time he wants to fight. And he keeps winning.
“At the same time, I want to deliver him a world title opportunity. Look at the heavyweights out there. How many of them are going to get a title opportunity? How are they going to maneuver them to a title shot? They can’t. I don’t see it.”
Not leaving anything to chance, Hearn can only hope to keep Whyte active and remain ahead of the curve in ensuring that things more easily fall into place the next time around.
“April 20 is a perfect PPV date. We have to get the right fight, the right card. Dillian and his team are involved and have been doing that consistently his last two fights. For April 20, we want to get up and running in the next week, 10 days. In an ideal world we’d like to get Breazeale because the winner is the mandatory for Wilder.
“Everytime Dillian Whyte fights, he’s calling me straight away asking when’s the next one. He phoned me up. He will continue to put the pressure on me, to deliver, like he always has. And it’s up to me, to deliver.”
Whyte’s recent trek across the pond may left him exactly where he began. But it’s clear that the future looks promising and that—for however long Hearn continues to expertly guide his career—the boxer has secured his promoter’s undivided attention.