Dillian Whyte is an underdog for Saturday’s heavyweight showdown with Tyson Fury at Wembley, but several factors give him a chance to upset the odds, from his vicious left hook to Fury’s left-field mindset.
Even the odd build-up, which saw Whyte refuse to commit to much of the promotion, could work in the challenger’s favor. The 34-year-old “Bodysnatcher” may be sulking over a dispute over how the purse is split, but as a side effect, he robbed Fury of the ability to get inside his head ahead of this fight.
As Wladimir Klitschko and Deontay Wilder can attest, Fury can be a considerable annoyance in the months, weeks and days leading up to a fight. He uses one-on-one press conferences to ignite and distract his opponent to the point that even the larger-than-life Wilder, before their third fight, simply refused to engage with Fury because he knew he didn’t. there was nothing to gain. to lose yet another verbal battle.
Fans were denied what would have been fascinating clashes between the charismatic ‘Gypsy King’ and the clever ‘Villain’. However, it was to Whyte’s advantage to avoid Fury’s mind games.
Of course, the fights are taking place inside the ring in front of over 90,000 people in London, not at a press event – and it’s understandable why Fury is the clear favorite. He is 6-foot-9, undefeated, versatile, clumsy, has a high IQ, and has remarkable scavenging powers. Whyte, on the other hand, was stopped by Anthony Joshua and Alexander Povetkin, and went to war to beat Derek Chisora twice while Fury easily dispatched ‘Del Boy’ when they last met in 2014.
But Whyte has weapons to worry Fury. He possesses the most notoriously dangerous punch for an Orthodox fighter to face (assuming Fury stays Orthodox for any length of time): a destructive left hook that can knock anyone to the canvas. And Fury, despite being an awkward opponent with a unique style for his size, isn’t so skilled that he’s immune to taking flush shots. Whyte’s other method of attack is his body punch – and one of the downsides of standing tall at 6ft 9in is that it gives your opponent plenty of body to aim for.
And hurting Fury must be Whyte’s primary focus. Unlike former Dillian rival Joshua – who looked caught between two styles against Oleksandr Usyk, unsure whether to use his height on the back foot or press for a knockout (ultimately doing neither the each other and getting knocked out) – Whyte’s method to victory is clear. He probably doesn’t have the skill or stamina to dispatch Fury in 12 rounds. (Those who disagree can get 25-1 over Whyte to win by decision at the most generous bookmakers.)
That might not sound like good news, but it makes Whyte’s job easier. Without being reckless, he must get inside Fury and hurt him. Far from being an impossible mission. Fury suffered four total knockdowns in his trilogy with Wilder, was taken down by the not-so-dynamic duo of Neven Pajkic and Steve Cunningham earlier in his career, and was caught multiple times by Otto Wallin in 2019. Whyte can’t not brag about the extraordinary of Wilder. -punching power, but he has enough pop on his punches to wobble Joshua, knock down the usually resilient Joseph Parker, and bring the teak-resistant Chisora to a screeching halt.
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But perhaps Whyte’s greatest advantages are what’s going through Fury’s head right now. The 33-year-old may be a few months younger than Whyte, but he feels closer to the end of his heavyweight run. Fury has talked about retirement from time to time in the run-up to this fight and he clearly and urgently wants a showdown with Joshua in 2022. He took this fight because he’s mandated and needs to stay busy. But while this is clearly the biggest fight of Whyte’s life, Fury’s motivation is questionable.
And the Mancunian’s motivation seems even more important than for most boxers. Fury is never better than when he feels the world is against him and the critics write him off. His best performances – from upsetting Klitschko to shocking Wilder with his resilience (in their first fight) and power (in their second) – have all come in his biggest fights. But Fury tends to fight on the level of his opposition and has looked awkward against opponents he was supposed to handle, from Wallin to Cunningham.
In his usual style, Fury promised before camp that: “I’m going to train for him. [Whyte] like he was “Muhammad-I-am-hard-Bruce-Lee”. But emerging from a career-defining trilogy with Wilder, unable to get the fight he really wants and with thoughts of retirement creeping into his thinking, the big question is just how turned on Fury is. this fight? Because boxing history is full of examples of more talented but less motivated boxers losing to hungrier foes.
The counter-argument is that even an 80-90% Fury might have too much for a fully charged Whyte. But another question is exactly how much Fury is left in the tank. His war with Wilder last year was so electrifying that the reaction – naturally – was to praise the epic slugfest and praise the courage of both boxers. Lost in the reaction, Fury, who was widely expected to annihilate Wilder like he did in their second fight, made plenty of mistakes and was nearly stopped in the fourth round.
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For all the talk of damage to Wilder, these are the kinds of wars that can wear down the winner as much as the loser – and it’s not like Fury has always lived a spartan lifestyle away from the ring. At some point the battles catch up and all of a sudden you lose that magical ability to get back up in 10 seconds from punches that would put a normal human in the hospital for a week.
Fury’s sloppy display against Wilder may in part be due to a less than ideal training camp. But it’s not as if the build-up to that fight against Whyte has been distraction-free, with the media running stories about Fury’s connection to Daniel Kinahan after the alleged crime boss was handed a $5 million bounty on his head by the US government. Fury was asked about it this week and alternated between denials and jokes (“I have my own issues to deal with with six kids and a wife who’s harassing me to death”). However, these are not the kind of questions Fury wants to face and he was irritated when asked about the MTK Global logos that previously appeared on his workout gear.
Adversity and controversy outside of the ring is something Fury has dealt with before. He’s remarkably relaxed in the ring and, when you watch Whyte’s knockout by Povetkin – and see Whyte with his eyes pointed downward as the Russian lands an almighty uppercut – it’s hard to imagine a lit Fury committing such an amateur mistake.
But Whyte is not a protected mandatory challenger, fed a hopeless diet to inflate his record. He’s been tough, proven in the top five at heavyweight, is a dangerous puncher, has undeniable grit and has been waiting for this fight for years. If the Mercurial Fury is less than his best on fight night, Whyte is exactly the kind of heavyweight he doesn’t want to share a ring with.
talkSPORT will bring you live coverage of the huge world heavyweight title fight between Tyson Fury and Dillian Whyte at Wembley on Saturday night, with our coverage starting at 7.30pm and featuring expert analysis from Ben Davison’s ringside
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