Dillian Whyte is the latest in a long list of fearsome heavyweights denied what is rightfully theirs

Whyte’s plight is like something from the forgotten days of the late Fifties and early Sixties when a fearsome gang of heavyweights were repeatedly rejected by the management, wise men, wise guys and shameless hucksters 

Steve Bunce
Monday 29 April 2019 12:52
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Dillian Whyte on Anthony Joshua bout: 'I haven’t got time to wait'

Dillian Whyte was cut, kidnapped, lied to, stabbed, ignored, shot and insulted, but that was when life was easy and before he tried to get a world heavyweight title fight.

Whyte’s crazy life taught him patience, taught him that getting what you deserve is a fantasy and made him a determined man, a dangerous fighter because he is fearless. “I have been through a lot of things, this is just the latest,” Whyte said, a mix of a scowl, a shrug and a smile on his face and across his vast shoulders.

He has listened to promises of a world title fight for nearly two years, close to a record in the modern game.

Whyte is on a run of four quality wins in succession, which goes against the spirit of the boxing business where few fighters have to win four fifty-fifty fights to get a shot at the promised land. Men in short shorts, in smokey halls and battling for peanuts had to do less than Whyte to get their chance.

There have been some offers, rejected purses, sneered at schemes and fights refused, but Whyte has quite rightly kept his focus on a rematch with Anthony Joshua; the pair have met twice, Whyte won the first when they were gangly amateurs and Joshua the second when they were raw professionals. The third is long, long overdue.

Now Whyte has agreed his fifth successive difficult fight and will meet unbeaten and ignored Oscar Rivas at the O2 under the big dome on July 20 - yet another fifty-fifty fight. It is arguably the boldest and possibly dumbest move to take place there since a very lively gang of crooks blundered badly in a failed diamond heist back in 2000. The south-London criminals hatched a plan from the pages of comic fiction; a dirty half-dozen, a ram raid in a stolen JCB, nick the Millennium Star diamond, valued at 200 million quid, and then jump in a speedboat on the Thames to escape. What could go wrong?

The Flying Squad ended that fairy tale a bit sharpish and Rivas could so easily ruin Whyte’s lasting ambitions.

Whyte’s plight is like something from the forgotten days of the late Fifties and early Sixties when a fearsome gang of heavyweights were repeatedly rejected by the management, wise men, wise guys and shameless hucksters in charge of heavyweight champions Rocky Marciano and Floyd Patterson. It was a dark, dark crooked time, with men in Fedoras packed off to Alcatraz for fixing fights, running and ruining the sport.

Sadly, boxing still lingers under the tricky shadow of the mob from those ancient days when the reality is that the smartest, richest and most powerful men run the sport legally now, making fools of lesser men during negotiations. No guns, no threats, but still dangerous ground for the weak.

In the late Fifties, Sonny Liston was the most invisible of the destructive forces during the disgraceful years, but Nino Valdes, Zora Folley and Cleveland Williams all had to either wait too long or never get a crack at the title. Liston finally, three or four years too late, did get a chance and knocked out Patterson in 126 seconds.

Liston went on to stop Patterson after just 126 seconds

Folley and Williams, who had been shot several times by the police, also got their chance many years later when the brutal and neglected version of Muhammad Ali beat them savagely. Nobody would touch a peak Valdes and, a bit like Whyte, he fought the leading contenders, winning, losing and moving no closer to the champion at the time and never getting what he deserved.

On Monday, Whyte and Rivas stood nose-to-nose, a confrontational silhouette high above the Thames in a luxury hotel on a bend that helps define the skyline with an iconic view of the city. “I have taken a hard fight because I don’t want easy fights - I want to challenge myself and this is a challenge” insisted Whyte.

Also present, at the start of what could be a record-breaking week for bulk at three planned heavyweight conferences, was David Price, the Beijing bronze medal winner and fallen idol and saviour of the heavyweight division, and Dave Allen, who not so long ago was a comedy jester on the big-boy circuit; Price fights Allen, now a real contender, on Whyte’s undercard.

Dave Allen fights David Price on July 20

Later this week Joshua will open the doors at his gym for a goodbye message before departing for Miami and New York and the last days of his camp for his defence of his world championship belts at Madison Square Garden on June 1. A replacement for the admitted drug cheat Jarrell Miller, guaranteed a place in boxing hell as the smartest idiot in the ring, is due any day now, but the name, girth and combined ambition of the late sub is no longer a factor in Joshua’s New York party. There is, however, a six-million dollar bonus for the selected sacrifice.

And also at some point this week, Frank Warren will present Joe Joyce, Rio silver medalist, and the unbeaten duo of Daniel Dubois and Nathan Gorman. The trio will box in London in July; Dubois is 21 and Gorman just 22 and if they were from the South Side of some American ghetto we would all be singing their destructive praises. Tyson Fury, remember, fights in Las Vegas in June and I would argue that as many as eight British heavyweights have a genuine right to be in the world’s top 25, including three in the top four.

“There comes a time when all the stars align and right now all the stars are aligned for the heavyweights,” said Barry Hearn, in the chair to host the conference and the veteran promoter of Joe Bugner against Frank Bruno in the Eighties. “We may never see the money and a time like this again.”

That sounds about right from the mouth of a true behemoth of the game.

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