Show caption Tyson Fury and Dillian Whyte come face to face at the weigh-in before their WBC heavyweight title fight. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian Tyson Fury Tyson Fury is rightly wary but Dillian Whyte win would be a seismic shock Both British heavyweights are in confident mood after a tumultuous buildup to their epic Wembley showdown Donald McRae @donaldgmcrae Sat 23 Apr 2022 08.00 BST Share on Facebook
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Tyson Fury and Dillian Whyte will enter the ring at Wembley Stadium just after 10pm on Saturday night with mutual respect for each other and the brutal uncertainties of heavyweight boxing. “We’re big men,” Whyte said a week ago at his training camp in Portugal, “and when one big heavyweight catches the other guy clean all plans and predictions go out the window. I know Tyson is the best heavyweight out there but I have been through so much to get this fight. I also know I can hurt him. I know I can beat him.”
A couple of days later, in the shadow of the huge arena where Fury will defend his WBC title against his British challenger, the world champion and undoubted favourite was just as blunt and respectful. “Dillian’s definitely a fearless guy. I’ve sparred him a lot in the past and he didn’t show any weaknesses. So I’m anticipating a good fight, a real tough fight, because Dillian is a strong heavyweight who is in the top five in the world. He poses a real challenge, as do all these heavyweights. It only takes one punch to knock a man out as we’ve seen many times. So I’m not underestimating him. I’ve trained like a Trojan warrior.”
Warming to his task, and stripping away all flowery talk, Fury added: “I break it down to the bare minimum and we have two big lumps in the ring, trying to knock each other out. It’s nothing new – just on a bigger stage. I will be leaving every ounce of strength and energy I have in the ring. That’s all you can do. You can train a horse for battle but the rest of it’s in God’s hands. If it’s written in the stars that I win again, we will have a drink after the fight to a very successful night and career. I’ll then get back in my car, drive straight to Morecambe Bay and take the bins out on Monday morning. Same old story.”
Of course, in boxing, nothing is straightforward. Fury has had an often difficult fight week and there were occasions when he has been riled by persistent questions about his past working relationship with Daniel Kinahan, the alleged leader of a drug cartel. He has spoken in more detail about his plans to retire after this fight. Few people in boxing believe that his bout against Whyte will be his last – but Fury has had a lot of hard fights in recent years.
Tyson Fury before weighing in at 18st 12lb ahead of his fight with Deontay Wilder at Wembley. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian
Whyte, the 34-year-old Jamaican-born Londoner, has had to wait years for this first crack at a world title and he feels a burning resentment at the way he says he has been treated by the WBC and Fury’s promoters who he believes have cost him a significant amount of money. He will receive 20% of the record $41,025,000 fight purse. Whyte is convinced that the Court of Arbitration for Sport will eventually award him at least 30%, and possibly more.
Starvation and deprivation scarred his early years in Kingston and, as a teenager, when he was eventually reunited with his mother in London, he fell into gang life. Whyte was stabbed on two occasions, and shot, but he survived. He fathered a child at the age of 13 and his life has often been tumultuous.
As a professional, who had little amateur experience, he has won 28 of his 30 fights. He performed creditably against Anthony Joshua in 2015, rocking the future world champion, before Whyte was stopped on a seventh-round TKO. After winning his next 11 bouts in a row, and having long established himself as the WBC’s mandatory challenger, Whyte’s world was turned inside out again. In August 2020, in the midst of lockdown, he fought the old Russian warhorse Alexander Povetkin. The acute loneliness of heavyweight boxing engulfed Whyte after he was knocked out in the fifth round by a sickening uppercut. He had dropped Povetkin twice in the fourth but, just minutes later, he was unconscious before he hit the canvas.
It says much about Whyte’s nerve, and the fearlessness which Fury recognises, that he demanded a rematch. His knockout of Povetkin was just as conclusive in the fourth round and proof of both his power and his mental strength.
Fury acknowledges the danger that lurks beneath the seemingly obvious prediction that he is simply too skilled and resilient to succumb to Whyte. “Unless I’m Houdini, I’m definitely hittable,” he said earlier this week. “I’ve definitely been hit before. I’ve been bounced off the canvas more times than a bouncy ball. So I’m not this untouchable boxer that everyone thinks I might be. I’m just a normal boxing man who has got lucky 32 times in a row.”
He remains unbeaten after those 32 fights and Fury really believes he is the best heavyweight in the world by some distance, “I know he thinks he’s the six foot nine inch version of Muhammad Ali, George Foreman and Mike Tyson rolled into one,” Whyte said, “but he’s only a man. Obviously the crowd does play a part and there are going to be 94,000 people there. I know it’s going to be a pro-Fury crowd. Who cares? That’s the great thing about sport and especially heavyweight boxing. The underdog can always win.”
It will, however, be a seismic shock if Whyte prevails. For all the enduring unpredictability of some heavyweight contests, and the volatile lives of both men, Fury should win again. Despite all his fervent talk of retirement, it would be much more of a surprise if does not return to the ring for at least one or two more fights after Saturday night.