If you’re a boxing fan, you’ll already know how Dillian Whyte’s night went when he took on veteran Russian fighter Alexander Povetkin in the strange setting of an English hotel garden last weekend. The British-Jamaican fighter had put his long-tenured opponent down twice in the fourth round and appeared to have the fight under total control until he stepped out for the start of the fifth and got caught by an uppercut he never saw coming. It was, by Povetkin’s own admission, the best punch of his career, and it took away Whyte’s WBC interim heavyweight title. It also took away Whyte’s position as the number one contender to the true WBC World Heavyweight Championship, currently held by Tyson Fury.
We won’t take anything away from Povetkin. This was his night, and he used it to prove many of his critics wrong. At the age of 40 and seemingly struggling in his past few fights, many figures within the sport believed he was on the verge of retirement, and his best years were behind him. Povetkin had other ideas. With this win, he’s landed himself at least one more main event payday. He’ll likely have to take a rematch with Whyte first of all, and if he gets through that, he’ll get a guaranteed shot at whoever’s holding the WBC World Heavyweight Championship by that point. Either way, he’ll make a lot of money. Things should never have reached this point for Dillian Whyte, though. He should never have been in this position.
In years to come, Dillian Whyte may come to be viewed as the most harshly-treated heavyweight boxing contender of all time. Prior to this defeat – only the second of his career – he had been the mandatory challenger for the WBC World Heavyweight Championship for more than one thousand days. During those one thousand days, he was presented with excuse after excuse as to why he couldn’t have what he was entitled to. Deontay Wilder, the champion for that entire time, spent over a year of that time tangled up with Tyson Fury. Prior to that, he appeared to want to fight literally anyone other than Whyte. Wilder’s ‘impressive’ KO record is only impressive so long as you don’t look too hard at the names on it. In the aftermath of Whyte’s defeat, Wilder posted a taunting message on social media in Russian. That’s fine fighting talk from someone who ran from fighting Whyte for more than two years.
It’s not too difficult to understand why Whyte never got his shot. He’s not one of boxing’s big box office names. Money fights always get priority, and that’s the way the game works. Putting a boxing card together works roughly the same way as putting a winning line together in an online slots. That is, in fact, the entire point of Mike Tyson’s personalized and officially licensed online slots game “Mike Tyson KO.” It doesn’t matter if you have all the top symbols on the screen of your online slots game; if they aren’t in the right order, you won’t get any money. Whyte’s name isn’t considered a ‘top symbol’ by boxing promoters. They’re convinced that the jackpot exists in various combinations of Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder, and Anthony Joshua, and they have limited interest in letting Whyte in on the action.
This isn’t to say that we believe that Whyte would necessarily have won the world title had he been granted an opportunity to. Right now, his opponent would have been Tyson Fury, and there may not be a fighter in the world who can beat Fury. Given Whyte’s tendency to leave himself unprotected at critical moments (the uppercut that Povetkin knocked him out with is the same punch Anthony Joshua used to knock him out in 2015), it’s likely that a Wilder haymaker would have caught him at some point during a twelve-round fight. Anthony Joshua has already proven that he can beat Whyte, and there’s no reason to believe that a rematch would have gone any other way. This isn’t the point, though. The point is that the rankings are supposed to be used to determine who fights a champion, and when. If a boxer is ranked as the number one contender for more than two entire years and doesn’t get his shot, the rankings are worth nothing at all. We may as well do away with the idea of boxers ‘earning’ their position and make fights based on who has the most sponsors and the highest media profile instead.
This won’t be the end of Dillian Whyte. At 32, he still has a few prime years ahead of him, and the chances are that he’ll beat Povetkin in a rematch if he pays more attention to what the Russian is doing when he ducks down low. That will put him back at the front of the queue, but by that time, the third Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder will probably have happened. If Fury wins, he’ll move on to a unification bout with Anthony Joshua. If Wilder wins, we can probably look forward to the tedium of a fourth bout between the two. That means that Whyte will, once again, be left looking on from the sidelines for a year or more. Aside from Povetkin, he’s already beaten everyone there is to beat outside of the ‘big three.’ There’s nothing for him to do other than kick his heels and complain about being ignored, but those complaints have – so far at least – fallen on deaf ears.
The fact remains that at some point in the past one thousand days, Deontay Wilder should have been stripped of his WBC World Heavyweight Championship for ducking Dillian Whyte. Questions should already have been asked as to why a Whyte vs. Fury fight hasn’t been negotiated or arranged since Fury deposed the Bronze Bomber. Win or lost in the Povetkin rematch, and even notwithstanding the fact that the defeat happened at all, Dillian Whyte has been forced to stand at the back of the queue by the WBC because his face doesn’t fit. He’s good enough to get the opportunity but doesn’t fit the profile of the type of person they want at the top of their cards. That was the real injustice of last weekend; not that Whyte lost, but the fact that he was there to lose in the first place.