Wilder v Whyte: A First Assessment
By: Ben Sutherland
In a recent interview with IFL, Eddie Hearn expressed his desire to get his man Dilian Whyte a shot at Deontay Wilder’s WBC title. The Londoner, who rose to prominence through his scrap with Joshua back in 2015, has been hovering below the world level for some time. Whyte’s clash with Dereck Chisora at the end of last year cemented him as a household name in the UK. His aggressive manner inside and outside of the ring have given him the role of the villain amongst the British public, something which he seems to be relishing.
His profile combined with Hearn’s backing means the fight can produce the type of revenue sufficient enough to entice a big name like Wilder over to the UK. If Wilder is trying to build toward a Joshua fight, Whyte is a great stepping stone, he’s objectively easier work and provides a nice potential pay day. Wilder publicly rejected Hearn’s first advances but, in a hypothetical world where the two men clashed, could Whyte actually win?
The 6ft 7 undefeated American is one of the toughest fights out there. He is aggressive, athletic, and above all else carries serious power, having stopped a staggering 37 of his 38 opponents before the final bell. His technical ability has at times, left a lot to be desired, often throwing wild and unwieldy punches more reminiscent of the UFC than a world class boxer. Up to this point, the quality of his opponents has been such that he has been able to get away with his technical holes. Through sheer power and athleticism he has blasted his opponents out of there. This is perhaps the biggest criticism one could make of Wilder thus far: his record lacks a credible name worthy of his world champion status.
Should he come up against a man with a good chin, who is experienced at the level and technically sound, there are questions which are currently unanswered.
Whyte is best known as the man who rocked Anthony Joshua. At the time, he took him far further than anyone else had. In what is a relatively rare occurrence in boxing, Whyte walked away from the defeat with a better reputation and profile than before. This reputation was bolstered when it was revealed that Whyte had been crippled by a shoulder injury in the build-up. This led to speculation that his power could improve following a surgery to repair his injury. However, since that fight he has struggled. He has four more wins on his record but they were far from impressive. First, he beat Iva Bacurin, a no name Croatian with 12 losses on his record. He then fought an out of shape Dave Allen who took him the distance. He then fought Ian Lewison, who was in even poorer condition. Lewison retired on his stool in the 11th but it was hardly an impressive win. Then he had a massive domestic showdown with fellow Londoner, Dereck Chisora. In a fight which captured the attention of the public through its fiery build up, Whyte won a controversial split decision. The power he showed against Joshua has subsequently been missing. One might theorize after the Klitscko fight that Joshua’s chin is more suspect than we think and perhaps Whyte’s power isn’t what we previously thought.
Meanwhile, Wilder has struggled to find quality opponents in years. Bermane Stiverne, the man from whom he won his WBC title, is probably the best name on his record. Malik Scott, Eric Molina, Arreola and most recently Washington are all decent heavyweights but far from elite fighters and as a result he remains untested at the highest level. One could postulate that this is because he is avoiding the big names as he doesn’t want to risk losing his belt before his big payday against Joshua. His recent social media posts rejecting the fight with Whyte provide us with possible evidence of this.
Wilder had a relatively brief amateur career in which he rose through the ranks quickly. He has a good number of professional fights but good pro fights don’t necessarily prepare you for elite pro fights. It isn’t especially surprising that Stiverne who has been his only remotely world class test to date, took him the distance. He is raw, he is erratic and there are holes in his game that a technical boxer with a good chin can find. However, he is exceptionally talented, athletic and powerful and there is nothing to indicate he can’t be a world beater, he just hasn’t got the record to confirm it.
Mike Tyson said of the Alabamian champ, “Let’s see what happens when he gets hit back”, Dilian Whyte would most certainly hit him back. Whyte is a sound technician, but he is more than happy to stand and trade. Having gone toe to toe with Joshua, he certainly won’t be intimidated by Wilder. He is smaller but he is a real handful. If Wilder truly thought he was light work then the contract with a $3 million purse attached would already be signed.
Wilder has been in trouble away from the ring having been arrested for domestic assault in 2013 and again recently, charged with possession of marijuana. Whyte, who has a track record of inciting incidents in build ups to fights could no doubt get under Wilder’s skin, potentially impacting his performance in the ring.
Based on what we know about the two men thus far, either is capable of winning this fight. If Whyte takes him to the trenches like he has done in his other big name fights, this has the potential to be a real barn burner. For my money, Wilder’s power wins out over Whyte’s in that set of circumstances. However, if Whyte fights off the jab and boxes in a technically proficient manner, his chin is good enough that he could take Wilder into unchartered territory.
On balance, Wilder is bigger and more explosive with a spotless track record and as a result he is the favorite. But, the man from south London isn’t going down without a fight and questions about Wilder’s experience level mean his victory is by no means guaranteed.