Under the stars on Eddie Hearn’s lawn, Dillian Whyte saw a good few more as he lay on his back, his arms flopped through the ropes and senses scrambled to all four corners. After spending more than 1,000 days as the No 1 challenger for the WBC world title, he was bashed out of the queue by Alexander Povetkin in the most extraordinary fashion on Saturday night.
The fifth-round knockout via the Russian’s left glove was as brutal as it was unexpected, a one-shot explosion that left Whyte requiring oxygen and his title prospects in an even worse shape.
Thankfully, the Brit was able to leave the ring under his own steam but it remains to be seen when he will come again.
It certainly won’t be in the form of an immediate shot at the winner of Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder early in 2021, as it would have been had this followed the plan. Goodness no. And how that will sting. But he did have a rematch clause in his deal with Povetkin and Hearn, his promoter, quickly confirmed that Whyte requested on his way to the dressing room that it be triggered.
But it will be a hard climb. The hurt will come not just because of what this second career defeat has cost him in the short term. It will ache because of the fact that he was increasingly and conclusively dominating the fight. Indeed, against an opponent who had previously held the world title, and before that an Olympic gold medal, Whyte was winning at a canter.
He had looked comfortable in the opening rounds, showing none of the rashness that undermined him in his only other loss against Anthony Joshua five years ago, and by the fourth he was battering Povetkin with force. Twice he had him down in that session.
And then it all turned. In technical terms it was a jab followed by an uppercut, but in reality it was a one-punch masterclass, with the knockout owing everything to the dip down to the left and the uncoiling to the sky, with the left driving through Whyte’s chin. He was out before he hit the canvas.
His pre-fight t-shirt promised ‘maximum violence’; it wasn’t wrong, just misplaced.
He was unable to speak to the media after such a heavy loss. Povetkin, who turns 41 next month, said: ‘I didn’t feel that I would finish it like this. But I was confident even though I went down twice. It was not too much damage. My future plans depends on my promotors.’
Speaking in the absence of Whyte, Hearn said: ‘When the punch landed I thought I was in a dream. First thing Whyte said was, ‘Give me that rematch’. We will exercise the rematch clause and do that before the end of the year.’
The mystery around Whyte for this fight surrounded his adaptation to a new regime.
By parting with long-time trainer Mark Tibbs early in his Portuguese camp and taking up with Xavier Miller, the fear was of a colossal, self-inflicted mistake. But at first glance Miller had delivered Whyte in fighting shape – at 18st 6lbs, he was a full 19lbs lighter than the flabby impersonation that won at short notice against Mariusz Wach in December – and the early rounds also showed great promise.
He was composed, measured, winning through three reasonably uneventful sessions before then embarking on a fourth that made this fight seem a formality. A procession, almost.
He dropped Povetkin the first time by following a right behind the ear with a short left to the temple. At the close of the round, he dropped him even harder, with a big left uppercut. Povetkin suddenly seemed quite old.
Utter drivel, of course, and spelled out in that stunning finish.
Sympathy for Whyte is natural at this juncture.
He waited a long while for a title shot that might now never come and he was game enough to take the gambles of hard fights along the way, such as this one. But it is nonetheless true that he had a chance to take the step to a title fight against Anthony Joshua last year and turned it down. One can only wonder how he truly feels about the £4m he rejected on the grounds of the rematch conditions.
Now he must conclude the details for a rematch against Povetkin and hope that it plays out in a wildly different way to this one.
What a stunning night of boxing that was!
A terrific undercard followed by one of the most devastating uppercuts in the main event. It may have been nearly a six-month wait for boxing to return, but it was well worth it.
Until next time, take care.
40 & proud 👍 https://t.co/oMui1aooNR
Anthony Joshua has backed Dillian Whyte to come back from his second defeat after he was knocked out cold by Alexander Povetkin.
‘The psychological part is knowing it but also knowing you can do it to the other fighter,’ Joshua said after the fight. ‘Whyte spent months and months training and months for that to happen but this is just a blip in a career. People will talk all sorts about him but I stick with him as a fighter and say dust yourself off and go again.
‘I asked if Dillian had that instinct in him, I wanted to see the maximum violence, when i see blood I try to take someone out, if you leave it a round or two later, anything can happen.
‘That’s why I’m not into taking time, tactics sometimes go out the window, sometimes you have to just take them out. Dillian don’t worry about what anyone is saying, we’re involved in the game and lets make the most of it while we’re here.
‘I study boxing and if you look at the Povetkin KO reel throughout his career, the knockouts are phenomenal, they are shot and compact. Dillian is a big puncher and hurt Povetkin twice but he can do it with a short dangerous little uppercut or left hook.’
Eddie Hearn was left shell-shocked following the fight at Matchroom HQ.
He said: ‘Can’t quite believe it. When the fight landed I thought I was in a dream. Whyte had a great finish to the round before. I felt that it was over. This is the drama of the sport we love. One punch completely changed the fight.
‘Whyte was in total control, was he complacent or great work from Povetkin. It is unbelievable, it is a shock, we knew how dangerous he was but Whyte had that virtually in the bag.
‘Thrilling knockout on a thrilling night and I’m lost for words. We have a rematch clause, first thing he said was give me that rematch. We will exercise the rematch clause and do that before the end of the year.’
“When the punch landed I felt like I was in some dream.” 😮@EddieHearn reacts to Povetkin’s KO against Dillian Whyte
🗣️ “Can we get the rematch in December?” – @DillianWhyte speaks with @EddieHearn post-fight…#FightCamp #WhytePovetkin pic.twitter.com/vxZPfbKHnm
What a stunning knockout from Povetkin. He dipped, dived and then delivered an absolutely sweet left uppercut to the jaw of Whyte.
The Brit is up and is okay, thankfully. Povetkin gets his shot at the title as the arena falls into a stunned silence.
Povetkin goes down twice in fourth… Then gets up and cleans Whyte out in the fifth 😯
Big win for Sasha 💥🇷🇺 #FightCamp #WhytePovetkin pic.twitter.com/LZoB1wHMlm
Wow! What a knockout from Povetkin! That is one of the biggest shocks in heavyweight boxing considering Whyte was in total control.
Povetkin, out of nowhere, catches the Brit with a sweet uppercut which the referee immediately waves the fight off.
Fantastic shot and what a comeback. Lights out straight away. No title shot for Dillian.
Beautiful shot from Whyte which puts Povetkin down to one knee. Brilliant speed from the Brit but the Russian walked into that.
Whyte has his opponent where he wants him with two minutes of the round to go.
The Body Snatcher is looking fresh and composed while Povetkin keeps swinging and missing. The Russian is finding it hard to penetrate Whyte’s defence at the moment.
Whyte then puts Povetkin on the mat with a brilliant, short, uppercut counter. Brilliant round for Whyte.
Povetkin’s legs dip after a good right from Whyte. The Russian’s balance just giving way there.
Povetkin complains to the referee about a shot from Whyte but it looked to be a decent body shot. The Russian has managed to sneak a number of jabs through Whyte’s gloves but the Brit has defended well.
There’s a marking under the right eye of Povetkin who then eats a nasty body shot from the man from Brixton. Great finish to the round.
Whyte told by his corner not to reach over his right foot – a cautious approach but they know how dangerous the Russian is.
The Brixton-born heavyweight lands a few good body shots and is boxing intelligently. Not wasting any shots and is economical with what he does.
Povetkin engages with some shots of his own but Whyte has started the brighter.
Povetkin weighs up Whyte in a tentative start for both men.
A trimmed down Whyte sits behind the jab and keeps the Russian on the back foot. Povetkin is yet to get going and has worked the body in the opening stages.
Whyte is weary of that big overhand from Povetkin. Quiet, cagey first round.
🦈 @DillianWhyte 🐺 🎸 #FightCamp #WhytePovetkin pic.twitter.com/ZM8QGPt8dU
Fireworks light up the Essex night sky – we are just moments away from the biggest fight that has taken place post-lockdown.
Can Whyte overcome Povetkin to get his title shot? Fight just moments away…
💣 #WhytePovetkin #FightCamp pic.twitter.com/6s4ytLo6iG
JEFF POWELL: Dillian Whyte has taken Responsibility for his physical condition, given proper Respect to his opponent and is openly pursuing Redemption.
Those three Rs have not always been associated with the Brixton Body Snatcher but now, for the most important fight of his career, he looks to have regained ring fitness and seems to have reached more maturity.
Hopefully, just in time for him to keep hold of his position as mandatory world heavyweight championship challenger to the winner of Tyson Fury’s impending trilogy defence against Deontay Wilder.
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Katie Taylor says she deserved to win the fight but paid a lot of respect to her opponent.
‘I knew it would be a tough night,’ Taylor said after the fight. ‘I knew I had to dig deep but I thought I boxed better than last time. i got drawn in a few times but I got there in the end.
‘You can’t relax against someone like that. She comes and comes and comes. Congratulations to her for two fantastic fights. We did our part to promote the sport.
‘I think it was a lot more convincing tonight but it was never going to be easy. you have to dig deep and out-boxed her for the most part.’
Taylor retains her lightweight titles by unanimous decision with the judges scorecards reading 98-93, 96-94, 96-94.
Incredible decision but Persoon claps this time. Hard one to score but what another unbelievable fight from the pair.
This fight has certainly lived up to the hype. It’s been a relentless showing from Persoon and this fight deserved a live crowd.
Taylor finishes the fight strong after landing multiple left hands which leads to gasps from ringside. Persoon responds with a right before they get into another slugging match.
As cliche as it sounds, these two have gone to war. What a fight.
We go to the judges’ scorecards.
Persoon is on top and many have the challenger winning this after nine rounds.
Taylor started well and was boxing well but Persoon has been absolutely relentless.
The sheer work-rate of the Belgian has looked unstoppable at time. Taylor then lands a neat left-hook.
Taylor’s forehead is swelling up and that looks nasty.
Persoon is told off for holding Taylor down before landing two good jabs on the champion.
Taylor is then caught with a wicked right hand – the shot of the fight so far. That prompts Taylor to respond with a number of combinations.
Taylor starts the round well with a good right hand before the champion connects again.
Persoon has dropped off a touch and looks a little spent.
It’s anyone’s guess how the judges are scoring this.
Incredible stamina from Persoon. Relentless pressing from the Belgian but Taylor is doing well to avoid the shots.
Taylor is looking threatening when she gets behind her jab but its another grueling round.
Taylor then catches Persoon with a wicked left hook just before the bell.
The round starts off with a little bit of wrestling but Taylor backs off and unloads a number of body shots.
Persoon still throwing a lot of combinations but is missing with many of them.
Taylor is slipping and sliding and then attacking from underneath. Persoon lands a hard right hand in the final 10 seconds. Another great round.
Persoon is making it as hard for Taylor to breathe – she’s all over her and isn’t backing off.
The Belgian, in pursuit of the champ, then walks into a right. She smiles and acknowledges she’s been caught.
Taylor’s head movement has been superb.
After a temporary fault with our stream, the action is back.
Fake crowd noises have suddenly appeared but its safe to say a live crowd would be going nuts right now.
There’s a clash of heads but Persoon responds with a vicious right. Another great round, which Taylor has just edged.
These two have picked up where they left it in Madison Square Garden – aggressive approach from Persoon but Taylor is boxing well behind the jab.
Taylor picking her shots but Persoon, who has had her nose bloodied and eye now swelling up, wants to pick up the pace.
The Belgian is getting visibly frustrated.
The most anticipated rematch is finally underway and what a tense build up that was.
Persoon starts more aggressive but Taylor catches the Belgian with an early right that sends the challenger stumbling into the ropes.
Taylor is on the mat but it’s a trip and is back on her feet. Good start from the pair.
Anthony Joshua is going with a repeat of the first fight – a Taylor victory to finally settle the score.
‘I think she’ll [Taylor] completely out-box and out-class her. She won’t make the same mistake twice.’
After their stunning fight at Madison Square Garden, the two are back in the ring again after Taylor walked away with the win in the first bout.
Can the Belgian boxer get the result this time?
After nine grueling rounds, Chris Kongo has walked away as the WBO Global Welterweight champion after sending Luther Clay to the mat.
The towel was thrown in and it was the right decision.
Brilliant showing from Kongo.
👊 @2SlickChris puts Clay away in the ninth to land the WBO Global Welterweight strap #AndTheNew #FightCamp #ClayKongo #FightCamp4 pic.twitter.com/0fvXZvdlsf
A thrilling end to a fantastic fight between Taylor and Persoon. Both fighters’ reaction at bell says it all… Let’s hope for a repeat in Hearn’s backyard!
No easy fights 👊#FightCamp #WhytePovetkin #FightCamp4 pic.twitter.com/1mO9TSmazu
JEFF POWELL: Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Not only Irish legend Katie Taylor but also her great Belgian rival Delfine Persoon had better be en garde in their rematch on Saturday night.
Mlle Persoon considered herself cast aside by the judges in New York a year ago.
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And welcome to Sportsmail’s coverage of Saturday night boxing at Eddie Hearn’s Fight Camp!
In what is the biggest fight post-lockdown, Dillian Whyte and Alexander Povetkin finally go toe-to-toe after the pair’s bout was initially supposed to go ahead in May.
Whyte needs to win this to become the mandatory challenger for Tyson Fury’s WBC title but Povetkin will be desperate to stop him.
Stay with us and we will provide you with undercard action from Katie Taylor’s world title rematch with Delfine Persoon before we get onto the big one, which is set to get underway around 10pm BST.
Sportsmail’s Sam McEvoy will provide all the build-up and round-by-round action.