Dillian Whyte goes into what he prays will be his very last, absolutely final world heavyweight championship eliminator admitting that he needs to restore his image and his esteem.
The Brixton Body-Snatcher’s long, long wait for a title shot has been no help to his reputation but there is a refreshing honesty to his self-assessment as he prepares for Saturday night’s assuredly brutal confrontation with Russian iron man Alexander Povetkin.
As he entered promoter Eddie Hearn’s back garden Fight Camp bubble Whyte said: ‘In the last year my career, my credibility, my whole life have been in tatters.’
In 2019 he was not only left marooned as the WBC’s interim belt holder while denied a tilt at the world title proper but went through a prolonged legal struggled against drug test accusations.
Last December, on the undercard of Anthony Joshua’s salvation rematch against Andy Ruiz Jr in Saudi Arabia, an overweight and distracted Whyte lumbered to a laborious points victory in what should have been a knock-over fight against veteran Polish journeyman Mariusz Wach.
Again by his own frank admission he was ‘out of shape, overweight, in poor condition.’ But that ponderous effort served as a wake up call to immerse himself in a severe training camp in Portugal.
He says: ‘I needed to do that. Now I must do a proper job on Povetkin and reinforce my claim to the world title.’
A commanding performance against Povetkin would support the WBC’s proclamation that his reward for such a victory will guarantee Whyte a mandatory challenge to the winner of Tyson Fury’s trilogy world title fight against Deontay Wilder, scheduled now for December 19.
Whyte hopes, also, that Fury would not go through with a threat to by-pass that obligation by relinquishing the WBC crown in favour of two mega-bucks Wembley Stadium fights with rival world champion Joshua next year.
‘I want to fight the best,’ says Whyte. ‘I hope Tyson will not duck me like a coward.’
The fitness radiating from Whyte as he moved into a camper van isolated from the coronavirus virus on Hearn’s estate supported this contention: ‘I am not taking Povetkin lightly.
He deserves respect as a tough fighter who has troubled the best heavyweights for 15 years. He gave Joshua real problems for six rounds and is a dangerously heavy puncher.’
Although 40 now, Povetkin forced a draw on Joshua’s Saudi undercard against America’s much-touted heavyweight hope Michael Hunter.
Whyte must face him behind closed doors, without the usual support of his large contingent of cult followers. To which he says: ‘That is not a problem. I love a fight anywhere, any time.’
*Whyte v Povetkin will be televised live on Sky Sports Box Office from 7 pm this Saturday night