IT was announced on Wednesday that Dillian Whyte, the heavyweight nearly man desperate to become The Man, will box again on October 30 at London’s O2 Arena.
The fight, for now, is being sold solely on the basis that it represents Whyte’s first outing in front of UK fans for almost two years, coming as it does after fights in Gibraltar and (behind closed doors) in Brentwood against Alexander Povetkin. But what will be far more interesting will be the opponent reveal when the time eventually comes.
For, make no mistake, this should and hopefully will be a meaningful fight for Whyte, 28-2 (19). It comes, after all, following arguably the most important win of his career – a revenge knockout of Povetkin – and arrives at a time when the rest of the heavyweight division, save for Anthony Joshua, appear to be dragging their heels, failing various tests, and forgetting all about their obligations as either heavyweight champions or contenders. In short, it’s time for Dillian Whyte to capitalise on the stuttering of others and prove, first with the opponent choice and later with the performance, that he deserves the elusive title shot he has long spoken about but never received.
With this in mind, here are a list of eight potential opponents for Whyte’s October 30 date in London:
Michael Hunter, 20-1-1 (14)
Whenever there’s a vacancy for a heavyweight opponent, you can be sure Michael Hunter’s name will be thrown into the mix, either by Hunter himself or by hardcore fans eager to see the American get what he – and they – believe is an overdue opportunity. Rarely and crucially, however, will you hear other heavyweights call out Hunter, nor will you hear their promoters bang the drum for him as a suitable opponent. That, unfortunately, says a lot about the high-risk, low-reward nature of Hunter as an opponent and will likely again be the reason why Hunter, undefeated since losing a decision against Oleksandr Usyk in 2017, is again overlooked here.
Chris Arreola, 38-7-1 (33), 1 NC
Boxing being boxing, the chances of Chris Arreola landing a fight against Dillian Whyte this year increased exponentially the moment Arreola received confirmation of his decision loss against Andy Ruiz Jnr in May. For the likes of Whyte and his promoter, Eddie Hearn, it was a loss of the best kind: against a ‘name’ heavyweight synonymous with Anthony Joshua; reasonably competitive, despite Arreola being well past his best; a flash knockdown scored against Ruiz for any potential highlight reel. None of this justifies Whyte picking a 40-year-old Arreola as his next opponent but, if he does, it will explain why.
Murat Gassiev, 28-1 (21)
A new addition to the heavyweight division, Russia’s Gassiev made his name as a heavy-handed if slightly one-dimensional cruiserweight champion, losing only to the great Oleksandr Usyk at 200 pounds. Since moving to heavyweight, Gassiev has registered two stoppage wins against Nuri Seferi and Michael Wallisch and seems more than ready to at last take on a proper test.
Jermaine Franklin, 20-0 (13)
The 27-year-old’s record is glossy but lacking any real substance. Nonetheless, he is aware that shouting his mouth is as good a tool as any in the modern day for securing a big fight and, he says, he will be the man facing Whyte in October. He claims to have signed the contract at his end and is waiting Whyte to do the same.
“I hope he will sign his end, but he is acting like a spoiled, has-been fighter,” said Franklin, whose best win is a 10-round split decision over Jerry Forrest. “In fact, I’ve got a crayon for him to sign with. He probably needs a crayon so I will bring extras just in case he breaks one.
“If I’m a bum, like he said I am, then prove it. Everyone keeps thinking I’m a step-over fighter and they don’t realise that I’m ready to show the world that the United States have the best heavyweights and I am the best in that category.
“I just want the chance to show it to the world and shut up the haters. I think Dillian is worried and scared about fighting me because he knows I’m not a bum. Plus I’m a good fighter. I’m no pushover. I have fought some good fighters to get to this point. In boxing you learn from every win and loss. I plan on learning from my wins for a long time.”
Luis Ortiz, 32-2 (27), 2 NC
He’s Cuban, he’s a six-foot-four southpaw, and nobody really knows his age. If those aren’t reasons enough to avoid Luis Ortiz, as most choose to do, throw into the equation the fact that he also twice gave Deontay Wilder hell (before being stopped on both occasions) and that he has failed more than one performance-enhancing drug test. Problematic in every way, Ortiz, 42, has sadly been the architect of his down downfall, though remains a skillful and dangerous heavyweight on his day.
Agit Kabayel, 21-0 (13)
Although not the sexiest of options on paper, Kabayel does boast a few things which could prove appealing for any promoter looking to secure his services. One, he carries with him an undefeated record of 21-0; two, with just 13 of those 21 wins coming via knockout, he isn’t known for power; and, three, he is, despite reigning as European champion for a time, still relatively untested, his best win still a decision over Dereck Chisora in 2017. The German, now 28, was last seen outpointing Kevin Johnson over 12 rounds in June and could do with announcing himself on the world stage sooner rather than later.
Trevor Bryan, 21-0 (15)
Again, though not the biggest of names or greatest of talents, what Trevor Bryan brings to the party, all important in this day and age, is the illusion of being a champion of some sort. In his case, we’re talking the WBA ‘regular’ title, which he won when knocking out Bermane Stiverne in 11 rounds earlier this year. Better still, for any promoter eager to manipulate a narrative and sell Bryan as something he is not, the American also boasts an undefeated record (21-0), despite never being tested at anything close to a world-class level.
Mahmoud Charr, 32-4 (18)
Mahmoud Charr will, if given the Dillian Whyte fight, certainly sell the Dillian Whyte fight. However, speaking with Boxing News only a few weeks ago, it’s plain to see that while Charr would love to box in England this year or next he has absolutely no desire to fight Dillian Whyte anytime soon. “Dillian Whyte I will never fight,” Charr told me. “He is not a good ambassador for boxing. He talks a lot of s**t and does not respect fighters. I don’t like him. He does many things wrong. I don’t want to give him a chance to fight me.
“He was knocked out by Povetkin very badly and only won the rematch because Povetkin was very old and not in good shape. I fought Povetkin seven years before that. Povetkin was in the best shape possible and, as you know, many times in the past they catch him for drugs. But I fought him. Dillian Whyte just beat the old-man version.”
In light of all that, expect the outspoken Charr to get the nod to fight Dillian Whyte any day now.