Why Povetkin rematch is hardly a must-win fight for Dillian Whyte

Kevin Iole
·Combat columnist
·5-min read

Talk to a heavyweight boxer, any heavyweight boxer, about punching power and they’ll to a man say a version of the same thing:

“With the heavyweights, everyone hits hard and anything can happen at any time.”

Yet, when that anything does happen, we often act shocked, and like it’s the end of the world.

That’s certainly the response to Dillian Whyte getting knocked cold by a counter uppercut from Alexander Povetkin in their Aug. 22 bout for the WBC interim heavyweight title in England.

Whyte knocked Povetkin down twice in the fourth round, and after the second, the Russian walked uneasily to his corner. But when the fifth began, Povetkin landed a jab and then the perfect left uppercut.

Whyte was out instantly.

Now, as they prepare to rematch, the story is not so much about the perfect punch that Povetkin, an Olympic gold medalist and one-time heavyweight champion, threw. Rather, it was whether Whyte could sustain another loss.

That’s not fair to Whyte, who has become one of the leading contenders in the division, as he prepares to face Povetkin in a rematch on Saturday (3 p.m. ET, DAZN) in Gibraltar, Spain.

[Watch Povetkin-Whyte 2 on DAZN: Sign up now to stream the fight live]

“One, two or three losses means nothing to a heavyweight nowadays,” Whyte said. “If you fight good fighters, the main thing is you can come back. This is a must-win fight for me, but I’m not a guy that worries about pressure. I just smile and take it in my stride.”

It’s hardly a must-win fight for Whyte, though it would help him immensely in the short run if he were to win. Look at recent heavyweight boxing history to tell you that.

Sky Sports interviewed a number of British boxing luminaries, and most of them spoke solemnly about how devastating another loss would be for Whyte, who is a -350 favorite at BetMGM.

It would put him back in an increasingly crowded division, no doubt, but it would be far from a career-ender. Look at Chris Arreola. Since losing a heavyweight title fight to Vitali Klitschko in Los Angeles in 2009, he’s beaten no big-name opponents. He lost to Tomasz Adamek, twice to Bermane Stiverne, was knocked out by Deontay Wilder and was beaten by Adam Kownacki.

Arreola has gone 11-6-1 since starting his career 27-0, but he’s fought for the heavyweight title three times since then and is headlining a May 1 pay-per-view against another former champ, Andy Ruiz Jr.

Dillian Whyte (left) and Alexander Povetkin during the press conference at Mercure Manchester Piccadilly Hotel. (Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images)
Dillian Whyte (left) and Alexander Povetkin during the press conference at Mercure Manchester Piccadilly Hotel. (Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images)

Whyte is an entertaining fighter in and out of the ring, and a loss would only push him back a short time. But he’s not thinking of another loss.

He understands that Povetkin, a +275 underdog at BetMGM, remains a world-class fighter and that, yes, in heavyweight boxing, one clean punch changes everything. He’s ready to get back on the horse and stake his claim to a bigger fight.

“I was a fighter a long time before I was a boxer,” Whyte said. “I’ve been knocking people out for a long time. I carry a lot of power in both hands. Povetkin is a very cagey guy and an experienced guy, a very patient guy. He’s a tough guy as well. Last time, I didn’t land properly and he went down, but he showed resilience by getting up and then he stopped me. This time when I hit him, he’ll stay down.

“I’m a very adaptable kind of guy. I’ll do what I need to do to get the win. I don’t care if I’ve got to rough a guy up or outbox him. I’ll do whatever it takes for me to win. It's the biggest fight of my career. I’m coming off a loss to the guy. The good thing is this is heavyweight boxing. One fight changes everything.”

A win over Povetkin still means something in today’s boxing landscape, and a win would not only give Whyte the interim belt back, it would position him smartly for significant fights to come.

He’s ready to do whatever he has to, though he likes to bang, to have his arm raised.

“I don’t care if I have to throw two jabs and move, or get in and throw power punches and rough him up,” Whyte, 32, said. “I’ll do whatever I have to do. I’m not worried about a career-best performance, I’m worried about getting the win. My mindset is I’ve got a job to do and I’ll do whatever I need to do to get it done.

“I’m still young and I’ve got loads of fights left in my career, God willing. I can worry about looking good in another fight. This is about winning. When I touch him this time, his whole body is going to vibrate. He’ll understand. I’m coming to do what I do best and that’s to inflict pain. If I’ve got to make it a dog fight, then I’ll make it a dog fight. It will be a different story this time.”

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