British heavyweight Dillian Whyte showed new levels of professionalism and maturity in beating Oscar Rivas on Saturday but may be forced to wait more than a year for a world-title shot, according to the BBC Radio 5 Live Boxing team.
Whyte, 31, came through a knockdown to outpoint Colombia’s Rivas and become mandatory challenger to WBC world heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder.
But with Wilder set to confirm a September bout with Luis Ortiz and then due to fight Britain’s Tyson Fury again in February, what should Whyte do next?
‘The best, professional Whyte’
Whyte and his camp have criticised the WBC in the past for not delivering a title shot given he has now been the organisation’s number-one ranked heavyweight for more than 600 days, but with his latest win he is now Wilder’s mandatory opponent.
The fighter himself turned down the chance to face former world champion Anthony Joshua in April and has dubbed the politics of the heavyweight landscape “a joke”.
The Brixton fighter has won plaudits for stepping into bouts that have put his ranking at risk, notably against Dereck Chisora, former world champion Joseph Parker and Rivas.
He inflicted a first defeat on Rivas, who landed a big ninth-round knockdown with an uppercut, prompting Whyte’s trainer Mark Tibbs to demand his man box smartly in order to see off any late threat of an upset.
5 Live Boxing analyst Steve Bunce: “I told Dillian and his brother I wouldn’t take this fight. I said ‘why are you taking it? You’re crazy. You’re in a great position, lobby the WBC, get the heavyweight title fight and don’t risk it all against Rivas’.
“Every round was competitive. He is now using his jab correctly, not wasting it. That is a degree of maturity he has found and Mark Tibbs is helping to polish. I thought it was the best Dillian Whyte we have seen.”
BBC Sport boxing correspondent Mike Costello: “Whyte saw the last three rounds off in a really professional manner. He was saying in the corner they were telling him ‘don’t switch off, don’t switch off’ and for him to lose some of that street fighting mentality.
“Hold on to that mentality for the tough moments but act professionally. The professional attitude got him through.”
‘Whyte will wait more than a year’
Whyte’s win has seemingly secured his title shot but when that happens is uncertain.
Promoter Eddie Hearn says it must happen by 18 May, 2020 as per a resolution with the WBC but if – as Tyson Fury has said – Fury-Wilder II takes places on 22 February, it is hard to see how that date can be met as the champion at the time would need to recover and prepare.
Hearn told 5 Live Boxing: “We know boxing, sometimes that fight may slip to June, if it was July it isn’t the end of the world.
“We know Whyte will have one more camp in between and then he will start his camp for the world heavyweight title fight. No one can take that mandatory position away. We can’t control what will happen.”
Whyte has signalled his intent to fight again later this year and Hearn has said “no-one would begrudge Dillian an easier fight” given the mandatory status he can protect.
Costello added: “There is the danger as they talk about him coming down the rankings a bit by having an easier fight, the danger is he switches off as he has been in so many high-pressure fights of late. What he does have though is the WBC seemingly firmly behind him that he will fight for the belt next year.”
A number of boxing voices – including former world champion Frank Bruno – have questioned why Whyte has had to wait so long but Bunce does not believe any title title will arrive before next summer.
He said: “If Wilder fights Whyte, there is a chance they will both have to fight twice before that even happens. How does Wilder defend his world title a matter of weeks after he defends his belt in February? It will be September, October or November of next year.”