- Dillian Whyte overcame a ninth round knockdown to beat Oscar Rivas in a back-and-forth blockbuster at the 02 Arena in London, Saturday.
- Whyte won a unanimous decision, the vacant WBC interim heavyweight title, and is now the mandatory challenger to feared puncher Deontay Wilder’s WBC heavyweight championship belt.
- Promoter Eddie Hearn said after the fight that “the shot will come … it’s just a question of when.”
- Visit Business Insider’s home page for more stories.
02 ARENA, LONDON – Dillian Whyte overcame a ninth round scare to win a back-and-forth blockbuster against Oscar Rivas in a Matchroom Boxing fight night, Saturday.
The victory saw Whyte become the WBC interim heavyweight titleholder, setting him on a collision course against feared knockout puncher Deontay Wilder, the outright WBC heavyweight champion. The bout, should it be made next year, will be worth tens of millions of dollars.
But Whyte had to fight hard for that potential payday.
Whyte, in sparkling black shorts, dazzled Rivas early with double jabs, jab-hooks, and jab-jab-overhand combos in the opening round, giving the Colombian more to think about midway through with punishing rib punches before getting his double forearm guard high enougth to block shots, after Rivas planted a smacker on his kisser.
Rivas, who owns a hulking physique, rebounded in the second, pumping his own jabs at Whyte’s stomach, lead shots at his face, and overhand rights that forced Whyte to take a few steps back.
All this did, apparently, was anger Whyte. A war broke out in the middle of the ring with Whyte on top of the action, punching Rivas until his back was against the ropes, having to duck so low it looked like he was almost on the canvas. The early battle roused the crowd who happily bellowed “ooh” and “aah” with each subsequent power shot.
In the third, Rivas landed one of his most successful punches – a right hand over the top. Rallied, he spotted openings with a jab straight onto Whyte’s lips, but the bell signifying the end of the round broke the visiting fighter’s momentum.
Whyte’s trainer Mark Tibbs told Business Insider this week that his man had been busy “skilling-up” in recent years and, in the fourth, that showed, as he boxed behind a double jab, fought cautiously but with intention, and just waited for his moments.
Those moments were sporadic at best through to the middle rounds, though, and the first significant one to arrive came from Rivas’ fist when he clubbed Whyte so hard he backed him into a neutral turnbuckle. In the very next round, Whyte got one of his own when he dazed Rivas with a hellfire uppercut.
Then, those moments came thick and fast. In the eighth, Whyte caught Rivas with another uppercut before landing punches in bunches to the partisan crowd’s roaring delight. As loud as that crowd got, Rivas managed to silence them in the ninth, scoring a knockdown after landing a punch flurry so relentless, all Whyte could do was stagger to his backside in the Colombian’s corner, taking a count, after one big, bad, uppercut.
Whyte, rejuvenated, fought well in the 10th and 11th rounds, with enough energy to dictate the ebb and flow, but then Rivas came on strong in the 12th, pushing for a knockdown that could decide the fight in his favour. In the end, that second knockdown never came, and Whyte did enough to escape with scores of 115-112 (twice) and 116-111, earning a unanimous decision and the interim WBC heavyweight title.
The victory sets Whyte on a collision course with feared knockout puncher Deontay Wilder, who owns the outright WBC heavyweight championship. With Wilder likely to compete in a rematch against Luis Ortiz later this year, then a rematch against Tyson Fury early next year, Whyte will have to wait a while, but Hearn is confident his moment will come.
“Whyte has worked so hard from the get go,” Whyte’s promoter Eddie Hearn, the group managing director for Matchroom Sport, said in the ring after the win. “600 days he’s been number one with the WBC. He deserves this. He’s improving all the time.
“He’s the WBC interim champion and, more importantly, the mandatory challenger [to Wilder’s belt]. That shot will come,” Hearn said. “It’s just a question of when.”
It was a busy night for Whyte’s trainer Tibbs as the London coach had other athletes competing at the event.
Earlier, Dan Azeez picked Charlie Duffield apart with precise shots, throwing clever punch combinations until Duffield’s eyes went black and blue, bruising and potentially even breaking his nose.
Tibbs threw in the towel to rescue Duffield, his fighter, from a sustained beating, ending the fight in the sixth round. With the victory, Azeez won the Southern Area light heavyweight title.
Tibbs returned to the ring later with another one of his fighters, Richard Riakporhe, who slugged away with Chris Billam-Smith in a relatively fan-friendly 10 round bout, retaining his WBA intercontinental cruiserweight belt with a slim, split decision win.
Including the Whyte result, Tibbs finished the night with two wins against one loss.
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