Dillian Whyte’s tumultuous career is back on track after the heavyweight avenged the shocking knockout defeat he suffered against Alexander Povetkin last August by winning the rematch in conclusive fashion with a fourth round stoppage victory in Gibraltar on Saturday night. Whyte dominated the fight and, more impressively, he overcame the psychological demons which could have unsettled him in the aftermath of his crushing defeat seven months ago.
The end was swift and decisive.A desperate Povetkin, whose face was bruised and swollen after all the punishment he had absorbed in the first 10 minutes of the fight, tried to launch an attack in round four. Whyte caught him with a beautiful counter and then finished the contest with brutal efficiency. A right hand wobbled Povetkin and sent him reeling towards the ropes. Whyte then nailed him with a short right followed by a scything left hook which sent the Russian crashing to the canvas. Povetkin hauled himself to his feet but he then fell towards the ropes again. He managed to steady himself briefly but, as the count continued, he weaved drunkenly forwards. The referee rightly ended the contest.
Whyte had been calm and confident throughout the fight, and only a little reckless, and he soon went to his own corner to find a stool so that his vanquished opponent could sit down. It was a classy gesture which echoed his ring walk. Whyte wore a black and red gown which paid tribute to Marvin Hagler, the great middleweight champion who died this month, and he then threw back his head and howled as he has always seen himself as a lone wolf in the murky terrain of heavyweight boxing. Povetkin was much quieter and more circumspect as he approached the ring. He looked as if he already knew the grim outcome.
Whyte came out with positive and aggressive intent in the opening round and Povetkin was soon caught off balance. A short solid hook from Whyte wobbled Povetkin as the British fighter applied pressure in a way which suggested he carried few anxieties into the fight. An ugly swelling began to form under Povetkin’s left eye in round two as Whyte dominated with his jab. It was already clear that Whyte was on his way to victory.
His renewed confidence stemmed from the influence of Harold ‘The Shadow’ Knight who had been the assistant trainer when Lennox Lewis won rematches against Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman.
Lewis lost only two contests in his long and successful career, when he was knocked out surprisingly by both McCall and Rahman, but Knight was part of the team which helped him win each rematch decisively. In 2019, Knight also advised Anthony Joshua as the British world champion outpointed Andy Ruiz Jr after he had been knocked out, again in startling circumstances, in their first fight six months earlier. The decision to bring Knight into Whyte’s camp clearly worked.
In the first fight last August Whyte had also dominated for four rounds, dropping Povetkin twice, but the uppercut which knocked him out so devastatingly could have eroded all his belief and confidence. It was the kind of concussive loss which has ruined more fragile characters than Whyte. But the 32-year-old claimed before the fight that “adversity is the story of my life” and he promised he would show the resilience which allowed him to survive an impoverished childhood in Jamaica as well as being stabbed and shot on the streets of London during his troubled past.
Povetkin is past his best, at the age of 41, and since their last encounter he had been hospitalised twice after being infected with Covid. The debilitating impact of the virus on other fighters has been evident and, even before he stepped into the ring, Povetkin looked to have lost some of his muscled bulk.
Whyte can now, once more, lay legitimate claim to being the fourth-best heavyweight in the world behind Tyson Fury, Joshua and Deontay Wilder. Fury and Joshua are expected to finally meet in a heavyweight unification title showdown in the summer – which opens up the possibility of a clash between Whyte and Wilder if the American can be enticed back into the ring after his shattering loss to Fury in February 2020.
Whyte spent more than a thousand days as the WBC’s No1 contender, without getting a crack at the title, but his redemption in Gibraltar has undoubtedly moved him back into contention. He held his nerve in a fight called the Rumble on the Rock and delivered the victory he needed so badly. Whyte can now look forward to much bigger and more dangerous heavyweight nights in the ring.