The Whyte Approach: Plotting Dillian Whyte’s route back

By Elliot Worsell

LIKE the latecomer at a comedy gig, Dillian Whyte was allowed back into boxing at the weekend and told by one of its ushers to “take an empty seat at the back” to ensure his presence wouldn’t disturb those already in the room. This way he could be inconspicuous, as he has been for months now, and avoid upsetting the rhythm and concentration of the performer on stage; someone who, if he should spot a latecomer, is blessed with the ability to single them out, ask them a series of questions, and perhaps even mock them from afar; someone who is an expert in making people feel uncomfortable.

Bringing Whyte back to boxing in this way was sensible. It was maybe the only way. By having him fight on a Sunday in Mayo, Ireland on an untelevised show against everyone’s favourite rent-a-heavyweight Christian Hammer, you were essentially saying to anyone remotely interested, “No, nothing to see here. Keep moving.” Which, one could argue, is the whole point of this kind of comeback fight; the very basis of it.

Likely the plan was not to have the eyes of the world on Whyte – not when there are still so many questions unanswered – but to instead (a) get him back in the ring to shed ring rust, and (b) declare him active again in order to then throw his name in the hat for future money-spinning fights. On Sunday, these two things were both achieved. Whyte, as expected, stopped an out of shape and unmotivated Hammer inside three rounds and suddenly, just like that, he was back again; suddenly it was as if 2023 never even happened.

It might be for the best, too, that this remains the case. If just to all get along, it might serve us well to adopt a blissful ignorance when it comes to Whyte and that ill-fated Anthony Joshua rematch. It might be beneficial, both for us and certainly for him, to accept that Whyte, 30-3 (20), is merely the latest boxer to return to the sport having cleared his name in the war against performance-enhancing drugs. How this win was ultimately achieved, or what it really means, is in the end neither here nor there. Whyte is back and that’s all there is to it. He is back with a win, he is back to make up for lost time, and he once again back to being mentioned as a potential opponent for some of the world’s best heavyweights.

As for which heavyweight he ends up fighting, either this year or next, your guess is as good as mine. But here are five options for Whyte, someone who was once on the missing list and all out of options but now, in quite the comeback story, can see them everywhere he looks.

Dillian Whyte (Getty Images)

Joe Joyce, 16-2 (11)

Not long ago considered the dark horse and a man to avoid in the heavyweight division, Joe Joyce is now viewed as anything but. Now, thanks to some well-placed shots by China’s Zhilei Zhang, Joyce is seen less as an indestructible monster and more as a defenceless fighter whose inability to either adapt or protect himself leaves him more vulnerable today than ever. It is for that reason Whyte, three years younger than Joyce at 35, could target a fight against Joyce before the “Juggernaut” once again malfunctions.

Joyce stops Kash Ali (James Chance/Getty Images)

Joseph Parker, 35-3 (23)

The win Whyte scored against Parker in 2018 seems a lifetime ago now. Since that night Parker has won 11 fights, including a couple of recent big ones against Deontay Wilder and Zhilei Zhang, while Whyte has won six, the best among them a decision against Oscar Rivas and a revenge stoppage of Alexander Povetkin. In terms of defeats, Parker’s 11th round loss against Joe Joyce seems less disastrous than Whyte’s sixth-round stoppage at the hands of Tyson Fury, but a better gauge of their current status would be found in a rematch between the pair.

Parker lands a right on Zhilei Zhang (Richard Pelham/Getty Images)

Daniel Dubois, 20-2 (19)

There was a time when Dubois would have been considered too young, too green, and too unproven to share a ring with Whyte. But that time has passed. Now, in fact, there is every chance Dubois would be picked by some to beat Whyte, particularly given their recent form and Dubois’ win in December against Jarrell Miller. That night Dubois proved that he learned something from the experience of being outboxed and stopped by Oleksandr Usyk just four months earlier and put it to good use, halting Miller in round 10. Whyte would of course offer a much sterner test than Miller, but, as far as Dubois is concerned, that is exactly what is required.

Daniel Dubois breaks the will of Jarrell Miller during their heavyweight fight at Kingdom Arena on December 23, 2023 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (Richard Pelham/Getty Images)

Deontay Wilder, 43-3-1 (42)

It’s nobody’s idea of fun sharing a ring with Wilder and being one glancing blow away from staring up at the lights, yet that doesn’t mean it is impossible to survive in his company. Tyson Fury was the first man to prove that and in December Joseph Parker also showed that avoiding the Wilder right hand for 12 rounds can be done. In fact, the ease with which Parker not only escaped Wilder’s power – seemingly not hurt at any stage – but also nipped in and out to do his own good work will encourage the rest of the heavyweight division no end. That said, Whyte has never been as patient or measured as Parker, nor does he seem quite as willing and able to take on instructions the way Parker has of late.

Deontay Wilder (Richard Pelham/Getty Images)

Martin Bakole, 20-1 (15)

Given Whyte’s obsession with big fights, pay-per-view and his role as a headlining A-side, it’s fair to say he might view a potential fight with Martin Bakole as something beneath him; not even worthy of talking about or entertaining. Yet to do so would be to ignore both where Whyte currently sits in the heavyweight pecking order and the steps Bakole has recently climbed following good wins over Tony Yoka, Ihor Shevadzutskyi and Carlos Takam. True, Bakole is still some way short of the elite, but as a crossroads fight, there are few as interesting or potentially fiery as one involving Whyte and Bakole.

Bakole beats Tony Yoka in Paris on May 14, 2022 (FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)

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