Ben Whittaker Accuses Ezra Arenyeka Of Turning Fight 'Into The UFC'

Before his fight with Ezra Arenyeka, Ben Whittaker promised to make an example of the previously little-known Nigerian. 

Annoyed by the way Arenyeka talked his way into the fight, Whittaker declared that he would use the occasion to demonstrate the consequences of challenging him and put on the type of display that would punish him. 

On Saturday night Whittaker won a wide unanimous decision over Arenyeka but, having been taken the distance for the second successive fight, the 27-year-old light heavyweight may well wake up to a whole raft of new challengers, all eager for their shot.

Arenyeka, 12-1 (10 KOs), had a much smoother ride than most – maybe even he himself – expected. Rather than committing to an all-out assault and opening himself up to the Olympic silver medallist’s quick counters, the powerful but crude Nigerian kept his composure, stayed compact, and pressed forwards behind a jab to the body. It wasn’t spectacular but it was enough to see him navigate the 10 rounds safely and to prevent Whittaker from running through his usual repertoire of tricks.

“I knew he was gonna be tough,” the unperturbed Whittaker, 8-0 (5 KOs) said after the fight. “If you saw him at the weigh-in and when he stormed into the press conference, [you could see] he was a fighter. It was a great fight, I boxed beautiful and I came away with the belt. 

“If I stood here and said that I didn’t wanna knock him out then I’d be lying. At the end of the day I kept it clean. I hurt him a couple of times but I came away with the win. It turned into the UFC at times. He headbutted me; he elbowed me. It’s all a good experience.”

Given the constant calls of “Good lad” from Whittaker’s corner, it can be assumed that his trainer, Joby Clayton, was happy with his night’s work, but it felt like a missed opportunity. 

Whittaker is a talent who is renowned for his hard work in the gym. The fight was his first scheduled for 10 rounds but having controlled the pace and tempo of proceedings from the opening bell, it would have made sense for his corner to inject a little urgency into him and to test his stamina rather than allowing him to ease to the finish line. 

At this stage of Whittaker’s career, getting ring time under his belt is invaluable, but he won’t be allowed to coast through the later rounds against better opposition. Whittaker wasn’t thrilled with the outcome but seemed happy enough with his performance 

“I wanted the knockout,” he said. “I hurt him a couple of times, looked at my dad and he said, ’What are you doing?’ I said I was just having fun. 

“[My corner] just said, ‘Do what you’re doing. If you want you can step on the gas. If you want you can box and do what you’re doing’. At the end of the day, I kept it clean, made him look silly and won easily.”