Ben Whittaker, the 2020 Olympic silver medallist, has been making headlines and he is only six fights into his pro career.
Not only that, he is being tipped for super-stardom. Of course, it is the job of his promoter at Boxxer, Ben Shalom, to talk up his prospect, but you cannot hide the enthusiasm he has for Whittaker.
Last weekend, Whittaker went viral with a surgical yet divisive destruction of hapless Khalid Graidia, with social media clips of the highlights earning millions of worldwide views.
Graidia even shared the clip himself, and Shalom has enjoyed watching the fallout.
“I’ve very excited for him and our business,” said Shalom, of ‘Benzo’. “We’ve been hoping for a superstar for some time, but when I sat down with Ben Whittaker before he debuted, the vision was always, ‘How do we become the face of boxing; never mind British boxing?’”
The face of boxing might be becoming a rather tiresome cliché, but Shalom knows the importance of a high-profile and of an audience. Fans can love to hate you, or they can love you, as long as they have an opinion. And Shalom always felt that Whittaker, having been heartbroken with silver at the Olympics, would be a gold mine in the pros.
“This doesn’t come as a surprise to us, but I think people are going to be surprised at how big this gets,” Shalom added. “I think he will become the most recognised and well-known boxer in the whole of the sport, and that was the vision when we started.
“It’s early days. He’s only had six fights, we’ve managed to get two [fights] consistently for the first time, December and February, and his body seems to be holding up now, so the world’s his oyster and it’s very exciting to be a part of it. But, I have to say, if you think this is big, I genuinely believe he will become the most-recognised boxer in the whole of world boxing within the next two or three years.”
It is easy to put such claims down to hyperbole, but the video Graidia shared has 50m views! Whittaker added around 200,000 on his social media pages, he is just six fights in and has yet to step up. Eyes will be on Shalom to see how he moves his prospect, because Whittaker is 26-years-old and wants to move quickly.
“I think we have a responsibility to him,” added the promoter. “I’ve never been afraid of making brave decisions and we’ve got to make sure we look after Ben’s career and make sure he gets the necessary development. As much as he’s supremely talented, this is the pro game. We want to create a star and we want to make sure he’s getting the necessary experience. He’s almost there, though. He’s that talented he could probably fight most of the light-heavyweights now and probably be the favourite, but equally he’s [only] had six fights.
“Last year was a frustrating year, and I think if last year had gone to plan, he’d be two, three, four times as big by now. We’ve got a big year ahead and it’s very exciting for him.”
The light-heavyweight division is top heavy. The champions, Artur Beterbiev and Dmitrii Bivol meet on June 1, while two of Britain’s best, Anthony Yarde and Joshua Buatsi, could clash in the summer. There’s also Craig Richards, who impressed on his return against Boris Crighton, Lyndon Arthur and Dan Azeez, who lost a hard fight to Buatsi last week. Azeez is with Boxxer. Could he be in Whittaker’s future?
“Let’s see,” said Shalom. “I think we will take one fight at a time. I’m looking at his [Whittaker’s] next fight and I think it’s one the fans will be interested in and excited about, and we’ll take it one fight at a time. He’s a superstar and we have a responsibility to make sure he becomes the biggest star, not only to him and his family but to the fans, because we need stars in boxing to keep the interest. Because with Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua possibly not fighting in 18 months’ time, who’s going to make sure this sport we love is still getting on the front pages, and the back pages.”