This is the third occasion Dillian Whyte has been accused of not being a clean fighter – how many more chances should he get?
He’s already towards the end of his career, so if he gets a lengthy ban the latest one could mean the end.
I’ve always believed that the punishment should be determined by the nature of illegal substance a fighter has used. A diuretic is one matter, but if he was using anabolics – which can alter a fighter’s tissue – the advantages they present may never go away.
In baseball there exists a three-strikes-and-you’re-out system. There are fewer rules in boxing than in baseball, and more ways around infractions of them; it can also depend on who the fighter is, and on how much money and influence he or she has behind them. But it shouldn’t matter – if anabolics have been used, and therefore the nature of the fighter has been changed, then one strike should be enough.
Whyte’s been a very good fighter, who has always been willing to fight the best, and has often been involved in exciting fights. His heart – he’s had ups and downs, but he retains that fight – means he struck me as a dangerous opponent for Anthony Joshua. It had surprised me Joshua was matched so dangerously – and presented with having to surpass the magnificent display he produced in their first fight in 2015.
Joshua recorded one of his most impressive wins that night – he got hit, he got hurt, and he then viciously stopped Whyte. Anything less than that in a rematch – against an opponent who is a big puncher; Joshua has recently appeared vulnerable – would have been perceived negatively.
Knowing how hard training camps are – how much sacrifice they require – meant I couldn’t help but feel gutted on Joshua’s behalf that that rematch was then taken from him with a week to go. He may have had a second training camp under Derrick James – and therefore more time to progress – but without attempting to execute what he’d learned ahead of a fight against, perhaps, Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury, a training camp alone wouldn’t have left him in a good place.
The last time Robert Helenius, the replacement for Whyte, had been seen by a big audience he got stopped by Wilder inside a round, but he had once been one of Wilder’s sparring partners. Fighting sparring partners isn’t easy – you learn so much about them in sparring – and changes the dynamic of fights. In the context of Wilder-Helenius, Wilder was very familiar with him – just because he knocked Helenius out doesn’t make Saturday’s fight with Joshua a “gimme”. Joshua’s athleticism also demands that he remains busy – it’s as good for him when he is busy as it is for the sport – and he also needs to be able to work through the demons we’ve seen in recent fights.
Simply by him being Joshua, Joshua is always under pressure when he fights. Helenius is also very big and strong, and has a good right hand. Joshua would have prepared for Whyte’s left hook – a very different punch – and has only had a few days to attempt to adjust. Helenius also fought and won last weekend so he’s in shape and confident, and doesn’t have anything to lose.
It’s possible Joshua can lift his confidence and answer many of the questions he’s been asking himself by convincingly defeating Helenius. Andy Ruiz, who inflicted his first defeat, had considerably more time to prepare to fight him back in June 2019 and represented a dangerous nature of opponent. Helenius is much closer to the profile of fighter Joshua has looked good against; Joshua’s psyche alone will determine whether or not what’s unfolded this week brings him back to what happened with Jarrell Miller and then Ruiz.
If he blitzes Helenius, great – everyone will again suddenly become very excited about him. If he wins unimpressively there’ll be a lot of questions asked of him, but he’ll still be in a position to progress into a big fight.
A loss, however, has the potential to end his career. What shouldn’t be a concern for him, even if he was still fighting Whyte, is the fact that Errol Spence – who is also trained by James – recently lost so convincingly to Terence Crawford. Fighters are typically self-centred – they focus on themselves and their fight preparations, not those of those around them – and rarely let the results of the fighters around them affect them. “That’s them – this is me.”