Seven years removed from their first meeting in the professional ranks, Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte will fight again back at the O2 Arena on Saturday, August 12.
They boxed as amateurs a lifetime ago and they came face-to-face again today to announce their third battle.
Whyte won in the amateurs, AJ scalped Whyte in the pros, and Eddie Hearn said he was surprised they agreed to fight once more.
“I still can’t believe it’s happening,” said Hearn, having announced the fight at the O2 had sold out this morning, the day the tickets went on general sale. “It’s a massive fight for the heavyweight division.”
Hearn said that, seven years ago, Joshua and Whyte were “naïve, young and hungry” and added, “some call this a decider, I call it a must-win for two of Britain’s best heavyweights.”
The promoter, who said the DAZN PPV was the biggest UK fight so far on DAZN – insisted that speculation about other heavyweight names – the likes of Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder – were irrelevant now until after August 12.
Joshua and Whyte were respectful to one another in a far from gripping press conference. They are older and wiser now. They both have three losses, they both fought Jermaine Franklin in their last fights and they both have had just one fight each with new trainers.
Whyte, wearing a bucket hat and shades, said: “Once the fight was mentioned it was like, yeah, I’m always up for a fight…. We’ve both been through a lot but we’re both chasing improvement and we’ve been through the ups and downs, I’ve got three losses and he’s got three losses… I’ll just prepare for the best version of him, whether it’s still there or not I don’t care. I don’t have nothing to lose.”
Whyte, who said he’s been enjoying camp in Florida with Sergey Kovalev, Callum Smith and Dan Azeez, was asked by Matchroom boss Eddie Hearn whether it was a must-win fight, to which Whyte replied every fight had had with them had been must-win. But asked to consider where the loser might go, Whyte said: “I’m not thinking about it, I’m taking it day by day. I’ll worry about tomorrow when tomorrow comes.”
Joshua admitted August 12 was “A massive night for my career.”
“I’m definitely up for fighting,” AJ said. “There are a lot of names in the division but look what this creates. I’m a fighter, but I’m a businessman, and this does good business.”
Coldly, he said he didn’t see Whyte as a rival, just “another body” but he said he was staying in lane and worried only about his own training camp and what he would do on August 12 rather than anything Whyte might bring.
Asked how he saw the fight going, Joshua said: “Boxing’s about fundamentals, knockout or [you] outclass someone with your fundamentals. There are two ways to skin a cat.”
Then, prompted about the inactivity of the heavyweight division, he added: “Forget Wilder, them lot have been doing my head in… I don’t waste my time with time wasters… I’m going to be 34 this year…. You can see the trajectory I’ve been on, ready to put my neck on the line and crack on…. I’m ready to fight now. It’s in my heart…. First, second, third [fight with Whyte] this is just a fight. None if it is relevant until we hear the final bell. If we get there.”
Both fighters flew back from their camps for the press conference. Joshua – with coach Derrick James – is in camp with Spence, the Charlos and Ryan Garcia.
Joshua’s trainer, Derrick James, was not in attendance as the Spence-Terence Crawford fight draws near later this month. But Buddy McGirt was with Whyte.
“It’s a fight boxing needs,” McGirt said. “It’s very rare these days that the best fight the best.”