Steward sees parallels between Whittaker and Jones Jr

Trainer SugarHill Steward thinks Olympic silver medallist Ben Whittaker can draw comparisons with the great Roy Jones.

Kronk trainer Steward, who has worked with Whittaker – along with Joby Clayton – also trains the likes of Tyson Fury and Lawrence Okolie, but he believes in Whittaker’s potential to reach the top and says his talent is as good as any other fighter he has seen at such an early stage in their professional career.

Whittaker fights for the fifth time as a pro in Bournemouth on Sunday, against 11-2-1 Stiven Leonetti Dredhaj.

The fighters have sparred one another before, with differing accounts about what happened, but Steward is confident that Whittaker will hit the heights and win world titles.

“I believe so,” said Steward. “It was something that I had stated when he had his pro debut, and I referenced him to like a Roy Jones Jr., so yeah. [Whittaker’s] one of the most unbelievable talents.”

Whittaker’s progress has been curtailed by injury, but Steward insists patience is necessary as fighters transition from the amateurs to the pros. 

“Everyone’s body is different, so you have to get used to and adjust it to certain things, and now he’s making his adjustment, period,” Steward added. “I wouldn’t say that I’m frustrated, I would like for him to stay healthy, you have to be busy but it’s just things that you have to work on.

Some amateur stars have been moved rapidly in the professionals, but Steward is cautious in mapping out Whittaker’s future too far, not because of his talent, but because of the lessons that need to be learned. Steward is not setting goals as to where Whittaker needs to be in, say, 10 fights.

“I don’t really care about that,” Steward said. “It all depends on the next fight, and everybody asks that question, but there’s nothing you can answer. You can’t answer. Nobody can answer that question.”

The progress of Lomachenko, Joshua, Rigondeaux and other Olympians is all different, and that is something Steward recognizes will be the case for Whittaker. 

“That’s for that person, but it doesn’t make sense for everybody,” he said.

Another person who is thrilled Whittaker is back is Boxxer promoter Ben Shalom. A fresh, active Whittaker will be like a new signing for his stable. 

“It’s a big night for Ben Whittaker,” said Shalom. “Just to see him out again is incredible. It’s been so frustrating the last two years. I remember when we debuted with him in Bournemouth 18 months ago and it was a special performance and the amount of messages I got saying, ‘Wow, you’ve got a star on your hands’, then, and it’s been frustrating since. I think he came into the professional game with a few injuries, he’d put himself through a lot [in the amateurs]. He’s fought all over Europe, all over the world at the very highest level consistently and so he needed a bit of time and now seeing him, I was thinking when I first saw him, could he get to super-middle? And now he’s a huge light-heavyweight. He’s going to be an absolute monster. So to get him back, injury free, ready to go, box five times next year and to be the superstar we always wanted. It’s a massive night for our business to have him back.”