Sunday, November 27, 2022

Is Whyte Ready For Joshua Rematch?


In April of this year, the long wait for longtime Heavyweight contender Dillian Whyte to receive an opportunity to fight for the WBC World Heavyweight championship came to an end when Whyte finally stood across the ring from undefeated WBC Heavyweight world champion Tyson Fury before a crowd of over 90,000 at the legendary Wembley Stadium. Despite giving a good account of himself, Whyte exited the bout with Fury without the WBC world championship in the Heavyweight division, being knocked out by one uppercut in the sixth round. The question that normally follows a fighter losing a world championship fight whether they be in the role of champion or challenger is the same, when will the rebuilding process begin?


For Dillian Whyte, the process began on November 26th at the Wembley Arena as he faced undefeated, but largely unknown Heavyweight Jermaine Franklin in a scheduled twelve round bout. Although Whyte has been in a position similar to the one he was in going into the bout against Franklin in looking to bounce back after suffering a defeat, after an eleven year career, it was fair to question if at thirty-five years old and having been through his share of grueling battles over the years if the accumulative effect of a long career might have been starting to effect Whyte. In Jermaine Franklin, Whyte faced an unbeaten Heavyweight with a record of 21-0, with 14 Knockouts, but a fighter that due to managerial problems had only fought once since 2019 and was taking a step up in the caliber of his opposition in facing a fighter in Whyte, who has been a top contender in the division for several years and was coming off of fighting for a world title.


Although there was a bit of mystery regarding Franklin going into this fight and to be more specific, whether he was ready for this step up given both the lengthy period of inactivity prior to May of this year when he scored a fifth round knockout of Rodney Moore, you never really know what may or may not happen when two fighters get into a ring to do battle even if there may be questions regarding the caliber of opposition of one of the boxers prior to the bout. While some may assume that Whyte may have been looking for a soft touch for lack of a better term in his first bout back in an effort to boost his confidence again, you simply do not know what will happen until a fight begins.


In this case, this fight was fought at a somewhat surprising tactical pace. What made this surprising was, despite Whyte’s reputation as a power puncher, he did not press the issue early in the fight even though he also has a reputation as a slow starter in fights. Perhaps this could be explained as showing Franklin respect in not trying to press the issue too early, but the pace in which this fight was fought seemed to favor Franklin, who showed a calm poise in his approach as well as an edge in hand speed compared to Whyte.


What impressed this observer about Franklin was how he often threw punches in two and three punch combinations whenever he did let his hands go. Despite the edge Franklin seemed to quickly establish, it was also clear that Whyte had the edge in punching power. Franklin also seemed to be able to bait Whyte into creating openings for him to counter punch, which for a period of time did seem to quell Whyte’s power.


This created a scenario where it was the volume punching of Franklin against the more damaging blows of Whyte. A very close fight that came down to a simple, yet complex question of what a judge would prefer that would ultimately determine who would win this fight. Although the difference in punching power was indisputable and the gradual body work of Whyte did prove to be effective as the fight progressed, I felt Franklin’s offensive output was something that could not be ignored as at the end of the twelve round bout, I had him ahead by a margin of seven rounds to five or 115-113 in points. The basis of my scoring was not only the volume in which Franklin threw his punches, but also how he was able to answer back with offense whenever Whyte would land something significant. It was however, one of those fights where, despite the score I arrived at, at the conclusion of the bout, I felt could go either way and I certainly would not have been surprised if the result proved to be a draw.


One official judge did score the bout even 115-115, a rare scorecard, but at the same time an illustration as to how close the fight proved to be. The two remaining official judges however, arrived with identical scorecards of eight rounds to four or 116-112 in favor of Whyte making him the winner via majority decision.


While some may say that this was not the statement-making performance that Whyte may have needed coming off of a knockout loss in his overdue title shot, he still was able to score a victory in what proved to be a closer fight than some had anticipated. What this fight did prove is no matter how long a fighter is a top contender and competes near the top level of the sport, the competition never stops and Jermaine Franklin has now entered the discussion of contenders who may fight for a world championship down the line.


In terms of what comes next, it was said by promoter Eddie Hearn that the winner of this bout would be positioned to face former two-time Heavyweight world champion Anthony Joshua in early 2023. This now sets up a rematch for Whyte against Joshua. In their first meeting in December 2015 when the two met for the then vacant British Heavyweight championship, Joshua scored a seventh round stoppage of Whyte. Nearly eight years will have passed between the that fight and when a potential rematch will take place if indeed it does happen in 2023. Obviously, both fighters have changed significantly compared to their first meeting and much like Whyte, Joshua will be looking to bounce back off of consecutive losses to Oleksandr Usyk. Although some may wonder off of this performance against Jermaine Franklin if Whyte is ready for such a crossroads bout with Joshua, there is very little room to maneuver near the top of the division if the goal is ultimately to fight for a world championship. With new fighters trying to work their way into contention on a consistent basis, it puts fighters like Whyte and Joshua into a position where a fight such as a rematch between the two is almost a necessity at this point in their respective careers as they look to maintain their positions as top contenders. As the new year approaches, the Heavyweight division will continue to be one of the main topics of discussion in the entire sport. A rematch between Whyte and Joshua would be among those topics.


“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”


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