The Path Clears: Whyte’s silver lining

It was a disastrous night for Whyte but the conclusion of Fight Camp may turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the sport

IT had all gone so smoothly. Almost eerily so. Eddie Hearn
had staged four outdoor events on four consecutive weekends during a period of
summer when, traditionally, the British weather is notoriously changeable. Yet
the rain did not affect a single one of them. Just ask Michael Eavis, the man
who invented Glastonbury Festival in 1970 and this year had to pull his 50th anniversary show, how hard a feat
that is to achieve.

Furthermore, Hearn
staged it during a worldwide pandemic and nobody who was invited into the
four-week festival – boxers, trainers, officials, media, workers – tested
positive for the virus. Also consider how entertaining every event was and it’s
hard to draw any other conclusion than Matchroom Fight Camp was a resounding
success that went above and beyond every reasonable expectation.

But it was the
unpredictably of the four-week festival’s theme and purpose – boxing, the most
unpredictable factor of all – that provided a truly stunning finale and wiped
the smile from Hearn’s face. After four rain-free shows, a grand total of 433
covid tests passed and 18 fights of predominantly stellar quality, the final
punch of the whole extravaganza was thrown by 6/1 outsider Alexander Povetkin
and it knocked Dillian Whyte cold. The same Whyte in whom Hearn has invested
significant time and money and the same British heavyweight who, at last, was
on the cusp of securing his long overdue world title shot. All he had to do was
win.

But the decision to
fight Povetkin, a known name and a known danger but also past his best, was a
decision – a gamble – that spectacularly backfired. Or at least that’s how it
must have appeared at first glance. Hearn, as Povetkin’s fifth round victory
was announced, cut a crestfallen figure at ringside. He was visibly shocked when
interviewed in the aftermath. But when the dust settles on this latest
heavyweight explosion, it could work out better than anyone, even Eddie Hearn,
could ever have dreamed of.

Whyte’s position as
WBC mandatory is lost to Povetkin for the time being but so too is champion
Tyson Fury’s obligation to fight the No.1 contender. Once Fury’s third fight
with Deontay Wilder is done and dusted, presuming the American takes that bout,
then the winner is free to walk into a unification bout with Anthony Joshua (if
’AJ’ defeats Kubrat Pulev later this year, of course).

In the meantime,
Whyte has the right to trigger a rematch clause and take on Povetkin again.
Though there was a lukewarm reaction to this matchup at the beginning of the
year, the sequel – in a similar way to Andy Ruiz-Joshua II – suddenly becomes a
must-watch in the second half of 2020. Should Whyte have stopped Povetkin in
that fourth round when the Russian looked on the brink of defeat, instead of
being walloped in the fifth, fans would have been complaining about the
one-sided nature of the fight and not, I’d venture, be as invested in the sport
as they are now.

Granted, there’s a
lot of ifs and maybes, but suddenly the path to one world heavyweight champion
is clearer than it’s been in a long time. And what shouldn’t be forgotten in
all of this is the truly fascinating heavyweight era we’re in the midst of. That
(understandable) desire for one champion often means we don’t truly appreciate
the journey to achieving it.

Think about it.
Between them, Joshua (versus Whyte, Wladimir Klitschko, Povetkin and the two
fights with Ruiz), Fury (beating Klitschko and the two battles with Wilder),
Wilder (in two contests apiece with Luis Ortiz and Fury) and Whyte (against
Joshua, Dereck Chisora, Joseph Parker, Oscar Rivas and now Povetkin) are
responsible for some undeniably thrilling times. The cynics may scoff, but look
back through heavyweight history and it’s very rare indeed that the leaders
were churning out drama as regularly as this. And that’s before we mention the
significant promise of the chasing pack (Oleksandr Usyk, Daniel Dubois, Joe
Joyce et al). 

It
may not have been the ending to Fight Camp that Hearn or Whyte wanted but it
might yet turn out to be the best one for the sport’s long-term future.

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