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In the shadow of Wembley Stadium, 500 yards from the spot his heavyweight world title dream was crushed by Tyson Fury, Dillian Whyte’s return against Jermaine Franklin has been typically understated.
Before April’s fight, he refused to do press, failing to turn up to press conferences and keeping such a low profile that Fury eventually resorted to mocking him via an “invisible man” routine, talking to the empty space where he should have been and taunting his picture on advertising posters.
On that occasion, Whyte was unhappy with the purse split, still over £5m but considerably shy of the WBC champion’s. That was why he would not go above and beyond to promote a fight which he knew sold itself. Let Fury do the entertaining, while he would stick to boxing.
The trouble was, when the night came, Fury ended up doing both. Whyte never found his reach, so his power was effectively null and void. For all his talk of an “illegal” knockout, alleging there was a push in the extended arm that nudged him to the canvas, he had not been mobile enough and had Fury not ended it then and there, he would probably have continued to be danced around. The long-awaited title shot, so many years in the making, was over.
At 34, it is difficult to see how such a chance will come again, though Whyte is refusing to concede total defeat. Heavyweight politics robbed him of his moment in the sun for years, but he remains in the top handful of contenders.
“I definitely want to become heavyweight champion of the world and I’d love to get the opportunity to avenge my two losses [against Fury and Anthony Joshua],” he said this week. Even Fury, after defending his belt in the spring, predicted that Whyte will be champion one day, and called him “as strong as a bull”.
A more flattering analogy than the one used by Franklin’s trainer, Jesse Addison, who likened him to a “wounded lion wandering the jungle”.
“The healthy lions are going to destroy him,” Addison said. “He’s been knocked out two times out of his last three fights (the other coming against Alexander Povetkin, a result he later avenged)”.
Whyte’s response was typically dismissive: “I don’t give a f**k if you’re a pensioner, I’ll smack the shit out of you if you keep talking.” Franklin is probably in danger of the same fate. A record of 21-0, with 14 KOs is slightly misleading, a journeyman in terms of who he’s actually fought.
It makes it hard to buy Franklin’s promises that he will fight Anthony Joshua next. Whyte and AJ really would be a serious prospect, and one that suits both men. An all-British big-ticket-seller, a chance for both heavyweights to stay relevant while on the ropes, and to demonstrate they should still be in the mix for another mandatory challenge before it is too late.
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Whyte vs Franklin fight details
- Date: Saturday 26 November
- Venue: Wembley Arena, London
- Fight time: Ring walks for the main event are expected around 10pm UK time
- TV/live stream: DAZN, where a monthly subscription is £7.99 a month
- Undercard highlights: Nathan Gorman and Fabio Wardley contest the vacant British heavyweight title. Gorman is a former WBC International Silver champion and of course, Ricky Hatton’s protege. Wardley, meanwhile, holds the English belt, so this is an extremely tough one to call.
- i predicts: This should be a smooth return for Whyte, who we think wins by KO
- Dillian Whyte vs Jermaine Franklin – 12 rounds heavyweight main event
- Fabio Wardley vs Nathan Gorman -10 rounds at heavyweight for the vacant British heavyweight title
- Craig Richards vs Ricards Bolotniks – 10 rounds at light-heavyweight for the WBA Intercontinental light-heavyweight Title
- Sandy Ryan vs Anahi Sanchez -10 rounds at super-lightweight – Ryan’s WBC International super-lightweight title
- Pat McCormack vs Christian Nicolas Andino – 6 rounds at welterweight
- Cheavon Clarke vs Jose Gregorio Ulrich – 8 rounds at cruiserweight
- Mark Dickinson vs Gideon Onyenani – 6 rounds at middleweight
- Thomas Carty vs TBA – heavyweight
- George Liddard vs Nikola Matic – 4 rounds at middleweight
Prograis vs Zepeda
What a champion Josh Taylor was – but it feels like a clean break for the super-lightweight division as Regis Prograis and Jose Zepeda fight for the WBC belt he has vacated.
The Scotsman’s controversial title defence against Jack Catterall was still looming large, but Taylor has now decided to bow out primarily because he could not “commit to this so soon after getting married”.
Southpaw Prograis lost his WBA strap to Taylor in 2019 and is on a promising run after beating Belfast’s Tyrone McKenna in Dubai. Zepeda is a real test, however, having only ever been beaten by Jose Ramirez.
This is No 1 vs No 3 in the Ring rankings, and if it is half as good a fight as Taylor vs Catterall, then Carson USA will be in for a treat.
- Date: Saturday 26 November
- Venue: Dignity Health Sports Park, Carson, USA
- Fight time: Ring walks for the main event are expected around 4am UK time
- TV/live stream: FITE is the only way to stream the fight in the UK, with coverage starting at 2am – it costs $14.99 (£12.37)
- Undercard highlights: IBF and WBO light-flyweight champion Evelin Nazarena Bermudez seems likely to notch another successful defence of her belts against Yokasta Valle
- i predicts: A brilliant contest in store and Zepeda will let his hands go and cause plenty of problems along the way – but Prograis by unanimous decision
Any other business
- There’s also an O2 card headlined by Zach Parker and John Ryder at super-middleweight on Saturday, while on Sunday Adam Azim takes on Rylan Charlton at super-lightweight at Alexandra Palace.
- Save the date: Chris Eubank Jr vs Liam Smith takes place in Manchester on 21 January.
- Amid fears the WBC had scuppered a unification bout between Fury and Oleksandr Usyk, the board are willing to let the pair fight one another – before the winner takes on their mandatory challenger, whoever wins Deontay Wilder vs Andy Ruiz Jr.
- Spare a thought for all those fighting during the World Cup; ahead of Harlem Eubank’s fight, Wasserman are offering fans to watch the England vs USA game on the big screens, lest they be put off a night at the boxing.
- Fans are angry at BT Sport’s price increase for the pay-per-view bout between Fury and Derek Chisora – at £26.95 it’s the highest it’s ever been on the channel. Manchester United fan Chisora has also been raising eyebrows by coming out in support of Cristiano Ronaldo after the termination of his contract.
- At light-heavyweight, Dmitry Bivol and Artur Beterbiev are also edging closer to a fight for undisputed, but Bivol has stressed it is all down to the promoters to make it happen.