Dillian Whyte has a hard act to follow in London’s 02 on Saturday night.
The self-styled Body Snatcher meets unbeaten Colombian Oscar Rivas in a fight which he hopes will propel him to a world title challenge.
That is by no means a given and now he has to go to work in the wake of a phenomenal knock-out performance by fast-rising heavyweight star Daniel Dubois in the same arena at the weekend.
British heavyweight contender Dillian Whyte returns to the ring in London on Saturday night
The Body Snatcher (left) takes on the dangerous Oscar Rivas (right) at the O2 Arena
The 21-year-old Dubois sent a buzz of excitement coursing through boxing, not only taking out the dangerous Nathan Gorman inside five rounds to win the vacant British title but by fighting with electrifying style as well as ferocious punching power.
As the older man by a decade, Whyte will be feeling even more pressure to pin down a second world title shot to follow his solitary defeat by Anthony Joshua.
Whyte has been chomping at that bit for three-and-a-half years, much of that time spent as No 1 contender in the WBC ratings below champion Deontay Wilder. But neither he nor much politicking by his promoter Eddie Hearn have been able thus far to secure his confirmation as the mandatory challenger.
It did not help Whyte that he turned down a final eliminator against the dangerous Luis Ortiz and despite his nine straight wins against variable opponents the WBC do not seem inclined to grant that status if he beats Rivas.
It comes a week after Daniel Dubois (right) dominated rival Nathan Gorman (left) at the O2
Wilder himself is due to fight Ortiz in September and then faces at least one, possibly two, rematches next year of his epic draw with Tyson Fury.
The clock is ticking and now Whyte has Dubois coming up in his rear mirror and predicted to be ready for world title combat by the autumn of 2020.
If Whyte is overtaken by this new kid on the block he may come to regret turning down last autumn the multi-million-pound offer of a second shot at Joshua. More so since that allowed Andy Ruiz Jr to step in, prove that AJ could be beaten and, with that upset, become Mexico’s first world heavyweight champion.
All of which leaves Whyte needing not just to defeat Rivas but to make a major statement in that ring by the River Thames. That may be easier said than done. Rivas has won all 26 of his pro fights, 18 of them by KO.
The clock is ticking for Whyte, who now has Dubois coming up in his rear mirror
Even the Body Snatcher’s head cheer-leader, Tony Bellew, is warning him that the shorter South American ‘is a poor man’s Mike Tyson but as such still a dangerous puncher.’ Nor is home advantage likely to be as vociferous as usual. The summer holiday season is a quiet time for boxing and ticket sales for the 02 are reported to be sluggish.
Whatever the volume of support I expect Whyte to prevail, perhaps by a late stoppage. He cannot afford not to. But if victory comes in a half-empty hall then it will do so to the thunderous echo of Dubois’ exploits seven nights earlier.
Manny Pacquiao, at the tender age of 40 and in his 71st fight, enters the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas on Saturday night intent on proving that age, ring-wear and his duties as a sitting Philippines senator are no impediment to a world champion.
The Pacman defends his WBA welterweight title against Keith Thurman, with our own Amir Khan uncertain whether it would be most beneficial to him if his old friend and sparring partner can fulfilled his prediction of a mid-fight KO of a former champion ten years his junior.
Manny Pacquiao, at the tender age of 40 and in his 71st fight, returns to the ring on Saturday
Khan is planning to end his own career by finally getting the mega-fight he has craved by luring Pacquiao to the Saudi Arabian desert this winter with a camel train-load of money.
If Pacquiao loses to Thurman, a lucrative journey to the Middle East might tempt him to make that event his own swansong, also. But if he wins, there will be more gold to be mined from that glitter-gulch of a Strip in another desert.
It was in Jeddah last week that Khan kept his side of a proposed bargain with Pacquiao by swatting a semi-retired Australian featherweight by name of Billy Dib in Jeddah. Having paid him a reported £7 million for that, the Saudis are ready to invest multiples of that number for Khan and Pacquiao to shine a far brighter focus on that country’s ambition to become the hub of major world sports events.
The Filipino legend faces American Keith Thurman in a welterweight clash in Las Vegas
Boxing royalty is divided as to whether the Pacman can go to the well once more. Some, like Roy Jones Jr, put their belief in the champion’s experience. Others, like Sugar Ray Leonard, go with the challenger’s comparative youth.
This heart of mine says Pacquiao. Since he looked like his old self in recent victories over Lucas Matthysse and Adrien Broner, this head is perusaded, too.
If we are right, be sure that the prospect of Manny v Floyd 11 will raise its head. Yet again. Good luck, Amir.
Whyte vs Rivas will be televised live Saturday night on Sky Sports Box Office